West Africa’s main regional bloc has suspended Guinea’s membership, days after a military coup that removed President Alpha Conde.
During an extraordinary virtual summit on Wednesday, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded a return to the constitutional order and the immediate release of Conde, who was arrested by special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya on Sunday.
The ECOWAS leaders also agreed to send a high-level mission to Guinea as soon as Thursday.
“At the end of that mission, ECOWAS should be able to re-examine its position,” Alpha Barry, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, told reporters in Ouagadougou after the meeting.
The bloc’s decision comes after the coup sparked broad diplomatic condemnation, but was also met jubilation in some parts of the capital, Conakry, where residents turned out on the streets to applaud passing soldiers.
The 83-year-old became the first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. But last year, Conde pushed through a constitutional change to allow himself to run for a third term, a move his opponents said was illegal. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara also won a third term last year after changing his country’s constitution.
ECOWAS was criticised at the time by activists for remaining silent about Conde and Ouattara’s third-term bids.
Elsewhere in the region, Mali’s military staged coups in August 2020 and then again in May this year. ECOWAS condemned the coups and temporarily imposed sanctions. It said on Tuesday it was concerned that Mali’s transitional government had not made sufficient progress towards organising elections next February as promised.
Reporting from Conakry, Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris said ECOWAS’s decision to suspend Guinea was “a protocol we have seen over and over again”.
“Steps taken by ECOWAS, whenever there is an unconstitutional change in government … while the fear is such that unconstitutional change of government in West Africa could be a norm unless they take strategic steps and stern measures against people who organise coups to unconstitutionally unseat a democratically elected president