Malawi will for the first time host the African Union (AU) Heads of States and Government meeting in July. President Joyce Banda and her Cabinet assented to the idea on Thursday, saying it will honour Binguâ€™s soul. Earlier, President Banda had objected to it, saying hosting the summit was not a priority for Malawi because of the economic problems the country was going through. George Mhango finds out the logic of hosting the summit from head of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Undule Mwakasungula.
Q: What is your take on Malawi hosting the AU Summit?
A: I will not have problems if we are going to manage hosting the summit. The way the situation is, it will be very difficult to cancel. It was already clear even before the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika that Malawi will host the AU Summit. Yes, we are having economic challenges but these challenges will not be solved in isolation, we need partners and AU is one such partner to help us reflect on the socio-economic and political challenges we have had for some time.
Q: Is the reversed decision by President Joyce Banda to host AU Summit right?
A: Of course, we all know that when she was speaking then she was not part of the inner circle of government. She had her reasons which were valid, but now she has assumed power and she needs to interact with other leaders on Malawi and African challenges and being a new President that can be the opportunity.
Q: Is Malawi better now in terms of its democracy and good governance to warrant the safety of delegates?
A: What is coming out is that President Joyce Banda is committed to making sure that we are back on track in terms of human rights and good governance. Since she came in as President, we have seen the country coming back to sanity and people now feel more at peace.
Q: What economic and democratic values are Malawians likely to benefit from the summit?
A: We might not immediately see the economic gains from hosting of the summit, but one thing for sure, Malawi will be at the centre on the agenda. For us to get out of our political and economic challenges, we need friends and AU is paramount in addressing these challenges not for Malawi alone, but Africa as a whole. Of course, for that short period, few Malawians will benefit economically.
Q: Should the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region, be allowed to attend the summit?
A: The issue of al-Bashir is clearâ€”he should not be invited. As a country, we have enough fights with the international community on al-Bashir. We sacrificed so much for him at the expense of our countryâ€™s interests. As civil society, we will make noise if al-Bashir attends the summit to show that Malawi is not a country for hosting dictators and those wanted for crimes against humanity.
Q: How best can the new government handle the issue of al-Bashir so that Malawi does not come under international fire?
A: The best we can do is not to invite him. Of course, it is a hard decision, as you know African leaders have been protecting and supporting al-Bashir and it might be tricky for President Banda, being a new Head of State and at the same time trying to enhance relationships with African leaders. But I am sure she will have a better decision on al-Bashir to avoid another clash with the international community.
Q: In voting for the AU chief, what are the benefits of Malawi voting for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa or Jean Ping of Gabon?
A: It is very tricky but my view is, let us support Dlamini-Zuma. First, she is a dynamic woman with a known track record, no dispute about that and second, she is from within the Sadc region. If we cannot support our own candidate from the region, then we are lost as a country. To be honest, Jean Ping had his time and itâ€™s time to see others take over the position.Â This is time for a woman and Sadc to be AU chief, straight and simple. If she will be elected, it will be an honour to Sadc as a bloc.
Q: Any last comments?
A: As we are planning to host the AU Summit, it is important that we take ownership as hosts of the summit. We all know that we are facing economic challenges and it will be beneficial for the government to be clear and inform the nation how it will support hosting of the AU Summit. Itâ€™s time to go back to work as a nation!