West African nations meet over Guinea

January 9, 2009 12:00 am

, ABUJA, Jan 9 – West African foreign ministers were set to gather here Friday for the first part of a meeting that could formally suspend Guinea from the ECOWAS group following the recent coup there.

Friday’s meeting — followed Saturday by a summit of heads of state — comes as the military junta that seized power in Guinea on December 23 has become more nervous, arresting in the past few days a number of military officers and civilians.

The political director of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Abdel Fatau Musah told AFP that the meeting would be given over to "Guinea and Guinea-Bissau".

Sunny Ugoh, ECOWAS spokesman said foreign ministers from nine of the grouping’s 15 member states had confirmed their attendance.

"There are enough to form a quorum, which is eight," he told AFP.

Divergences have appeared both within West Africa nations and on a continental level over what attitude ECOWAS should adopt towards Guinea’s military junta.

Led by 44-year-old Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the soldiers seized power in a bloodless coup just after the death of President Lansana Conte, who died aged 74 after 24 years in power.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is not expected to travel to Abuja, came out in support of the junta as early as December 26.

Three days later the African Union (AU) suspended Guinea "until constitutional order is restored”.

Senegal has thrown its weight behind the coup leaders, earning the wrath of Nigeria.

On Monday, Nigeria’s Foreign minister Ojo Maduekwe said the support of Senegal — one of the few countries in the region to have never experienced a coup — was "unfortunate" and should be condemned.

He recalled that the constitutive act of the AU says that governments that are not elected democratically should not be recognised.

"So if any member of AU steps outside the ranks … to now fraternise with the military junta, I’m sure the collective wisdom of the AU leadership will find a way of sanctioning that government … such a government is guilty by complicity," Maduekwe said.

Despite warnings from Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent and a regional powerhouse, whose president Umaru Yar’Adua condemned "any unconstitutional seizing of power", Senegal’s Wade went to Conakry anyway.

After meeting with the junta leaders for two hours on Wednesday he reaffirmed his support for them.

"I hereby re-affirm before you all my support for the junta and its leader Moussa Dadis Camara. I will do everything in my power to avoid the sanctions with which Guinea is today being threatened."

Wade has said that four other heads of state have taken the same stance as him but has refused to name them and has not said whether they are from ECOWAS member states.

Further afield, the Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who seized power in a coup in 1969, has also travelled to the Guinea capital to give his support to the junta.

The situation in Guinea-Bissau, where the army chief of staff Monday said he escaped an attempt on his life, will also be discussed in Abuja.


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