The AU Commission says while it does not bar Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir from attending the organisationâ€™s summits, it understands Malawiâ€™s dilemma and challenges on the matter.
The African Union (AU) Commission deputy chairperson Erastus Mwencha said this in a recorded interview with the commissionâ€™s Directorate of Information and Communication released on Saturday.
The statement follows Malawiâ€™s refusal to host al-Bashir and the AUâ€™s subsequent decision to shift the July summit from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mwencha has been quoted as saying: “Malawi was kind enough to give us the reasons. We know Malawi had made all preparations to host the summit, but the challenge was inviting all the heads of State to attend the summit, including president al-Bashir. For us, we do understand the case of Malawi.”
Al-Bashir was indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
Although President Joyce Banda, soon after the death of her predecessor president Bingu wa Mutharika indicated that Malawi would go ahead hosting the July summit, Lilongwe made a U-turn following local and international pressure it had on hosting al-Bashir again.
The United States and Britain, which are among Malawiâ€™s main donors, made it clear they would not view kindly any country that hosts al-Bashir without effecting the ICCâ€™s arrest warrant and the US Congress has since passed a resolution mandating the US to cut off aid to any such countries.
Malawi hosted al-Bashir last October during the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Summit, a development that put Lilongwe and the ICC on a collision course and the eventual suspension of a $350 million US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy grantâ€”which has since been resumed.
Mwencha said the AU acknowledges that Malawi had a challenge after hosting the Sudanese leader in Lilongwe, but he said for the AU, Sudan has not been suspended and “is a fully fledged member of the AU [and is] entitled to attend the AU Summit.”
He said the decision to move the meeting from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the AU, was in accordance with the organisationâ€™s procedures regarding the hosting of meetings.
The rules, according to Mwencha, provide that if a member State has offered to host a summit and is, for any reason or the other, not able to do so, the meeting automatically comes to headquarters.