West Africa’s main political and economic bloc suspended Guinea’s membership on Wednesday following a military coup over the weekend that ousted President Alpha Conde and dealt with the latest in a storm of opposition to democracy in the region.
During a virtual summit, leaders from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for a return to the constitutional order and Condes immediate release and also agreed to send a high-level mission to Guinea as soon as Thursday, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Alpha said. Barry.
“At the end of that mission, ECOWAS should be able to reconsider its position,” Barry told reporters. He did not impose immediate economic sanctions on Guinea, as ECOWAS introduced Mali following a coup there in August 2020.
Some experts say that ECOWA’s leverage with Guinea may be limited, in part because the country is not a member of the West African Monetary Union and is not locked in as Mali. The response of the economic bloc is closely guarded by criticism from pro-democratic advocates that it has not been sufficiently robust in recent months against democratic setbacks in West Africa.
ECOWAS remained silent last year as Conde and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara sought a third term after amending constitutions that would have forced them to step down, moves that were condemned as illegal by their opponents. Activists say this has contributed to West Africans losing faith in democracy and making military coups more likely.
Mali’s military carried out a second coup in May this year. ECOWAS said on Tuesday that it was concerned about transitional authorities where insufficient progress had been made towards organizing elections next February as promised.
Guinea’s coup leader, Mamady Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire, has promised to install a unified transitional government but has not said when or how it will happen. In a clear gesture to Condes’ civilian opponents, at least 80 political prisoners arrested by the president were released on Tuesday night, many of whom had campaigned against his constitutional change.
Doumbouya also met with the heads of Guinea’s various military branches for the first time on Tuesday in hopes of uniting the country’s armed forces under the junta’s leadership.
Guinea’s main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, who finished second to Conde in three consecutive elections, told Reuters on Tuesday that he would be open to participating in a transition to constitutional rule. In a statement on Tuesday night, Condes’ party said it “noted the emergence of new authorities at the helm of the country” and called for the president’s speedy and unconditional release.
Since the coup, life on the streets of Conakry seems to have returned to normal, with some military checkpoints removed. Fears that the power struggle could hinder Guinea’s production of bauxite, a mineral used to make aluminum, have begun to ease.
The country’s largest foreign operators say they have continued to operate without interruption. Aluminum reached a new ten-year high on Monday after news of unrest in Guinea, which holds the world’s largest bauxite reserve. Doumbouya has promised that mining will continue unhindered.
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