West African foreign ministers will arrive in Guinea on Friday to evaluate the situation after a military coup in the country, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister Alpha Barry said Thursday.
The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo will visit as representatives of the West Africa bloc ECOWAS, said Barry, a member of the delegation.
On Wednesday ECOWAS suspended Guinea from its ranks after the military coup on Sunday when special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya seized power and arrested President Alpha Conde, sparking international condemnation.
Conde, 83, had come under increasing fire for perceived authoritarianism, with dozens of opposition activists arrested after a violently disputed election last year.
But the putsch in Guinea has sparked fears of democratic backsliding across West Africa — where military strongmen are an increasingly familiar sight.
It has drawn parallels with its neighbour Mali. The Sahel state has suffered two coups since August last year led by Colonel Assimi Goita, who was also a special forces commander.
On Wednesday Barry had announced the 15-nation ECOWAS would send a “high-level mission” to Guinea to review the situation.
So far the West African bloc has imposed no economic sanctions on Guinea.
When faced with a similar predicament in Mali last year, ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions on the country but lifted them after Mali’s ruling military committed to restoring civilian rule.
Doumbouya, hours after taking power in Conakry, appeared on television and accused the Conde government of “endemic corruption” and of “trampling on citizens’ rights”.
He has pledged to open talks on forming a new government, but it is not yet clear when, or under what form, these may take place.
The coup leader has also sought to reassure the business community, alarmed over the potential for disruptions in commodity supply chains.
Mining is the economic backbone of Guinea, which has abundant mineral resources, from bauxite and iron ore to gold and diamonds
Guinea will continue to uphold “all its undertakings and mining agreements”, the coup leader said Monday
The putsch followed a long period of political tension in Guinea, first spurred by Conde’s highly contested bid for a third presidential term last year.
The military coup was met with jubilation in some parts of Conakry, where residents turned out on the streets to applaud passing soldiers.
West Africa’s economic bloc ECOWAS will hold a virtual summit on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Guinea, where troops have arrested President Alpha Conde and declared a political transition.
On Sunday, a group of elite troops led by a Guinean former French Foreign Legionnaire arrested 83-year-old Conde, announced they were scrapping the constitution and imposed a curfew in the West African state.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday condemned the coup and demanded Conde’s unconditional release.
The group will hold a virtual extraordinary summit of member states to discuss Guinea, the communications director for the ECOWAS Commission, Sandra Oulate, told AFP on Tuesday.
A statement to journalists on an ECOWAS social media account said the meeting would be at 2pm (1400 GMT) on Wednesday.
Conde, a former champion of democracy, had been facing mounting anger for sidestepping constitutional limits on presidential terms.
He was Guinea’s first democratically-elected president in 2010 and was re-elected five years later. But he triggered protests last year when he pushed through constitutional changes enabling him to run again.
The international community criticised the latest turmoil in a region where many countries are struggling with poverty, inequality and jihadist insurgencies.
The African Union (AU) and the United Nations called for Conde’s release. The EU and France, the former colonial power, both condemned the coup — the latest in a region that has seen recent military takeovers in Mali and Chad.
The West African bloc ECOWAS said on Tuesday that it feared potential delays in elections in Mali aimed at restoring civilian rule following a coup last year.
In a statement, the group said it remained “worried by the lack of concrete action” to prepare for the vote, which has been promised for February 2022 by strongman Colonel Assimi Goita.
The announcement came at the end of a three-day mission to Mali led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has repeatedly voiced fears about the situation in Mali, one of the region’s poorest and most volatile states.
“The mission recalled the importance of respecting the date of the announced elections in order to demonstrate the credibility of the transition process,” said the ECOWAS statement, which was read out to journalists in Bamako.
Already struggling with a bloody jihadist conflict, Mali slid into political turmoil last year, culminating in a military coup in August 2020 against elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The military then appointed an interim civilian government tasked with steering back to democratic rule.
But Goita deposed the civilian leaders of this interim government in May — in a second coup — and was later declared president himself.
He has pledged to respect the February deadline for civilian elections set by the interim government, which also set October 31 as a date for holding a constitutional referendum.
Rampant insecurity in Mali, and the scale of the task, has cast doubt on the reform timetable, however.
Swathes of the vast country lie outside of government control because of a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012, before spreading to the centre of the country, as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Mali is also suffers from chronic political instability.
Last week, a police special-forces commander who had been detained as part of an investigation into the killings of protesters in 2020, was released after armed police officers turned up at the prison where he was being held.
The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja on Friday ordered the Federal Government to pay journalist Agba Jalingo N30m as compensation for ill-treatment and torture while in detention in Cross River State.
