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ECOWAS leaders to meet over Guinean crisis

An extra ordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS  will hold  Saturday to discuss Guinea and possible sanctions after a bloody crackdown there


Nigerian Deputy Foreign Minister Bagudu Hirse said the meeting is being called by Nigerian President Yar’Adua, who doubles as the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

“Sanction is dangling, it is coming,” Hirse said.

“I will rather leave that to the summit. But I can tell you that if the two countries (Guinea and Niger) would not comply with the provisions of the protocol setting up ECOWAS, the issue of sanctions cannot be avoided,” he said.

The one-day summit will be held on the day of the October 17 deadline set by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council for Guinea’s junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara to re-affirm his commitment to stay out of a forthcoming presidential election.

A meeting on Monday here of the International Contact Group on Guinea, which included foreign ministers in the region, called in their communique on Camara to confirm his commitment.

The communique said that the commitment should indicate that “neither himself nor any member of the CNDD (junta), nor the prime minister would contest the presidential election failing which the group calls on the AU and other relevant regional and international organisations to take appropriate measures.”

More than 150 people were killed when troops opened fire on opposition demonstrators at a stadium in Guinea’s capital Conarky on September 28, according to rights group. The government says 56 people died.

The International Contact Group called for an international commission to be established to investigate the “gross human rights violation including the massacre of unarmed civilians and rape” that took place in Guinea.

The communique also called for the identification and prosecution of culprits in competent courts in Guinea or the International Criminal Court “so as to put an end to the acts of impunity.”

It urged all partners “to immediately prepare mechanisms for appropriate targeted sanctions to be imposed on the identified culprits.”

The group demanded that the junta free all those detained in the crackdown, return the bodies of victims to their families and allow raped women to get appropriate medical care.

ECOWAS head Mohamed Ibn Chambas slammed Guinea’s military rulers over the “brutal killings of unarmed and defenceless civilians” as ministers met to discuss a response to the massacre.

Chambas said the situation in Guinea is “characterised by arbitrary and irresponsible use of state power by the military to repress the population”.

Camara seized power in December last year after the death of Guinean strongman Lansana Conte, who had ruled the world’s top bauxite producer since 1984.

Niger has also been embroiled in a political crisis since a President Mamadou Tandja won a disputed referendum in August that extends his mandate until 2012 and allows him to seek re-election indefinitely.