The African Union has condemned the attempt by military officers in Guinea to seize power following the death of President Lansana Conte. The continent's top peace and security officials are calling the attempted coup a worrisome sign of a reversal in Africa's trend toward multi-party democracy.
The AU Peace and Security Council spent most of the day in emergency session Wednesday, debating the text of a statement condemning what they call an attempt to overthrow constitutional order in Guinea. Afterward, Zambia's AU Ambassador Patrick Sinyinza, who holds the rotating Council chairmanship, expressed concern that recent events in Mauritania and now in Guinea could signal a return to the era of seizing power by force in Africa.
"We have had either coup attempts or countries on the verge of coup d'etats or any insurgency by the, either in the military sector or by individuals to change government by force, we are saying we are not for that, and Africa needs to build on the issue of democracy and good governance," he said. "A road that Africa I think has been on, and we should not have the reversals we seem to be experiencing."
AU backs constitutional rule
AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra called the toughly-worded communiqué an expression of the Council's resolve to preserve constitutional order in Guinea.
"Clearly, the situation developing in Guinea is being looked at as an attempted coup d'etat which we condemn and which we seek to reverse, meaning that we strongly support actions being taken to strengthen the constitutional institutions of Guinea," he said.
Lamamra said he was heartened that not all of Guinea's armed forces are supporting the coup attempt, and expressed hope that elections would be held within months to choose a successor to President Conte.
"We are far from concluding that the armed forces are all of them committing an act against the constitution, and we hope that by the next summit of the African Union, the legally authorized personalities would be the ones representing the country, and if the calculation is right, probably the election would be taking place right after the holding of the African Union summit 60 days from yesterday," he said.
AU delegation will travel to Guinea
Lamamra said Africa's top diplomat, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping is considering leading a high-ranking delegation to Conakry within the next 24 hours. The delegation would try to calm tensions and advocate restoration of constitutional order, as well as attending President Conte's funeral, which is set for Friday.
The attempted coup mirrored Mr. Conte's own rise to power in a 1984 military takeover after the death of his predecessor, Ahmed Sekou Toure. AU diplomats also noted this attempt came months after Mauritania's first democratically elected president was deposed in a military coup.
Mauritania's membership in the African Union was suspended after the coup, and Commissioner Lamamra hinted the same fate could await Guinea if constitutional order is not restored.