Washington, DC — Jean Ping, who as chairman of the African Union Commission is the continent's top diplomat, was in Washington, DC, for the United States-Africa Business Summit this week. On the sidelines, he told AllAfrica's Reed Kramer what action the African Union is taking on Guinea, where soldiers killed scores of demonstrators on Monday.
How is the African Union approaching issues such as Niger, Madagascar and, in particular this week, Guinea?
Remember yesterday [at the business summit] I said we [have a number of] pillars in [our] mission: peace and security; development and integration; ... and also shared values - democracy, human rights, rule of law. It is within this framework of shared values with you, with the rest of the world, that we intervene when there is a coup d'état.
We immediately condemn a coup d'état and then a few days later we suspend the country from our activities and we negotiate with those people to come back to a constitutional order. If we can't do it [within] six months, we [impose] sanctions.
It's very clear in the case of access to power by unconstitutional means - which is the case [in the event of a] coup d'état or of the revolution in Madagascar, which was a mixture of demonstrations and military [action]. Access to power by unconstitutional means is strongly condemned immediately. I have the mandate to do that, immediately, the same day and it's clear enough.
In the case of Guinea, when the coup d'état happened in December , it was condemned immediately and Guinea was suspended. Myself, I went to Guinea, I talked to the junta, that is [Captain Moussa Dadis] Camara [the coup leader] and he told me - and he confirmed several times - that he will not be a candidate in the election. They are conducting the transition and they have accepted to shorten the period of transition.
They were moving [in] a very good direction. We were very confident and then suddenly he decided that he might be a candidate. The African Union gave him an ultimatum of one month - if in one month he doesn't come back to his previous commitment of not being a candidate, we will put our machinery in progress.
You know the recent events - political parties, civil society, trade unions [this week] went to demonstrate at the stadium, peacefully. And you know that more than 160 people were killed. We have been told that some atrocities are going on there. Can you imagine that?
We will increase the pressure on this government...
You will increase it?
A communique has been published condemning strongly what happened, asking them to restore the free expression of people, the liberties, including the liberties of demonstration, of expression, and our organ, the Peace and Security Council, composed of 15 African countries will meet...
We can meet on the level of ambassadors, on the level of ministers, or on the level of heads of state. We are going to meet of the level of heads of state. We proposed meetings on [that] level in Nigeria because Abuja, Nigeria is now hosting ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States] but also will be next president [of the Peace and Security Council] for the month of October.
So we think that these two very important organs will take very important decisions.
Do you know when the meeting will be?
In October, but we have to call heads of state [to arrange a date].