CONAKRY, Sept 17 (Reuters) – A delegation of West African leaders arrived in Guinea on Friday, a day after the regional bloc sanctioned the new military leaders for ousting President Alpha Conde in a coup.
Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo were met on a plane-side red carpet by coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a special forces commander and former French Legionnaire accompanied by heavily-armed troops.
The greeting, which included a gun salute and national anthems, belied the likely tense negotiations to come.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has demanded a return to constitutional rule since the special forces unit seized control of the presidential palace, detained Conde and declared itself in charge on Sept. 6.
The bloc agreed on Thursday to freeze financial assets of the junta and their relatives and bar them from travelling. It also demanded Conde’s release. The junta has not responded.
Events in Guinea followed coups in Mali and Chad earlier this year that have raised fears of a democratic backslide in a region only just shedding its “coup-belt” reputation.
Guinea’s coup leaders have held a week of consultations with public figures and business leaders to map out a framework for a transitional government.
ECOWAS’s credibility in Guinea has been strained since 2018, when the bloc failed to condemn Conde for running for a third term in office last year, despite a law declaring that presidents must step down after two and widespread protests.
Ivorian President Ouattara himself used a constitutional change as an excuse to run for a third term last year, a move critics decried as illegal.
Following Thursday’s summit, during which ECOWAS also pressured Mali’s transitional government to hold elections by February 2022, the regional body said it would be reviewing protocols on democracy and good governance.
As their motorcade left the airport, the ECOWAS delegation passed dozens of pro-junta demonstrators, brandishing signs.
One read: “ECOWAS does not decide for us.”
(Reporting by Saliou Samb and Christian Akorlie; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Edward McAllister, Philippa Fletcher and Andrew Cawthorne)