This Day (Lagos)

Guinea: Yar'Adua Moves to Checkmate Gaddafi

Abuja — The coup in Guinea has pitched African leaders against each other as President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is set to mobilise other West African leaders in a move to checkmate his colleagues from Libya and Senegal, Muammar Gaddafi and Abdoulaye Wade, who are believed to be supporting the new military regime.

THISDAY gathered that the extra-ordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) scheduled for Friday under the leadership of Yar'Adua is aimed at getting other leaders of the sub-region to oppose the subterranean support being given to the Guinean coup leaders by Gaddafi and Wade.

Yar'Adua is said to have insisted that the encouragement being given to the Guineaan coup leaders is against the African Union Constitutive Act and that African Leaders should not seek to extend their influence in the continent by promoting subversion of democracy.

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade had in a comment broadcast on Radio France International December 28, 2008 said the Guinea junta deserved support.

"He is a young man who seemed sincere in what he said. My feeling is that this group of military men deserves support," he had said.

It is believed that the ECOWAS meeting on Friday which is expected to be attended by Wade may suspend Guinea from the community and announce other sanctions against the military in the country.

The sanctions are expected to be geared towards forcing the coupists to quickly disengage from power and conduct elections for the purpose of handing over to a democratically elected government.

Nigeria's foreign affairs minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who yesterday gave an insight into Nigeria's stance on the developments in Guinea while speaking to newsmen in Abuja, said any democratically elected government giving support to an illegal government is guilty by complicity.

Captain Moussa Camara had seized power in a bloodless coup in Guinea after the death of President Lansana Conte.

Asked about Nigeria's position as Chair of ECOWAS on Senegal's quick embrace of the military government in Guinea, the minister said it was unfortunate and must be condemned.

"It is unfortunate. It is to be condemned. I will not pre-empt what the summit will decide. I mean presidents have a way of talking to each other. But speaking purely as foreign minister of Nigeria, it will be a sad day for the democratic consolidation of Africa if governments that are party to the Constitutive Act and the Charter Declaration that governments in Africa that are not there by result of democratic process should not be recognised.

"So, if any member of AU, that is of course, a legitimate government, steps outside the ranks of other members to now fraternise with the military junta, I'm sure the collective wisdom of the leadership of AU will find a way of even sanctioning that government because, for us, the issue of undermining the democratic process is not just when a group of adventurers organised a coup and overthrow a democratically elected government.

"If a democratically elected government is giving succour, providing encouragement and giving a signal that that is acceptable, then such a government is guilty by complicity. I believe there must be capacity within the AU to also call that country to order. You know Africa has lost a lot as a result of this zig-zag and as a result of not working the full path," he said.

Maduekwe said Nigeria will never have any relations with the military regime in Guinea and that there will be no room for double standards under the new AU commitment to democracy since Nigeria led the call for sanctions on Mauritania when the military struck in the country.

"We are monitoring the Guinea thing. As you know, we sent a delegation which included my colleague, Ambassador Hirse the Minister of State II and former president Ibrahim Babangida and we had conveyed our message clearly as federal government of Nigeria and as a current chair of ECOWAS that this coup is unacceptable. The junta should regrettably have to admit that somebody will have to conduct elections. So all they are suppose to do if there is no civil authority to conduct the elections, then these people who have moved in through a non-democratic process should just conduct elections and get out of town," he said.

Asked when ECOWAS will pronounce sanctions against Guinea, the foreign minister said: "If the announcement has not been made, it is going to be made when the President chair the ECOWAS Summit on Friday but already Nigeria has no business with that government in terms of formal recognition, in terms of formal relationship as a government, absolutely nothing. And we know that ECOWAS will officially go in the same direction.

"Look, we cannot have double standards on this issue, I called for sanctions on Mauritania at UN Council meeting and my other colleagues foreign ministers agreed to that and when we came to the last AU meeting.

"I just returned from that meeting two weeks ago in Addis Ababa where we went to discuss DRC that decision for sanctions on Mauritania was upheld. You can't be calling for sanctions on Mauritania and then you are embracing a military government in Guinea. We fully recognise the fact that all the cases may not be the same. So, it is only for that reason as a matter of real politic for pragmatic reasons that you need one month, two, three months to conduct elections, go ahead and conduct but even the process of election does not mean we are going to engage them as government. They will remain suspended."

The minister while commenting on the two-year time table for elections proposed by the junta, said: "No, absolutely not acceptable. We are looking at a time frame that is just enough to conduct elections and get out. If it requires two weeks, let them conduct the elections and get out."

Meanwhile, Maduekwe has said while Nigeria congratulates Ghana on the successful completion of its general elections, there was no lesson for Nigeria to learn from the democratic process in that country as there were enough lessons back home.

The Minister who said a strong delegation from Nigeria is expected to grace the inauguration of President-elect, Professor John Attah-Mills tomorrow January 7, added that some of the criticism against Nigeria can be used by outsiders to undermine the country.

"Let it be on record that while I congratulate the people of Ghana for the success of the elections, I take umbrage at our self deprecating tendency here in Nigeria where we always think we must learn lessons from everywhere else but not from Nigeria . We will learn lesson from Obama, we will learn lesson from Ghana and I think somebody else was talking about learning lesson from Kenya , the grass is greener everywhere else other than Nigeria.

"This is the home of the devil himself. Nothing is right about this country. Neither the politicians or even the media, the church leaders, nobody is doing it right here. We must keep learning from them everywhere. I am sick and tired of that. This is a beautiful country of wonderful people, of great possibilities and great traditions. All we have to do is for all of us to feel that we have a stake here and organise ourselves as stakeholders and hold the people we have elected accountable," he said.

"This is what I told the stakeholders in my village when they were asking what the federal government has done for them, I said we are sending the money to you. Ask your local government chairmen and state government what they are doing with your money. You can't just sit back and say Abuja will do everything. For goodness sake, Nigeria is moving.

"We are work in progress. We are correcting our faults. We have one great virtue which sometimes can be a vice. We are very self-critical. Nobody can criticise Nigeria like Nigerians themselves. That is a good thing but when we overdo it, it becomes self destructive, and at the end of the day outsiders will use the very thing we are saying to undermine us. So, for goodness sake, we wish Ghana well. We congratulate them we need not draw any lessons from Ghana all the lessons we need are here in Nigeria and we are making use of those lessons," Maduekwe said.

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