Guinea: Military Junta defies African Union deadline

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Guinea’s military leader, Moussa Dadis Camara, has defied an African Union request to declare by Saturday October 16, that he would not run for president in the forthcoming January 2010 national elections. The military junta has not declared his withdrawal from the polls and has called on the president of Burkina Faso, to decide what’s best for Guinea.

“Legally speaking, the deadline has expired but politically, we are still working to put pressure on the junta,” the AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra is quoted by reporters.

Earlier this month, Burkina Faso’s president Mr. Blaise Compaore invited political executives in Guinea to Ouagadougou for talks – but the proposal was rejected by opposition groups, who want Capt. Camara to stand down first, reports claimed.

Mr. Lamamra, said the AU would wait to hear back from President Compaore about the junta’s position before actions are taken. “If he [Burkinabe President] tells us that they are sticking to their guns, then sanctions will be enforced,” Mr Lamara said.

The West African economic bloc, Ecowas – imposed an arms embargo on Guinea in protest at the recent atrocities that have happened in the country under Capt. Camara. An Ecowas statement issued on Saturday at the end of a special summit in Nigeria said: “In view of the atrocities that have been committed… the authority decides to impose an arms embargo on Guinea.”

Ecowas called on its chairman, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’adua, to take all necessary measures to obtain the support of the African Union, European Union and United Nations to enforce the embargo.

The AU said it backed Ecowas’s move and would maintain pressure on the mineral-rich nation, and former colonial power France has already said it will stop weapon sales to the military government.

Capt. Camara, though a little-known army captain, seized power in December within hours of the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte. He promised democracy, but has since shown signs of holding on to power; with an increasingly erratic behavior and unreasonable public humiliation of officials.

The country recently suffered human rights crisis when troops opened fire on protesters, who stood up against the leader’s decision to run for the 2010 national elections. Human rights groups say soldiers raped and sexually abused women during the crackdown, and over 157 people were killed. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened an investigation into the deaths.

The EU has called for Capt. Camara to be tried for crimes against humanity.

On Friday, October 16, France urged it’s over 2,000 nationals to leave the mineral-rich country. The French foreign ministry said the security situation in Guinea had worsened since the 28 September protests. “Banditry, in particular armed robberies have increased and there is no short-term prospect that the situation will improve,” a statement on the ministry’s website read.

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