Salem Radio Network News Thursday, December 2, 2021

World

West Africa leaders leave Guinea after meeting sanctions-hit junta

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) -Two West African leaders left Guinea after talks with the country’s new military junta on Friday aimed at freeing President Alpha Conde from detention, with no immediate word on whether they had been able to secure his release.

A Guinea government official and a witness said Conde was not on board the departing plane taken by Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, amid speculation in the region that the two leaders had sought to take Conde with them.

Conde has been detained since his overthrow in a coup on Sept. 5. Earlier on Friday Ouattara and Akufo-Addo held meetings with coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a special forces commander and former French Legionnaire.

A senior Guinean official said Ouattara’s objective was to obtain Conde’s release: “This point was raised by the Ivorian president.”

The two leaders, representing the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held a separate meeting with Conde at the Mohamed VI Palace in Conakry, but left the country on Friday evening empty-handed, sources said.

ECOWAS has demanded a return to constitutional rule since the special forces unit seized control of the presidential palace, detained Conde and declared itself in charge.

The bloc agreed on Thursday to freeze financial assets of the junta and their relatives and bar them from travelling. It also demanded Conde’s release. The junta has not responded.

‘COUP-BELT’

Events in Guinea followed coups in Mali and Chad earlier this year that have raised fears of a democratic backslide in a region only just shedding its “coup-belt” reputation.

Guinea’s coup leaders have held a week of consultations with public figures and business leaders to map out a framework for a transitional government.

ECOWAS’s credibility in Guinea has been strained since 2018, when the bloc failed to condemn Conde for running for a third term in office last year, despite a law declaring that presidents must step down after two and widespread protests.

Ouattara himself used a constitutional change as an excuse to run for a third term last year, a move critics decried as illegal.

Following Thursday’s summit, during which ECOWAS also pressured Mali’s transitional government to hold elections by February 2022, the regional body said it would be reviewing protocols on democracy and good governance.

On departing the airport in Conakry, the ECOWAS motorcade passed dozens of pro-junta demonstrators brandishing signs.

One read: “ECOWAS does not decide for us.”

(Reporting by Saliou Samb and Christian Akorlie; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Edward McAllister, Philippa Fletcher, Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean)

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