Guinea: Junta Kick-Starts Talks On Country's Future

Determined to push on with its agenda, even in the face of sanction threats by the international community, Guinea's military leaders have commenced a four-day national consultation to chart a way forward for the country.

From September 14-17, the coup leaders will be meeting with representatives of key socioeconomic and political players to build consensus for the transition to democracy, according to a statement issued by the National Committee for Rally and Development (CNRD) junta.

They will meet representatives of political parties and civil society organisations, diplomats, religious and traditional leaders and business executives.

The CNRD spokesman, Colonel Amara Camara, said on state TV at the weekend that the meetings were part of national consultations promised by the junta when it took over the reins.

All meetings are scheduled to be held at the Palais du Peuple in Conakry, to be chaired by coup leader Lt-Col Mamady Doumbouya, according to the statement.

Lt-Col Doumbouya led a group of special-forces soldiers on September 5 to seize power in the West African nation, ending the 11-year rule of President Alpha Conde, whom they accused of corruption and maladministration.

Conde has been in custody since the coup, in spite of appeals to free him by the West African regional bloc Ecowas, the African Union and the United Nations.

Talks with leaders of political parties were scheduled for Tuesday. On Wednesday, the junta will meet with leaders of civil society organisations, diplomats and diaspora Guineans.

Lt-Col Doumbouya, is also scheduled to meet with top business leaders, including mining companies that are concerned about the effect of the coup on their operations.

On Thursday meetings are scheduled with heads of employers' organisations, while on Friday it will be the turn of commercial and financial institutions, including banks and microfinance institutions, as well as representatives of trade unions.

While the junta says this week's meetings are designed to hear the views of the people on the future of Guinea, analysts say they will also shed light on the kind of transitional government the military has in mind.

The national consultation starts amid growing international pressure for the junta to return the country to civilian rule.

Last week a delegation from Ecowas met with the military authorities to persuade them to hand over power to civilians.

Conde is reported to have reiterated his claim to the presidency in a meeting with a visiting UN envoy this week.

He is reported to have refused to resign, in defiance of the junta's request, insisting that he must be restored as the legitimate president of Guinea.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, said in Conakry on Tuesday that the global body did not have a timeline for the transition to civilian rule. That is for Guineans to decide, he told reporters.

"So far we have said [that] we want a reasonable duration, but the reasonable duration depends on the Guineans themselves," he stated.

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