ECOWAS sanctions Guinea, condemns Mali over Ivorian troops

West Africa regional bloc announces new sanctions over Guinea’s schedule for a transition to democracy.

The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has announced more sanctions on Guinea’s military government after it failed to establish a new schedule for a transition to democracy.

In an extraordinary summit held on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, leaders from West Africa’s main political and economic bloc agreed to freeze military government members’ financial assets and bar them from travelling to other countries in the region.

The regional bloc also gave Guinea until October 22 to establish a “reasonable” timetable or face additional sanctions.

“These sanctions were taken with a view to facilitating the process of an early return to constitutional order in Guinea, a prerequisite for peace, stability and development,” the bloc said in a statement following the summit.

Guinea has been ruled by the military since a coup in September 2021 removed President Alpha Conde, who had held power since 2010.

Guinea’s military-appointed prime minister, Bernard Gomou, earlier slammed ECOWAS chief Umaro Sissoco Embalo, describing him as a “puppet wearing the mantle of a statesman”.

It was not made clear who would be affected by the new sanctions, with much of the military leadership already under strict financial and travel restrictions since taking power.

The ECOWAS Development Bank said in a statement that it would suspend financing to Guinean development projects as part of the new sanctions. The bank currently supports at least two energy projects in the country.

ECOWAS first sanctioned Guinea’s military rulers and their families in the days following the September 2021 coup.

Interim President Mamady Dumbouya proposed a three-year transition schedule in May, which ECOWAS rejected in early July. They said the military rulers would face additional sanctions if no new date were set by the beginning of August.

In late July, Embalo said Guinea had agreed to cut the timeline of its planned transition to civilian rule from three to two years.

Embalo however warned on Wednesday that if the military rulers maintained that timetable, there would be sanctions.

Colonel Amara Camara, a senior military figure, responded by accusing Embalo of “lies” and “intimidation”.

The West Africa bloc has been struggling with a string of military coups in the region in the past two years.

ECOWAS leaders also used the summit as an opportunity to condemn the ongoing detention of 46 Ivorian soldiers in Mali, who have been held in the capital Bamako since July 10 on accusations of acting as mercenaries.

Ivory Coast, which has repeatedly called for their release, says the soldiers were deployed as part of a security and logistics support contract signed with the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

ECOWAS leaders condemned Malian authorities for using “blackmail” in their negotiations with Ivorian authorities and said the presidents of Ghana, Togo and Senegal will soon travel to Mali to negotiate for the soldiers’ unconditional release.

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