In a judgment, the court said the journalist was arrested and chained to a deep freezer for about 34 days without being charged to court, brutalized and dehumanized.
“This action taken on Jalingo’s behalf by SERAP seeks from this court reparation for inhuman treatment and torture meted out to him. We have looked at the evidence before us. There was no answer as to the facts that Jalingo was arrested and illegally detained, brutalized and dehumanized,” the court ruled.
According to the court, the act violated the international human rights treaties, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, adding that the “Nigerian government has flouted the provisions of these treaties on international fair trial standards.”
SERAP counsel, Femi Falana, via a statement welcomed the court ruling, saying the judgment could not have come at a more opportune time than now “in view of the ongoing brutalization of hapless Nigerian citizens by the police and other security agencies.”
He said, “It is to be hoped that the Federal and state governments and all law enforcement agencies will study the terms of the judgment and desist from further infringing on the human rights of the Nigerian people, including criminal suspects who are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by the State.”
The judgment followed the suit filed by SERAP against the Federal Government and the Cross River State Government to ECOWAS Court over the prolonged, arbitrary detention; unfair prosecution; persecution, and sham trial of Mr Jalingo.
Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that Mr Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state.
The court gave the order for compensation after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, and lawyers to the government Abdulahi Abubakar and A. A. Nuhu.
In the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/10/2020, SERAP argued that: “The sole objective of the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade is to perpetually keep Agba Jalingo in arbitrary detention and to silence him simply for expressing critical views and carrying out his legitimate job as a journalist.”
The suit, read in part: “The harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecution and arbitrary detention of Agba Jalingo simply for exercising his human rights violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which the country is a state party.”
“The government of Nigeria and the Cross-River state government of governor Ben Ayade have via the charges of terrorism and treason and denial of bail to Agba Jalingo, violated and continued to breach his human rights.”
“SERAP contends that Agba Jalingo is being unfairly prosecuted because of his reporting in his online news outlet, Cross River Watch, which alleged that the Cross Rivers State Governor diverted the sum of N500 Million, belonging to the Cross-River Micro Finance Bank.”
“On 22nd August 2019, the Nigeria Police, through its special anti-robbery squad arrested Agba Jalingo. On 23rd August 2019, Mr. Jalingo was transferred to a detention facility run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police in Calabar, the capital of Nigeria’s southern Cross River state and was held there for days before his arraignment on 31st August, 2019.”
President Muhammadu Buhari is currently in Accra, Ghana participating in the 59th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
The Summit is chaired by Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina is also at the Summit.
The Presidency earlier in a statement on Friday announced that President Buhari will be joining other Heads of State of Government of ECOWAS for the mid-year statutory meeting of the regional bloc, with the exception of Mali, which was recently suspended from the group.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, ECOWAS Special Envoy, and Mediator to Mali is also at the event and expected to present a report on his latest working visit to the West African country to the summit of the Heads of State.
President Muhammadu Buhari will participate in the 59th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Accra, Ghana on Saturday, June 19.
The President, who will depart Abuja on Saturday, will join other Heads of State of Government of ECOWAS for the mid-year statutory meeting of the regional bloc, with the exception of Mali, which was recently suspended from the group.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, ECOWAS Special Envoy and Mediator to Mali, is expected to present a report on his latest working visit to the West African country to the summit of the Heads of State.
The Heads of State and Government will also receive a report on ECOWAS institutional reforms, single-currency programmes and a memorandum on the proposed mechanism of rotation of ECOWAS Member States’ candidature to the Chairmanship of the African Union.
A communiqué will be issued at the end of the summit.
The 59th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government was preceded by the 46th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council (MSC) at the Ministerial Level and the 86th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, in Accra, Ghana.
The MSC, comprising of Ministers responsible for defence and foreign affairs from ECOWAS member-states, considered the security situation in the ECOWAS Region, among other topical issues on the agenda while the 86th Ordinary Session considered a memorandum on the post-COVID-19 industry recovery plan, the 2021 mid-term report of the President of the ECOWAS Commission and the ongoing institutional reforms at ECOWAS, among others.
President Buhari will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, Minister of Defence, Maj. General Bashir Magashi (Rtd), Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
Other ministers who will be going on the trip are the National Security Adviser, Maj. General Babagana Monguno (Rtd), Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 176 concerned Nigerians have dragged the Federal Government to the ECOWAS court over the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/23/21 filed on Tuesday before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Abuja, SERAP and the concerned Nigerians are seeking: “an order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from implementing its suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and subjecting anyone including media houses, broadcast stations using Twitter in Nigeria, to harassment, intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecution, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
Following the deletion of a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed last week announced the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
The government has also threatened to arrest and prosecute anyone using Twitter in the country, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has asked all broadcast stations to suspend the patronage of Twitter.
