West African leaders agree to gradually impose sanctions on Guinean junta

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West African leaders agreed at an emergency summit on Thursday to impose gradual sanctions on Guinea’s junta for its inflexibility in setting a date to return to civilian rule.

“We have decided to impose sanctions on Guinea,” Omar Alieu Touray, chairman of the ECOWAS bloc committee, told TBEN.

The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States – minus those of Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, suspended for coups – met in New York, where they attended the UN General Assembly.

A summary of the meeting said the leaders agreed on “gradual sanctions” on a list of people associated with the Guinean junta who will be identified “very soon” by the bloc’s leadership.

Poor but mineral-rich Guinea has been ruled by the military since a coup in September 2021 that ousted President Alpha Conde, who had been in power since 2010.

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Junta-appointed Prime Minister of Guinea Bernard Gomou previously criticized ECOWAS chief Umaro Sissoco Embalo, describing him as a “puppet wearing a statesman’s mantle”.

In a statement, Gomou said Embalo, who is also president of Guinea-Bissau, was an “overenthusiastic” man who “penetrated” the ECOWAS presidency.

The prime minister also noted the two countries’ geographic proximity and blood ties, but warned that “no political upstart, let alone an ill-informed opportunist, will lead us to destroy this precious heritage.”

‘Unacceptable’ timetable

During a visit to Guinea, Embalo said he had signed an agreement with the junta to make way for elected citizens after two years.

Three years in power before a return to civilian rule is “unacceptable for ECOWAS,” Embalo said in an interview with France’s RFI and TBEN broadcasters on Wednesday.

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Embalo warned in the interview that if the junta stuck to that timetable, there would be sanctions – “heavy sanctions even.”

Colonel Amara Camara, a senior junta figure, accused Embalo of “lies” earlier on Thursday.

“Big lies and intimidation are backwards steps that dishonor (Embalo) and at the same time tarnish the image of ECOWAS,” Camara said in a video received by TBEN.

The West African bloc has been battling a series of military coups in the region over the past two years.

Camara accused Embalo, who took over the rotating presidency of the conference of West African heads of state a few weeks ago, of being “distinguished by his personal views in spite of his fellow presidents”.

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He accused Embalo of “putting on a show” and ignoring the ECOWAS presidency, of forcing his West African colleagues to hold a summit outside of West Africa, and of seeking sanctions against Guinea.

“We don’t have … a reality TV relationship,” Camara said, accusing Embalo of “bawdy” diplomacy.

“By forcing his colleagues to keep this summit out of its geographic space, his leadership has given others a chance to not take us seriously.”

Mali suffered coups in August 2020 and May 2021, followed by Guinea in September 2021 and Burkina Faso in January.

ECOWAS lifted severe sanctions imposed on Mali’s military regime and accepted a return to civilian rule in March 2024.

But Mali and Guinea remain suspended from ECOWAS bodies.

(TBEN)

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