Consider this: Four of the five Heads of state that attended the just ended COMESA heads of state summit come from countries that are ranked as NOT FREE by Freedom House, which asseses the democratic standing of countries on two composite indices of political rights and civil liberties (see Freedom House's 2011 "Freedom in the World 2011"). Here is the full list:
Burundi: 5 (Partly free)
Eritrea: 7 (Not free)
Sudan: 7 (Not free)
Swaziland: 6 (Not free)
Zimbabwe: 6 (Not free)
In other words, the Heads of states that bothered to come to to Malawi for the just ended COMESA summit trend towards dictators presiding over countries that have extremely low political rights and civil liberties scores. As a matter of fact, two of the Presidents attending the Lilongwe meeting (Al Bashir and Isaias Afawerki) come from countries that have the lowest possible score on the Freedom House ranking of 7. Both are cited in the 2011 report as being among the world's most unfree countries, with Eritrea described as an "increasingly repressive police state."
The only country with a presidential delegation at the Lilongwe summit that can claim to come from a somewhat tolerant society is Burundi, whose uninspiring score of 5 falls among the category of countries rated as "Partly Free".
And if anyone is interested to see where these countries rank on the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index, I suggest you start looking from the bottom of the list and go upwards - you will save a lot of time that way. Swaziland is the highest ranked country on the Index, at number 26 among 53 African countries. The rest are: Burundi (37), Eritrea (47), Sudan (48) and Zimbabwe (51).
Given how hard President Bingu wa Mutharika has worked hard to join the exclusive club of African dictators, I am tempted to opine that the 2011 Lilongwe COMESA summit serves as an endorsement of Mutharika's acceptance into this exclusive club of African dictators. While the presidents that represent COMESA's more progressive democracies have shied away from getting their democratic credentials tainted by associating with Mutharika, the dictators of the COMESA grouping have felt a natural attraction and have joined their Malawi colleague to cement his entry into the club..