MCP criticises ‘haste decision’ to cancel AU summit

Malawi’s opposition in parliament has accused the ‘haste decision’ by the President Joyce Banda’s administration last week to cancel the African Union (AU) summit after it refused to welcome Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war crimes suspect.

The summit’s scheduled July 9-16 has now been moved to Ethiopia, according to the chairman of the AU’s permanent representatives committee, Ferdinand Montcho.

Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, said last month she wanted the Sudanese leader to stay out of the country in order to maintain ties with donor countries.

MCP benches in parliament

Under current ICC rules, signatories — which include Malawi and 32 other African states — have a duty to arrest Bashir.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesman for finance, Joseph Njovuyalema, told Parliament on Monday that the cancellation of the AU meeting in July was hurriedly done, saying government was supposed to consult all stake holders involved in the preparations.

The lawmaker said government has the responsibility to justify the swift change of heart when all along President Joyce Banda “has been telling Malawians that we would host the summit.”

The member has asked government to openly declare how much money has been spent already in preparations for the summit.

“During the preparation hotels were in high gear of refurbishments, service contracts had been signed, some items were already being procured and huge bills have already been incurred,” noted Njobvuyalema.

Njobvuyamena, who was commenting on the 2012/13 budget that was presented last Friday, wondered “who is going to pay for all these expenses and for all the no shows?”

According to Njobvuyalema Malawi has just saved itself from a diplomatic fight with donors in cancellation of the summit, but says it started a diplomatic battle with the pan-African bloc.

“Malawians have also lost an opportunity for business while Government has lost potential revenue, he said.

Meanwhile, civil society organisation and several other supporting groups working in Africa said Malawi’s stand shows that the country sides with Darfur victims where al-Bashir is accused of slaughtering over 300,000 people.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for those killings. He denies the charges.

“Malawi government showed strong support for victims of international crimes by deciding not to be the host of the AU summit if President al-Bashir of Sudan is allowed to attend,” reads the statement which one of the signatories is the Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).

Human rights activist Billy Mayaya said the decision is a prudent one as it is based on values and principles that drive international diplomacy.

CHRR head Undule Mwakasungura has since asked   government “to honour any contractual agreements made with other business gurus.”

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