Nigeria, ECOWAS insist on prompt transition to civil rule in Guinea

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN on behalf of President Buhari attends the Emergency ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit on the Political Situation in the Republic of Guinea in Accra, Ghana. 16th Sept, 2021. Photos; Tolani Alli

Determined to ensure a prompt return of democratic rule to Guinea after the recent military coup, Nigeria has called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to insist on a short transition programme that will usher in a new civilian government in that country.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, stated this yesterday while representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS member-states on the political situation in the Republics of Guinea and Mali, which held in Accra, Ghana.

And indeed according to the communiqué issued at the end of the extraordinary summit, ECOWAS leaders have resolved to freeze the financial assets of members of the military junta, place a travel ban on them, while also demanding that the junta return Guinea to constitutional rule within six months.

It would be recalled that at the last summit of ECOWAS leaders which held virtually on September 8, Nigeria, also represented by VP Osinbajo, condemned the coup d’état in Guinea, calling for an unconditional release of President Alpha Conde, and for stringent measures on Guinea’s military junta.

Speaking at the Accra summit, Prof. Osinbajo restated Nigeria’s position, urging for the unconditional release of President Condé and calling for more pressure to be put on the country’s military leaders to return the nation to democratic rule.

According to the Vice President, “it is also important that ECOWAS should simply insist that there should be an immediate return to civil rule.”

Calling for more stringent measures to be taken by the sub-regional body, Prof. Osinbajo said “we must make sure that sanctions by ECOWAS achieve the intended objectives.

The Vice President restated the call to engage global bodies and Africa’s development partners in taking steps to prevent such unconstitutional change of government in countries on the continent.

He said: “in this connection, I think we should engage all well-meaning stakeholders including the Africa Union, European Union, United Nations, developmental partners, and financial institutions to join in taking more stringent measures by imposing travel bans and freezing of offshore financial assets of the coupists and their collaborators to ensure that they do return the country to democracy immediately.”

Again, Nigeria demanded the unconditional release of President Conde and respect for his physical integrity, with Prof. Osinbajo urging leaders in the sub-region to also insist on a civilian-led transition.

While he noted that although the military junta in Guinea had started consultation with critical stakeholders towards transitioning the country to civil rule, the Vice President reiterated Nigeria’s stance, condemning military intervention and unconstitutional change of government in the West African country.

The VP, therefore, called on the junta “to transparently restore constitutional order without delay,” and that “such a process should be led by a civilian.

“While we condemn the development in Guinea, and affirm that no matter how popular the grievance against an elected leadership may be, the forceful seizure of power is an unacceptable assault on the dignity of a free people and their right to freely elect their leaders. We nevertheless must strongly urge all ECOWAS Member States to respect the principles of democracy and the constitutions of our respective countries.”

On the update of the situation in Mali, Prof. Osinbajo again commended former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan “for his continued commitment and engagement with the various stakeholders in Mali.”

He commended the efforts of stakeholders in resolving the situation in Mali and restated the call of leaders of the sub-region to the Malian transition government to strictly respect and follow the electoral time table for transition to civil rule.

“I further call for the continued support and collaboration of all major players in the country’s March towards a successful transition,” the VP stated.

Assuring that Nigeria will continue to closely monitor the situation in Guinea, the VP pledged the country’s support in ensuring that only democratic processes are adopted in changing governments in the sub-region.

At the end of the extraordinary summit, the ECOWAS communique stated that “After consideration of the Report and subsequent deliberations, the Authority decides as follows:

* to uphold the suspension of Guinea from all ECOWAS governing bodies until the restoration of constitutional order;

* to ensure the conduct of presidential and legislative elections within six (6) months in order to restore constitutional rule in the Republic of Guinea;

* to impose sanctions, in accordance with extant ECOWAS Protocols, of travel bans on the members of the CNRD (the Guinean military junta) and their family members and to freeze their financial assets.”

Highlighting Nigeria’s position further, ECOWAS also called “on the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations, and other multilateral and bilateral partners to support the implementation of these sanctions; to ensure that no member of the CNRD is allowed to contest in the presidential election.”

ECOWAS noted that it would also assist Guinea in the swift resolution of the crisis and in the preparations for the elections.

The extraordinary session was chaired by President of Ghana and Chair of the ECOWAS, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Aside from the Vice President, the session was also attended by eight Presidents and 4 Foreign Affairs Ministers representing heads of State, former Nigerian President and ECOWAS Mediator on Mali, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou; the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa, among others.