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ECOWAS Security Council Meets Friday on Military Takeover in Guinea

The Mediation and Security Council of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which comprises foreign ministers of the sub-region meets Friday in Abuja, Nigeria. The ministers are expected to deliberate on the military takeover in Guinea and adopt a consensus position for Saturday’s ECOWAS heads of state summit also to be held in Abuja.

The international community has condemned the December 23 coup despite the junta’s promise to hold elections within two years. The United States has threatened to withhold some aid to that country.

ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas told VOA the sub-region wants to remain on the path to democracy with little tolerance for military coups.

“The meeting will receive a report from the two missions which the ECOWAS chairman, His Excellency Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Nigeria had already dispatched to Guinea following the death of former President Lansana Conte and the taking of power there of the military government the CNDD. Based on these reports, the ministers will then assess the situation and recommend to the summit the appropriate action that is necessary to be taken at this point by the region,” he said.

The Guinean coup leader Captain Moussa Camara who initially said he would hold elections in two years has now changed to holding those elections at the end of 2009. He has also appointed a new civilian prime minister.

But Chambas said ECOWAS cannot afford to tolerate a military regime in Guinea for two years.

“To be frank with you, two years is way too long. We live in an era where within the region there’s a zero tolerance for military governments, and I can assure you that the region will find it unacceptable to live with a military government for as long as two years,” Chambas said.

He said Ghana’s successful election and the peaceful transfer of power would be an inspiration to the people of Guinea and the West Africa sub-region as a whole.

“As a Ghanaian I feel personally very proud about what has happened in Ghana. But again this underscores that different countries in the region are at different levels in democratic development. And I believe that what has happen in Ghana would be an inspiration to the civil society of Guinea so that they will also realize that the moment has passed for military governments and that every effort will be made to take the death of the former president, who had the country more or less with an iron fist. And that’s the spirit in which the deliberation will take place at the meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs to see how the region can help Guinea to move quickly to accelerate the process toward development of democracy in that country,” he said.

Chambas reiterated the sub-region has little tolerance for military governments.

“While we appreciate the location of Guinea in the Mano River Union area and while we want to do everything to make sure that problems in that country are contained to make sure that there is no spillover, we still have to ensure that we come up with a principle position which underscores the fact that we want to move West Africa on the path of democracy, and those who take power by other means understand that there’s very little tolerance for that kind of approach,” Chambas said.