West Africa regional bloc suspends Guinea’s membership after military coup

West Africa’s main political and economic bloc suspended Guinea’s membership on Wednesday following a military coup over the weekend that toppled President Alpha Conde and sparked the latest in a series of setbacks to democracy in the region.

During a virtual summit, the leaders of the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded a return to constitutional order and the immediate release of Conde, and also agreed to send a high-level mission to Guinea on Thursday, said. Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Alpha Barry.

“At the end of that mission, ECOWAS should be able to re-examine its position,” Barry told reporters.

It did not announce any immediate financial sanctions against Guinea, as ECOWAS imposed against Mali after a coup in August 2020.

Some experts say ECOWAS’s influence with Guinea could be limited, in part because the country is not a member of the West African monetary union and is landlocked like Mali.

The economic bloc’s response is being watched closely amid criticism from democracy advocates that it has not stood up strongly enough in recent months against democratic backsliding in West Africa.

>> Exclusive: Uganda’s Museveni Says Guinea’s Coup Leaders ‘Should Get Out’

ECOWAS remained silent last year as Conde and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara sought a third term after changing constitutions that would have forced them to resign, measures that their opponents denounced as illegal.

Activists say this has contributed to West Africans’ loss of faith in democracy and made military coups more likely.

The Malian army struck a second coup in May this year. ECOWAS said Tuesday that it was concerned that the transitional authorities had not made enough progress towards organizing next February’s elections as promised.

Prisoner releases

The leader of the Guinea coup, Mamady Doumbouya, a former French legionnaire, has vowed to install a unified transitional government, but has not said when or how it will happen.

In an apparent gesture toward Conde’s civilian opponents, at least 80 political prisoners detained by the president were released 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, hoping to unify the country’s armed forces under the command of the junta.

Guinea’s main opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, who finished runner-up to Conde in three successive elections, told Reuters on Tuesday that he would be willing to participate in a transition back to constitutional governance.

In a statement Tuesday night, Conde’s party said it “noted the advent of new authorities at the head of the country” and called for the swift and unconditional release of the president.

Since the coup, life on the streets of Conakry appears to have returned to normal, with some military checkpoints removed.

Fears that the power struggle could hamper Guinea’s production of bauxite, a mineral used to make aluminum, have started to wane. The country’s largest foreign operators say they have continued to operate without interruption.

Aluminum hit a new 10-year high on Monday after unrest broke out in Guinea, which has the world’s largest bauxite reserves. Doumbouya has promised that mining will continue unhindered.


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