The decision by the government of the Republic of Malawi last Friday to cancel their hosting of the African Union's July summit because of the attendance of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court, has been received with mixed feelings.
As we contextualise that decision, we cannot but help question the coincidence with out-going ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's call last Monday that countries that fail to detain president Al-Bashir will have their aid cut. Was this decision driven by fear of the ICC?
Thirty-three of the AU's 54-member states make up the ICC. It is easy to see who is behind all this.
But, by so doing, has Malawi's Joyce Banda spurned the continental body which in 2009 said it would not respect the ICC warrant and had requested the United Nations to suspend it.
Benin, the current AU chair last month said the AU saw no reason to bar the Sudanese president from the summit. This is why the AU insisted that Malawi invites all African leaders to the summit.
However, we also see Malawi's cancellation of the hosting of the summit as patronage and needless pressure from the donor community on a new leader, and, in the same vein when Malawi gave in, we feel that they dealt a deadly blow to the founding and sustaining principles of the pan-African bloc.
Indeed, no one can dictate to Malawi who should enter or not enter their country, but we question the reasons given and the timing. In the history of the AU, has any member state ever done it and how did the bloc deal with the issue?
Despite moving the summit to Addis Ababa, are we seeing an end to the issue? While some argue that Malawi is protecting its interests as a sovereign state, we ask whether those interests exclude its position as an African Union member state, where Africa has also stood by its side.
Only two years ago, Malawi was the AU chairperson through the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Much as we are aware that up to 40 percent of Malawi's budgetary requirements were funded by Western donors, which had been withdrawn after the diplomatic tiff with wa Mutharika's government, we ask whether this preference for donors vis-à-vis African principles is a statement that Africa is donor dependant.
We also feel that Malawi's decision has thrown Africa into a tailspin decision-making position, and this could mark the beginning of more problems. How the AU deals with the issue is critical.
There are a number of signposts already. When Banda took over, it was celebrated because this made her Africa's second woman head of state and government, after Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
This gender dimension in development politics is critical. Outright condemnation of what her government did will be viewed by rights groups as an attack on one of only two women presidents on the continent, by what they view as an all-male club.
President Banda also moved swiftly to restore relations with Malawi's donor community. She got rave reviews from Western governments and media when she spoke publicly in support of gay rights.
She actually touched on a critical issue, which says if Africa needs aid from the West, it has to respect gay rights.
In some quarters she is seen as upstaging the continental body, and strengthening her approval rating with the West. But, at what cost to Malawi and Africa? As one analyst said, Malawi's borders will forever be within Africa, and not in Europe or the United States of America.
Apart from the gender dimension and her position on gay rights, in Western donors' eyes, her moves are amenable with their policies. It is very easy for them to compare and contrast her with her predecessor and the Sudanese president, whom they have demonised.
The media was also awash with reports that one of the issues they disagreed with her predecessor was the hosting of the AU summit. The central point is how the AU will deal with this -- whether or not Malawi understands its continental obligations as opposed to those of its donor partners.
We suggest that whatever decision is arrived at should be in the best interest of the continent. Look at both sides of the story.
Despite the eurozone crisis raging on, the EU, through constant dialogue has not broken apart. We envisage the same for the African Union -- remaining united under African principles. If Africa was self-reliant, none of this could have taken place.