In the suit filed by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, the Plaintiffs contend that “if this application is not urgently granted, the Federal Government will continue to arbitrarily suspend Twitter and threaten to impose criminal and other sanctions on Nigerians, telecommunication companies, media houses, broadcast stations and other people using Twitter in Nigeria, the perpetual order sought in this suit might be rendered nugatory.”
The suit, read in part: “The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter and other social media platforms to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government.
“The free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens and elected representatives is essential. This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censor or restraints, and to inform public opinion. The public also has a corresponding right to receive media output.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the full enjoyment of this right is central to achieving individual freedom and to developing democracy. It is not only the cornerstone of democracy, but indispensable to a thriving civil society.
“The arbitrary action by the Federal Government and its agents have negatively impacted millions of Nigerians who carry on their daily businesses and operational activities on Twitter. The suspension has also impeded the freedom of expression of millions of Nigerians, who criticize and influence government policies through the microblogging app.
“The suspension of Twitter is arbitrary, and there is no law in Nigeria today permitting the prosecution of people simply for peacefully exercising their human rights through Twitter and other social media platforms.
“The suspension and threat of prosecution by the Federal Government constitute a fundamental breach of the country’s international human rights obligations including under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“The suspension has seriously undermined the ability of Nigerians and other people in the country to freely express themselves in a democracy, and undermined the ability of journalists, media houses, broadcast stations, and other people to freely carry out their professional duties.
“A lot of Nigerians at home and abroad rely on Twitter coverage of topical issues of public interest to access impartial, objective and critical information about ideas and views on how the Nigerian government is performing its constitutional and international human rights obligations.
“The implication of the decline in freedom of expression in Nigeria is that the country is today ranked alongside countries hostile to human rights and media freedom such as Afghanistan, Chad, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and Colombia.
SERAP and the concerned Nigerians are therefore asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the following reliefs:
A declaration that the action of the Defendant and its agents in suspending the operation of Twitter or any other social media and microblogging application without an order of a competent court of jurisdiction is unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A declaration that the act of the Defendant in mandating its agent to commence and continue to regulate the social media in Nigeria amounts to restriction and censorship, thus violating Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A declaration that the act of the Defendant and its agents in suspending the operation of Twitter or any other social media and microblogging application in Nigeria without any offence known to law is incompatible with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, and are therefore null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility.
A declaration that the directive by the Defendant, through the National Broadcasting Commission, directing and ‘advising’ broadcast stations to deactivate their Twitter accounts and discontinue its use is a breach of the citizens’ right to freedom of expression, access to information as well as media freedom, and therefore, null and void.
A declaration that the act of the defendant to frequently threaten Nigerians and other people who use Twitter and/or other social microblogging applications in Nigeria with criminal prosecution and the actual act of suspending the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, violates the principle that there is no punishment without law, and the right to fair hearing, and therefore, null and void.
An order setting aside the suspension, ban, sanction or other punishments whatsoever imposed on Twitter, Nigerians, media houses, broadcast stations and any social media service providers by the Defendant and its agents. An order directing the Defendant and its agents to immediately revoke, withdraw and/or rescind their suspension or ban of Twitter and/or any other social media service provider(s) in Nigeria in line with Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Revised ECOWAS Treaty 1993.
An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions and other punishment including criminal prosecution or doing anything whatsoever to harass Twitter, broadcast stations, Nigerians and other people and any social media service provider(s), and media houses who are Twitter users.
Such further orders the Honorable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the interim application and the substantive suit.
West African leaders suspended Mali from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at an extraordinary summit Sunday, but stopped short of reimposing sanctions, after a second military coup in nine months.
The putsch had sparked deep concerns over stability in the volatile Sahel region and warnings of fresh economic penalties.
Ten regional heads of state and three foreign ministers attended the summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra, with former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan serving as a mediator in the crisis.
“The suspension from ECOWAS takes immediate effect until the deadline of the end of February 2022 when they are supposed to hand over to a democratically elected government,” Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said after the meeting.
The final declaration called for the immediate appointment of a new civilian prime minister and the formation of an “inclusive” government.
In a statement, ECOWAS also reiterated that “the head of the transition, the vice-president and the prime minister of the transition must under no circumstances be a candidate for the future presidential election”.
Mali’s new president Colonel Assimi Goita — who was the nation’s vice-president until Friday — had arrived in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Saturday for preliminary talks.
Goita led the young army officers who overthrew Mali’s elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last August over perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist insurgency.
After the takeover, the military agreed to appoint civilians as interim president and prime minister under pressure from ECOWAS.
But on Monday, soldiers detained transitional president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane, releasing them on Thursday while saying that they had resigned.
The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked Mali’s second apparent coup within a year.
