NEW YORK — West African leaders agreed at an emergency summit on Thursday to gradually impose sanctions on Guinea’s junta over its inflexibility in setting a date for a return to civilian rule.
“We have decided to impose sanctions on Guinea,” Omar Alieu Touray, chairman of the ECOWAS bloc commission, was quoted by AFP.
The Heads of State and Government of the West African Economic Community – minus Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso suspended due to the coup – met in New York, where they attended the UN General Assembly.
A summary of the meeting said the leaders agreed on “gradual sanctions” on a list of people linked to the Guinean junta to 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 lambasted ECOWAS chief Umaro Sissoco Embalo, describing him as a “puppet in a statesman’s coat”.
In a statement, Gomou said that Embalo, who is also the president of Guinea-Bissau, was an “overexcited” man who “worked his way up to the presidency of ECOWAS”.
The prime minister also noted the geographical proximity and blood ties of the two countries, but warned that “no political upstart, let alone an uninformed opportunist, will lead us to destroy this precious heritage.”
During a visit to Guinea, Embalo said he had reached an agreement with the junta to prioritize elected civilians after two years.
Three years in power before a return to civilian rule is “unacceptable for ECOWAS”, Embalo said in an interview with French broadcasters RFI and France24 on Wednesday.
In an interview, Embalo warned that if the junta sticks to this timetable, there will be sanctions, “even severe sanctions”.
Senior junta official Colonel Amara Camara earlier Thursday accused Embalo of “lying”.
“Crude lies and intimidation are regressions that dishonor (Embalo) while tarnishing the image of ECOWAS,” Camara said in a video shared with 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 a few weeks ago took over the rotating presidency of the conference of West African heads of state, of “distinguishing himself from his presidential colleagues by his personal positions”.
He accused Embalo of “showing off” and flouting the ECOWAS presidency, forcing his West African counterparts to hold a summit outside West Africa and attempting to impose sanctions on Guinea.
“We’re not in … a reality TV relationship,” Camara said, accusing Embalo of “bawdy” diplomacy.
“By forcing his colleagues to hold this summit outside of his geographic area, his leadership gave others the opportunity not to take us seriously.”
Mali experienced coups in August 2020 and May 2021, followed by Guinea in September 2021 and Burkina Faso in January.
ECOWAS has lifted harsh sanctions imposed on Mali’s military rule and agrees to a return to civilian rule in March 2024.
But Mali and Guinea remain suspended from ECOWAS bodies.