Malawi should bar or arrest Sudan's Bashir

The initiative taken by the Youth Association for Democracy (YADEMA) to petition the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to bar Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir from visiting Malawi under whatever pretext cannot go without comment.

But before we do this, let us take a critical look at the subject of the petition: President Omar Al-Bashir and his indicter, the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s career has been defined by war. He came to power in a coup in 1989 and has ruled what was until this year Africa’s largest country with an iron fist ever since.

This is typical of many African leaders which perhaps explains why most of them identify and sympathise with him. Coming to the issue at hand, it is evident that he is facing some serious accusations, whose gravity cannot just be brushed aside.

Here at Nyasa Times, we believe that President Bashir just like everyone is innocent until proven guilty. He ought therefore to be given a chance to clear his name. If President Omar Al-Bashir is innocent and his peers in the African Union hold this view too, then he has nothing to fear – a trial will do him good.

It is not as if the ICC wants to summarily shoot him as was the fate of members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Sudan, no. The ICC will grant him a fair trial, complete with independent observers. He will be heard and so too will his accusers. Is this not what justice is all about?

The ICC, we have reason to believe subscribes to all the international conventions and that at this court he will be presumed innocent until proven guilty – a luxury that most of our African presidents do not accord their victims.

Where does Malawi fit in? Malawi signed the Rome Statute on 3 March 1999 and deposited its instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute on 19 September 2002.

We have sufficient grounds to believe that our government is awash with legal expertise to guarantee that Malawi does not just rubberstamp international conventions even if they are unfair.

In this regard, Malawi’s signature to the Rome Statute must have therefore been appended after much thought and after taking all factors into account, including the possibility of being called upon to assist in the delivery of justice.

President Bashir’s accusations are very serious. Summarised, these include:


·        Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups

·        Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm

·        Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups’ physical destruction

 Crimes against humanity

·        Murder

·        Extermination

·        Forcible transfer

·        Rape

·        Torture

 War crimes

·        Attacks on civilians in Darfur

·        Pillaging towns and villages

According to various reports and witnesses whose testimony President Bashir’s lawyers will have an opportunity to cross-examine; these alleged crimes were carried out in the most gruesome and cruel fashion, even on women and children.

It is therefore in the interest of Malawi, not only as a member of the ICC but also as is often claimed, a God-fearing nation, to see to it that justice is served. President Bashir should clear his name or be convicted, if proved guilty.

Knowing that “mutu umodzi siwusenza denga” is probably why YADEMA has decided to petition the government to remind it of the obligations that comes with ratifying the Rome Statute. We find this initiative to be very commendable in the least and worth adding our voice to.

This sort of active citizenship, if encouraged, could potentially raise the flag of Malawi as a bastion of human rights and good governance and as a strong advocate on the rule of law. Needless to say, the curriculum vitae of one or two people could also benefit.

We sincerely hope that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, will use his clout and prove his worth as a genuine expert /advocate in International Law and do the right thing.

Two wrongs have never made a right; Malawi should either bar Bashir or arrest him if he sets his foot in Malawi.

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