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Regional Leaders Meet Over Guinea-Bissau, Mali Crises

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R) and President of Benin Republic Boni Yayi chats during their meeting at the emergency summit of Heads of States of ECOWAS on the political crisis in Ivory Coast(file photo)

West African regional leaders are scheduled to meet in an extraordinary summit in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, Thursday.

The objective, say officials of the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS), is to review strategies and come up with solutions to the current security situations in both Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

The sub-regional bloc this week imposed diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions on Guinea-Bissau after the ruling junta there rejected ECOWAS’ proposal to return the country’s interim president. The junta refused to make a written commitment to restore constitutional rule.

Sonny Ugoh, the communications director at ECOWAS, said regional leaders are committed to finding solutions to the security crises in both Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

“Originally it was meant to be a summit of the contact group on Guinea-Bissau, just to take vital decisions as a follow up to the foreign ministers meeting,” said Ugoh.

“Now on the basis of recent developments in Mali, the summit has been enlarged, so it is now a full extraordinary summit of heads of state to look at current developments in those two countries and take decisions on the basis of these developments,” said Ugoh.

“You can be sure that the leaders will take a robust view of the [Guinea Bissau situation] and respond vigorously in order to make sure that the targeted sanctions that were imposed on the military high command and their affiliates get the kind of effect [intended].”

Ugoh said ECOWAS is committed to reforming Guinea Bissau’s military sector and to professionalizing the national army.

In Mali, the ruling junta said its forces thwarted an attempted counter coup d’état orchestrated by loyalist soldiers who support deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure.

Gunfire erupted Tuesday in the Malian capital, Bamako, outside the national broadcaster compound, the airport and the army bases of both sides.

The junta there rejected an ECOWAS proposal to restore democracy after saying the regional bloc failed to keep its part of a signed agreement. Some Malian politicians say ECOWAS is to blame for the confusion following the rejection of the proposal.

Ugoh insists the regional bloc frowns on any forceful seizure of power.

An interim president was recently installed, which paved the way for a prime minister to be named.

“We had hoped that with these two developments, the country has stabilized and then we can start the one-year process of the election that will lead to a new president to replace the former President Amadou Toumani Toure. But unfortunately, here we are with this current development, these shootings,” said Ugoh.

He said the junta in Mali promised to return to the barracks after the interim president was sworn in. He said the security situation in Mali undermines ECOWAS’ effort to help restore democracy and resolve the Tuareg rebellion in that country’s north.

“It’s not even helpful to the situation we find ourselves in, in the north of the country, where some portions of the country has been taken over by separatists,” said Ugoh.