President Banda told to be forthright with Sudan’s Bashir

Politicians and a University of Malawi analyst have told President Joyce Banda to be forthright with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and tell him in the face that he is not a welcome visitor to Malawi, if the country is to avoid another backlash with the international community and its donors.

It seems the cost of hosting the African Union (AU) Summit in Lilongwe could be more than the roughly K 1 billion (US$5.9 million), especially if al-Bashir attends.

If the Sudanese leader indeed comes Malawi is also likely to lose its new found goodwill from the international community many hope would help bring back Western aid, including the K$350 million (K58 billion) Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) from United States (US) and other withheld European aid mainly for budgetary support.

Fugitive Bashir being welcomed by Malawi speaker of parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda. Photo; AFP

While supporting Banda for her announcement that Malawi will still host the AU summit, a University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political analyst Mustafa Hussein said allowing al-Bashir into Malawi would put the country on a collision course again with the international community.

“It is a bold and brave move. However, I should hasten to add that government should come very clearly on Al-Bashir. Sudan should be clearly told to send a representative rather than Al-Bashir,” said Hussein.

People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) president Mark Katsonga Phiri said government’s decision is fair considering that other countries are willing to assist.

But he also said Malawi has to tread careful on the al-Bashir question.

“We are now starting afresh and his coming would dent the image of the new administration. Arresting him is also a complicated issue for Malawi. We can politely ask Mr al-Bashir to send a representative. Let us openly tell him the implications of his coming on Malawi,” said Katsonga.

Dan Msowoya of the Alliance for Democracy (Aford),  said this time government “should do away with all the ambiquities surrounding the Sudanese President.”

According to Malawi’s local newspaper The Nation the 2011/12 supplementary budget set aside K300 million for the summit’s preparations, but the total budget for the Summit is around K980 million, most of which will be accounted for in the 2012/13 budget.

As a host country, Malawi, among other things, must meet part of the costs of delegates’ air tickets, pay for various insurance needs, food accommodation and meet internal travel costs, according to summit documents sourced by the paper.

Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu said the major issue that a recent Cabinet meeting looked at was whether Malawi will host the Summit or not while he said the al-Bashir question will be looked at later.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has a warrant of arrest for the Sudanese leader for war crimes against his own people.

Malawi paid dearly and in the process lost the US$350 million MCC compact program,  when the Mutharika administration, against advice and warnings from local and international partners, arrogantly hosted al-Bashir during last October’s Comesa Heads of State Summit.

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