NAIROBI - A Malawian newspaper says authorities are prepared to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if he visits the country next month for an African Union summit. Malawi President Joyce Banda reportedly told a British development official that her country would comply with an International Criminal Court warrant against the Sudanese leader.
In an interview with the Nation newspaper, British Secretary for International Development Andrew Mitchell said President Joyce Banda made it clear if Bashir comes to Malawi, he will be arrested.
Mitchell reportedly told the newspaper Britain supports that decision.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide allegedly committed in the Darfur region of Sudan.
His visit to Malawi for a regional summit last year drew international criticism from countries including Britain and the United States, as well as rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
University of Malawi political science lecturer Mustapha Hussein says Banda's decision to ban Bashir could help improve the country's human-rights reputation.
“I think that it is a courageous move," Hussein stated. "But also desirable in the context of Malawi, so that it sheds off the image it had prior to this.”
Banda has also said she fears the economic implications of a Bashir visit.
A U.S. government development program froze $350 million in aid to Malawi last year because of the country's poor governance record under the late President Bingu wa Mutharika. A statement from the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board of Directors specifically cited concerns about the decision not to arrest Bashir.
If Banda's threats prevent the Sudanese president from visiting, Hussein says Malawi and Sudan still must find a way to continue working together.
“Definitely it [Malawi] will want to maintain its good relations with Sudan, so the only way is to try the diplomatic means or involve other key regional powers to convince al-Bashir not to attend, and instead send a representative,” said Hussein.
States that have ratified the Rome Statute establishing the ICC are obligated to cooperate with the court. Malawi is a party to the statute, but Sudan is not.
At least two other African nations, South Africa and Zambia, have promised to arrest the Sudanese president if he tries to visits. Countries that Bashir has visited since the ICC warrant was issued include Kenya, China, Chad, Djibouti, Libya, and Egypt.
Lameck Masina contributed to this report from Blantyre, Malawi