18 October 2009

West Africa: Ecowas Imposes Sanctions On Guinea, Niger

Abuja — The authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Commu-nity of West African States (ECOWAS) yesterday imposed limited sanctions against the governments and people of Guinea and Niger Republic.

Rising from a one-day extra ordinary summit called by Nigeria's President and current Chairman of the organisation, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, at the Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the Heads of State announced the imposition of arms embargo on Guinea while in the case of Niger it sanctioned the country by refusing to support any of its candidates for elective posts in any of the international organisations across the globe.

The summit was attended by seven Heads of State and high level representatives of the other States whose Presidents were absent. Among the Heads of State present at yesterday's meeting were those of Nigeria, Yar'Adua, Republic of Benin, Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi, Burkino Faso's Blaise Compaore, Guinea Bissau's Malam Bacai Sanha, Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Sierra Leone's Ernest Koroma and Togo's Faure Gnassingbe.

Guinea was sanctioned for the killing, on September 28, of about 200 unarmed protesting civilians and the rape of some women by members of that country's security forces under the authority of the ruling National Council for Demo-cracy and Development (CNDD) headed by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

In the 18 paragraph communiqué read yesterday by the President of ECOWAS, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, on behalf of the Heads of State, the leaders said: "In view of the atrocities that have been committed and the steps taken by the CND authorities to acquire new weapons, the Authority decides to impose an arms embargo on Guinea under the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their ammunitions and related materials, and directs the President of ECOWAS and European Union and the United Nations in the implementation and enforcement of the embargo." The leaders also expressed support for the decision of the Secretary General of the United Nations to establish the Commission of Enquiry to investigate the September 28 violence and called on concerned Guineans and other stakeholders to fully cooperate with the Commission.

The Captain Camara-led military junta, which took over the government of Guinea following the death of President Lansana Conte had pledged its commitment towards the return of the country to a civilian regime before the end of this year. Camara also pledged that neither himself nor his Prime Minister nor any of the members of the ruling CNDD would participate in the transition election. But he had since reneged on those promises as he has already declared his intentions to participate and run for the Presidential elections.

Following that, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union promptly called on Camara to formalise his commitment to the people of Guinea and the international community not to contest presidential election on or before October 17, 2009 or face sanctions by the African union (AU).

The ECOWAS Heads of State also reiterated their unflinching commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law and its rejection of unconstitutional accession to or maintenance of power in line with the region's protocols and relevant AU instruments. It called for more effective measures at regional and continental levels to combat the violation of and the temptation to violate national, regional and continental instruments, principles and norms on Democracy and Good Governance.

In the case of Niger, the West African leaders considered the holding of the referendum of August 4, 2009 and the circumstances of its organisation as against the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Niger and a violation of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and called on the authorities in Niger to desist from further acts that may deepen divisions within the country and exacerbate the political atmosphere.

Subsequently, they "Imposed sanctions stipulated under Article 45 (a) and (b) of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance by, 'the refusal to support candidates presented by the member state concerned for elective posts in the international organisations; and refusal to organise ECOWAS meetings in the member state concerned."

The ECOWAS leaders further requested President Mamadou Tandja and the Niger authorities to suspend indefinitely the holding of the legislative elections scheduled for October 20, in favour of dialogue with the other leading political parties on resolving the political crisis in the country.

The Heads of State in addition resolved to dispatch a high level mission comprising President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, General Abdulsalami Abubakar of Nigeria and of Ibn Chambas to Niamey to meet Tandja today to present the message of the summit and facilitate the restoration of dialogue between the stakeholders.

Earlier in his welcome address, Yar'Adua explained that he convened the extra ordinary summit less than four months after the June summit because of the lingering and seemingly intractable political crises in Guinea and Niger. He said as leaders in the sub region, ECOWAS could not fold its hands and watch the situation degenerate into conflicts of monumental proportion without employing appropriate intervention mechanisms to effectively arrest the drift.

Yar'Adua observed that both the constitutional crisis in Niger and the deterioration of political, security and human rights situation in Guinea are obvious threats to the transition processes in both countries. Recalling some of his personal efforts at nipping both situations in the bud Yar'Adua revealed that, "Aside from my personal contacts with President Tandja and Captain Moussa Camara, I have dispatched delegations comprising key Government functionaries as well as senior officials from the ECOWAS Commission to Niger and Guinea at various times with the mandate to dialogue with relevant stakeholders with the aim of finding an amicable and peaceful resolution to the constitutional crises rocking the two countries."

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