Support for Malawi is support for the ICC
The tiny nation of Malawi won’t be hosting this year’s African Union summit, and doesn’t plan on doing so as long as Omar al-Bashir remains a free man. Malawi’s first female president, Joyce Banda, will also be among the continent’s first to take a firm stand against this criminal. In the weeks leading up to the gathering, Banda announced that Sudan’s president was not welcome in her country, a gesture of respect and recognition to his pursuers in the ICC. AU rules admonish exclusion like this, and the confederation consequently insisted Malawi extend Bashir an invitation or risk losing its status as a host country. Joyce Banda admirably maintained her position, and now may or may not travel to Ethiopia to attend the relocated summit.
Her presidency has been described as a derivation from Africa’s norm, with a credible promise of reforms for Malawi, and its neighbors, have not seen before. Her decision to repeal the criminalization of homosexuality has placed her among the continent’s most progressive, joining the ranks of Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Many speculate that continued aid and donations from the West is the driving motive behind her deviation. Insistence on government reforms as a condition for U.S. development assistance has not been the standard, nor successful, everywhere. However, Malawi demonstrates the potential of effective foreign policy, provided we insist on a pro-human rights agenda.
Banda faces alienation for a decision that was less than popular among AU member states. The United States is ubiquitously influential on the continent, and should scale up support for her stance against Bashir and set a precedent that other African nations may soon follow. Aid to Malawi could very well mean the end to Bashir’s impunity.