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West African Leaders Meet Over Guinea Bissau, Mali Challenges

  • Peter Clottey

A soldier stands guard in a street near the National Assembly on April 13, 2012 in Bissau.

West African heads of state and government are scheduled to hold an extraordinary summit Thursday, aimed at finding solutions to the crises in Guinea Bissau and Mali.

Sonny Ugoh, the communications director for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said the leaders will review strategies to best respond to what he called the recent unfortunate situations in both Mali and Guinea Bissau.

The leaders will meet in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan.

“They are meeting… to review the developments regarding Mali and Guinea Bissau and to see how they can respond to the latest development there within the context of their positions and within the context of restoring stability and peace to those countries,” said Ugoh.

“They will be briefed by regional mediators appointed for those countries… and then see how best we can restore normality to those two countries within the contest of promoting regional peace and security.”

ECOWAS and the international community condemned the military takeover in Guinea Bissau and have demanded an immediate return to constitutional rule.

Last week, the coup leaders signed an accord with 24 political parties to form a Transitional National Council, to govern the West African nation for a two-year period. But, the sub-regional bloc condemned as illegal a proposal by the junta to organize new elections after two years.

Ugoh said the West African leaders would decide whether to impose harsh sanctions on the junta, while they considers ways to help resolve the Tuareg fueled security crisis in Mali’s north. Since last month’s military coup in Mali, the rebels, with help from radical Islamic militants, have seized much of the country's north and proclaimed an independent state they called “Azawad”.

Tuareg rebels, who refer to themselves as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), control the cities of Timbuktu, Gao and other areas in the north. ECOWAS has promised to help the newly installed interim president, Dioncounda Traore, to end the Tuareg rebellion.

Ugoh urged citizens of both Mali and Guinea Bissau to place confidence in regional leaders’ determination to solve the challenges the two West African nations face.

“They should be confident that regional leaders are going to provide solutions that will ultimately, contribute to resolving the present crisis that they are experiencing,” continued Ugoh.

“And which, will bring [to] them a sense of normality… and of course join the rest of the region in the task that we have given to ourselves. And that is working together to advance the cause of development of the region [and] to improve the welfare of the citizens and that of the region, generally.”