Last week, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent a delegation to Guinea to assess the crisis in that country. Tuesday, the delegation submitted a report to ECOWAS Chairman President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and African Union Chairman President John Kufuor of Ghana.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas is executive secretary of ECOWAS. He said the report talks about the way forward in Guinea.
"ECOWAS believes that it can play a role in deepening the dialogue among the Guineans, of course, the government on the one, the trade unions, civil society and others and help to facilitate the implementation of the January 27th agreement which we believe provides the basis for ending the current crisis in Guinea,” he said.
Part of the January 27th agreement called on President Lansana Conte to appoint a new prime minister. But Chambas could not say whether part of the ECOWAS way forward includes the replacement of Eugene Camera with a new prime minister.
“The situation we have now requires all sides to demonstrate flexibility and good faith, and I believe that in implementing the agreement, perhaps greater consultation can be made so that ultimately when the president decides, it would result in a situation where the trade unions would be able to call off the strike and return to a process of national dialogue which is a way forward out of the current crisis,” Chambas said.
When pressed further, Chambas said President Conte should consult broadly on a consensus prime minister who can help break the current impasse between the president and the trade unions.
“There are so many qualified Guineans. I have no doubt that it would be possible to find somebody who can enjoy the confidence of the president, and at the same time somebody that the unions would be able to work with,” he said.
On the reported indiscriminate killings by Guinean security forces, Chambas said ECOWAS has already condemned those killings. He said ECOWAS does not want any further destabilization of the West Africa sub-region, particularly the countries of the Mano River Union.
“We believe at this point that we need to ensure that we work with Guinea to avoid that country experiencing any prolonged crisis because Guinea is in a very sensitive sub-region of the ECOWAS region, the Mano River region,” he said.
Chambas did not rule out the setting up of an international contact group on Guinea to monitor the implementation of the January 27th agreement, as has been suggested by some observers.
“For now I think the urgent problem is to break the current impasse and bring about normalization of the situation on the ground. Beyond that, we are certain a number of initiatives can be discussed with the Guineans, and I know that the international community will be willing to join hands in the reconstruction of Guinea, the economic revival of Guinea, which is also very, very important,” he said.
Chambas said it was premature and out of the question to suggest an ECOWAS peacekeeping mission to Guinea. For now, he said ECOWAS was concentrating on rebuilding confidence among Guineans.