Mali’s constitutional court completed Goita’s rise to full power on Friday by naming him, transitional president.
With the junta going back on its previous commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other pledges, including a promise to hold elections in early 2022.
The junta said this week it would continue to respect that timetable, but added that it could be subject to change.
Five dead in fresh attack
ECOWAS issued sanctions against Mali after the August coup before lifting them when the transitional government was put in place.
The 15-nation bloc had warned of reimposing sanctions on the country, as have the United States and former colonial power France.
French leader Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper published Sunday that Paris “could not stay by the side of a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or a transition”.
And he warned that France would pull its troops out of Mali if the country lurches towards radical Islamism under Goita’s leadership.
France has around 5,100 troops in the region under its anti-jihadist operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Also, Sunday, underscoring Mali’s chronic instability, suspected jihadists killed four civilians and a police officer in southern Mali, a region that has previously been mostly spared from the country’s Islamist unrest, a security official said on condition of anonymity.
The unidentified men attacked a checkpoint near the town of Bougouni, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Mali’s borders with Ivory Coast and Guinea, before dawn, the official said. A local lawmaker confirmed the attack.
Mali is among the world’s poorest countries, and the previous ECOWAS sanctions hit hard.
Mali’s junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita left the capital Bamako Saturday, his first full day as president, headed for Ghana where West African leaders will decide on a response to the country’s second coup in nine months.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) invited Goita to come to Ghana’s capital Accra for “consultations” ahead of an extraordinary summit on Sunday devoted to Mali, according to letter from the 15-nation bloc seen by AFP.
He flew to Accra on Saturday, military and airport sources said.
Goita had served as vice president since leading a coup last August that ousted the democratically elected president, with the roles of president and prime minister held by civilians after pressure from ECOWAS, which has served as a mediator.
However on Monday soldiers detained transitional president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane, releasing them on Thursday while saying that they had resigned.
The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked the second apparent coup within a year in the Sahel country.
Mali’s constitutional court completed Goita’s rise to full power on Friday by naming him transitional president.
With the junta going back on its previous commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other pledges, including holding elections in early 2020.
The junta said this week it will would continue to respect that timetable, but added that it could be subject to change.
The constitutional court said Goita would “exercise the functions of transitional president to lead the transition process to its conclusion”.
ECOWAS, which issued sanctions against Mali after the August coup before lifting them when the transitional government was put in place, will meet from 2:00 pm (1400 GMT) in Accra on Sunday.
The 15-nation bloc has warned of reimposing sanctions on the country, as has the United States and former colonial power France.
Ndaw and Ouane’s detention came hours after a government reshuffle that would have replaced the defence and security ministers, both of whom were army officers involved in the August putsch.
On Friday, Goita said the army had had little choice but to intervene.
“We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defence and security forces and we chose cohesion,” he said.
Goita added that he wants to name a prime minister from the opposition M5 movement within days.
M5 spearheaded protests against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in 2020 that built up pressure ahead of his ouster, but it was excluded from key posts in the army-dominated post-coup administration.
A rapprochement with the group might serve to soften domestic and foreign criticism of the military.
In Mali, regularly ranked among the world’s poorest countries, the previous ECOWAS sanctions were felt hard by a country reeling from numerous crises, including a grinding jihadist insurgency.
President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Sunday for Accra, Ghana to attend an emergency Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS, convened to discuss the recent political developments in Mali.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, announced the visit on Saturday via a statement.
The President is expected back in the country “at the end of the one-day Summit.”
According to Mr Adesina, the meeting is at the instance of the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.
Prior to the Extraordinary Summit, the President had met with the Special Envoy and ECOWAS mediator in Mali, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who briefed him on the latest developments in the country following his meeting with key political actors in the West African country.
“As the situation in Mali continues to evolve, Nigeria had condemned the May 24 military coup, the subsequent detention of the president and prime minister by soldiers, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilian officials detained,” the statement added.
“President Buhari will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adebayo, and Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.”
The ECOWAS Heads of State and Government have agreed to step down their candidates for Commissioner for Peace and Security in the African Union in favour of a Nigerian candidate as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama disclosed this to state house correspondents on Tuesday after the closed door virtual extraordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Mr Onyeama wants Nigerians to recognize the gesture as a sign of the great respect African leaders have for President Muhammadu Buhari.
He also stated that the choice of candidate for the Head of the African Union from the ECOWAS block would also favour the candidate of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Top on the agenda for the meeting was the selection of a chairperson for the African Union for the 2022-2023 tenure and a proposed mechanism for designation of countries in the coming years, a review of the report of the council of ministers on the harmonization of member states applications for positions in international organizations and the status of the implementation of ECOWAS institutional reforms.