Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on Saturday returned home from a regional summit in Malawi despite a warrant for his arrest for genocide.
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika ignored the outcry at his hosting of Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Bashir was among six heads of state at the meeting of the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), despite calls from the European Union and international rights groups for Malawi to arrest him.
Other members included President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and King Mswati III of Swaziland, the last absolute monarch in Africa.
New Zambian President Michael Sata earlier said he would not attend before Malawi apologised for deporting him in 2007 without reason when he was still head of the Zambian opposition.
Malawi revoked the deportation in a statement Friday but stopped short of an apology.
Bashir is the first sitting president indicted by the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.
Malawi is a party to the court, but senior officials told AFP that Bashir would not be arrested.
Malawi’s trade and industry minister John Bande also did not mention Bashir in his report to the media after the summit, when the Sudanese president had already left.
The 19-member group “welcomed positive developments” in the democratisation process in Egypt and Libya, calling on the two North African countries to successfully complete the ongoing transition.
But COMESA said it had noted with “grave concern” the continued insecurity in Somalia, saying it “condemned in the strongest terms all attacks including terrorist attacks and kidnapping of individuals by Al-Shabaab.”
“We condemn the acts of piracy off Somalia coast and the Indian ocean and reiterate the need to adopt a holistic and coordinated approach to deal with piracy,” said Bande.
The summit looked to take steps toward forming a single 26-nation free trade bloc stretching from Cape Town to Cairo, by joining with the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community.
The three blocs agreed to merge last year, and have given themselves three years to remove tariffs on trade in goods. The new bloc would have a combined economy estimated at $875 billion (597 billion euros).
Meanwhile Mutharika is the new chairman for the organisation, having taken over from King Mswati.