ECOWAS calls for Guinea elections in six months, sanctions coup leaders
Two women walk past a defaced billboard of former President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, in Conakry on September 16, 2021. Colonel Mamady Doumbouya’s special forces on September 5, 2021 seized Alpha Conde in a Coup, the West African state's 83-year-old president, a former champion of democracy accused of taking the path of authoritarianism. (JOHN WESSELS / AFP)
(AFP) - West African leaders on Thursday imposed sanctions on Guinea's coup leaders and called for elections in six months in a demand for a quick return to civilian rule after troops ousted President Alpha Conde this month.
The 15-member ECOWAS regional bloc had already suspended Guinea after Conde's ouster on September 5 by a special forces commander who captured the president and declared a political transition.
Guinea's military rebellion has fuelled international concerns over democratic backsliding across west Africa and drawn parallels with Mali, which suffered two coups since August last year.
"The heads of state insisted that the transition must be very short," ECOWAS Commission President Jean Claude Kassi Brou told reporters after leaders met in Accra for a summit on the Guinea crisis.
"The transition should not last more than six months. In six months, elections should be held."
In a communique, ECOWAS said it would impose the sanctions of travel bans on members of the military junta and their family members and also freeze their financial assets.
It called on African Union, United Nations and European Union to back the sanctions on the junta known as National Committee of Reconciliation and Development or CNRD by its French initials.
"By having specific, targetted sanctions to members of CNRD we are sending a strong signal to all those who are tempted to have this type of idea," Kassi Brou said. "There will be a price, a very high price."
ECOWAS had sent a mission to Guinea last week to meet with coup leader Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya and was due to take decisions on how to pressure the junta back to constitutional rule.
- No timetable -
Guinea's junta began a four-day series of talks on Tuesday designed to sound out the country's leaders on the path towards civilian rule.
Doumbouya and his ruling officers have so far met political leaders, religious authorities and rights activists, and are due to speak to foreign diplomats, trade unionists and mining executives through to Friday.
When addressing political leaders in Guinea on Tuesday, Doumbouya said the coup was the result of "the failure of the entire political and military class".
He also refused to commit to a timetable to restoring civilian rule.
"The only timetable that counts is that of the Guinean people who have suffered so much," the military leader said.
After seizing power earlier this month, Doumbouya cited rights abuses under Conde and promised a government of "national unity" that will guarantee a transition.
There have been no concrete details on transition plans since, however.
When faced with a similar coup in Mali last year, ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions, but lifted them after the military committed to restoring civilian rule.
But over a year since that putsch, Mali's army is still in power and there are increasing doubts about a pledge to hold elections in February next year.
- Captive Conde -
Public discontent in Guinea had been brewing for months before the coup over the leadership of Conde, 83.
A former opposition figure, Conde became Guinea's first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015.
But last year, he pushed through a controversial new constitution that allowed him to run for a third term in October 2020.
The move sparked mass demonstrations in which dozens of protesters were killed. Conde won the election but the political opposition maintained the poll was a sham.
The military is currently holding the former president, despite international calls for his release, including from ECOWAS.
Guinea's junta has agreed to the principle of freeing Conde, but the issue remains highly sensitive -- and it is unclear what will happen to the former leader if he is released.
Opposition groups are also opposed to his liberation, citing the danger he might try to regain power.
A poor nation of 13 million people, Guinea has abundant deposits of iron, gold, diamonds and bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium. Mining is the driver of the economy.
© Agence France-Presse