SMALL STATES - Check out our new series on multilateralism and small states →

A New Leader, Defying the African Union, Bans Bashir of Sudan


Malawi president
Joyce Banda, Malawi's new president, has banned Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the head of Sudan and wanted for genocide, from entering her country. GEOFF CRAWFORD / Department for International Development

The African Union, whose members decided three years ago not to honor an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been forced to find a new site for its regional summit in July after the small southern African nation of Malawi said it would refuse entry to the Sudanese leader. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity for his actions in Darfur.

The summit, scheduled July 9-16, will now be held at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The country is not a party to the Rome Statute, the governing treaty of the International Criminal Court, so it is not compelled to honor the arrest warrant for Bashir.

The action by Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda – one of two female elected heads of government on the continent – comes just as another African woman, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, prepares to take over as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague. (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the other head of government, in Liberia.)

Bensouda has been critical of the widely held perception in Africa that the court is pursuing only Africans. Most of the cases, in fact, have been brought to the court by African leaders.

Two other African nations, Botswana and Zambia, have recently warned that Bashir would not be welcome and could be arrested. Several other countries, including Kenya, Chad and Djibouti, have allowed entry to Bashir in contravention of the Rome Statute treaty. They have been referred to the Security Council as violators.

Banda’s predecessor as president, Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office early this year, allowed Bashir to visit Malawi in October 2011. Aid to the country had already been cut by donors alleging repressive domestic policies by the president.

Banda, who took office in April, was reported to be concerned about the possibility of further aid cuts as well as the precedent she would set if Bashir, an accused perpetrator of genocide, were to attend the summit in Lilongwe, the Malawi capital. Though some members of Parliament were critical, Banda was backed in her decision by the leader of the political opposition.

PassBlue Related Articles
You might be interested in these posts.
[display-posts taxonomy="category" tax_term="current" orderby="date" posts_per_page="3" wrapper="ul" content_class="pb-inpost-list" wrapper_class="pb-inpost-layout" exclude_current="true"]

The African Union announced the decision by Malawi to withdraw its invitation to host the summit in a single-paragraph communiqué without comment.

In Malawi, Raphael Tenthani, a columnist for the Maravi Post, wrote that it would not be surprising if Banda were treated with “disdain” by other African leaders – except for Ian Khama of Botswana and Michael Sata of Zambia, who have taken similar stands.

“But Mama Joyce needs not to despair,” Tenthani wrote. “She has announced her arrival on the stage of the confused African politics. If I were her advisor, I would tell her to skip the Addis summit in protest. She also has to lobby leaders like Khama and Sata to do the same in order to drive the point home.”

 Additional resources

The International Court’s New Prosecutor

The International Court Names the Officials Being Held in Libya










Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.

Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”

Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.

We would love your thoughts. Please comment:

A New Leader, Defying the African Union, Bans Bashir of Sudan
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

it is her prerogative right to decide whatever she thinks her countries policies should take. but one point she mistook is that we as Africans (though taunted for having rouge leaders) should be proud for what other African leaders are achieving in the continent. first- African union decisions should be seen as superior to those of the ICC. we should not negate our African philosophy for the western customs. Al Bashir did some terrible mistakes in his country, but am still waiting to see any country arrest a sitting president and handing them to the ICC. That looks absurd. and if Banda wants to trade with African continent, she should not bend over to the west just to receive support which the west cut off, as if the donations were helping the government leaders. the west should have used another rout to transfer funds to the country-by using the NGO’S. the country has suffered because of the luck of care by the west. therefore, we as Africans should forge our own path to follow. insomuch
as we deserve to be respected, we should also be true to the tenets of democracy and should not allow what happened in Sudan ever happen again. for now president Al Bashir seems to have control over his country, what if his arrest leads to fighting in his country, then would the ICC justify itself to proclaiming justice on the other hand more people die because of their decisions? all decisions should be thought through and be critically examined.

kweyu harrison
kweyu harrison
11 years ago

I must congratulate her for the decision.The reason why it looks like its only african leaders who go to hague is because they are the ones who still rule with thorax.For instance there was an african minister who after having a scandal he said he would rather die than resign.And the other leaders who support Al-bashir are birds of the same feathers.May God deliver us from such inhumane leaders.

Related Posts


Global Connections Television - The only talk show of its kind in the world
Democracy needs news. News needs you. Give now.

Subscribe to PassBlue


Don't miss a story

Subscribe now to send the smartest news

on the UN directly to your inbox.

Stay informed, stay connected!

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously