West African leaders agree to impose graduated sanctions on Guinean junta

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

“We have decided to take sanctions against Guinea,” Omar Alieu Touray, chairman of the ECOWAS bloc commission, told AFP.

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

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

Guinea, poor but rich in minerals, has been ruled by the military since the September 2021 coup that toppled President Alpha Condé, in power since 2010.

Guinea’s junta-appointed prime minister, Bernard Gomou, had previously criticized ECOWAS leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo, describing him as a “puppet wearing a statesman’s mantle”.

In a statement, Gomou said Embalo, who is also Guinea-Bissau’s president, was an “overexcited” man who “worked his way” to the presidency of ECOWAS.

The prime minister also highlighted the geographical proximity and blood ties between the two countries, but warned that “no political upstart, let alone an uninformed opportunist, will lead us to destroy this precious heritage.”

Schedule “unacceptable”During a visit to Guinea, Embalo said he had reached an agreement with the junta to give way to elected civilians after two years.

Three years in power before a return to civilian rule is “unacceptable for ECOWAS”, Embalo said on Wednesday in an interview with French broadcasters RFI and France 24.

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

Earlier Thursday, senior junta official Colonel Amara Camara accused Embalo of “lies”.

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

The West African bloc has been grappling with 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 having “distinguished himself by his personal positions in defiance of his fellow presidents”.

He accused Embalo of “showing off” and ignoring the ECOWAS presidency, forcing his West African counterparts to hold a summit outside West Africa and wanting to impose sanctions on Guinea. .

“We’re not in … a reality TV relationship,” Camara said, accusing Embalo of “bawdy” diplomacy.

“By forcing his peers to hold this summit outside of his geographic space, his leadership will have enabled others not to 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 harsh sanctions that had been imposed on Mali’s military rule, agreeing to a return to civilian rule in March 2024.

But Mali and Guinea remain suspended from ECOWAS bodies.

(AFP)

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