U.N. chief Antonio Guterres called Sunday for the military juntas in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali to hand power back to civilians as soon as possible and reminded the world to deliver on "climate emergency" promises.
Speaking after meeting Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, he said they had agreed on the need to keep talking to the de facto authorities in all three countries so as to get a swift return to "constitutional order.”
All three countries, struggling with a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region, have recently experienced military coups: Mali in August 2020 and May 2021; Guinea in September 2021; and Burkina Faso in January 2022.
Sall is the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, also known as ECOWAS, which has suspended all three countries from its membership.
ECOWAS imposed heavy sanctions against Mali in January after the regime there rejected a rapid return to civilian rule.
It has threatened similar sanctions against Guinea and Burkina Faso if they fail to enable a swift transition to civilian rule within a "reasonable" timeframe.
But the military regimes in both countries rejected the timetable set out by ECOWAS.
Last Monday, Ouagadougou said they had no plans to shorten the three-year transition period they had already announced.
And on Saturday evening, Guinea's junta leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya said he had opted for a 39-month transition period to civilian rule.
The decision was roundly condemned Sunday by opposition leaders in Guinea, including both the party of the ousted president Alpha Conde and opposition groups that had opposed him.
The regime in Mali is also continuing to defy ECOWAS pressure.
On April 21 it announced the launch of a two-year transition "process" before elections are held.
ECOWAS had called for elections within 16 months at the most.
Turning to the issue of global warming, Guterres said "the climate emergency... increases the security risk.”
African countries, he said, were "often the first victims" of global warming for which they are "not responsible.”
Developed countries had pledged to help the countries of the south to finance their "transition towards renewable energies and green jobs," he noted.
"It's time to take action. It's time to keep the promise of 100 billion dollars a year made in Paris," he said, referring to national pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement aimed at capping global warming below two degrees Celsius.
In Dakar, Guterres visited the site of the future headquarters of the UN's regional operations as well as a manufacturing unit soon to produce COVID-19 vaccines and also experimental anti-malaria and tuberculosis vaccines.
Guterres also addressed the consequences of the war in Ukraine on Africa, where he said the conflict "aggravates a triple crisis: food, energy and financial.”
To enable the countries of the continent to cope, Guterres urged once again international financial institutions to put in place "urgently...debt relief measures...so that governments can avoid default and invest in social safety nets and sustainable development for their people."