Update on some countries in political transitions (Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, and Mali)

Update on some countries in political transitions (Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, and Mali)

Date | 19 September 2022

Tomorrow (19 September), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council will convene its 1106th session to receive updates on the political transitions in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, and Mali.

The session starts with opening remarks from Amma Twum-Amoah, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the AU and PSC Chairperson for the month of September 2022, followed by a statement from Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security. Maman Sidikou, High Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Mission for the Sahel (MISAHEL) and Basile Ikouebe, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Office in Ndjamena are expected to deliver statements. The representatives of Chad, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are also expected to make statements as relevant country and regional mechanisms, in addition to the representative of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It will be for the second time that Council considers the situation in countries undergoing political transitions due to unconstitutional changes of government as one agenda item. The first was held on 14 April 2022 at its 1076th session where Council discussed the political transitions in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan. It is not clear why Council has not included Sudan in the agenda item this time. It has been now more than five months since the PSC considered the political transition in Sudan despite its decision, at its 1041st session, to receive monthly update on the evolution of the situation in Sudan.

Tomorrow’s session is expected to review the political developments in the four countries since its last meeting in April. It also presents Council the opportunity to follow up on the implementation of some of its key decisions taken at its 1076th session, including the establishment of a monitoring dashboard of the situations in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Chad, and Sudan; the organization of a Needs Assessment Mission to Guinea; the operationalization of the Monitoring Mechanism on the Transition in Guinea; and the establishment of a Transition Support Group in Burkina Faso (TSG-BF).

On Burkina Faso, a major development since the last session is the decision of Burkinabe authorities to set a shorter transition period than its initial 36 months timetable. Duration of the transition was a source of disagreement between Burkinabe authorities and ECOWAS as the latter found the 36 months proposal in early March unacceptable. As part of the effort to support the transition in Burkina Faso and resolve the disagreement over the duration of the transition, it is to be recalled that ECOWAS appointed former President of Niger Mahamadou ISSOUFOU as its mediator. Subsequent engagement between ECOWAS and Burkinabe authorities through the mediator bridged differences between the two sides. While the communique of the 61st ordinary session of the ECOWAS Authority stated that the progress made led to lifting of economic and financial sanctions, there was no specified list of economic & financial sanctions imposed on Burkina Faso. What is lifted could only be the threat of immediate application of unspecified economic and financial sanctions to which reference was made in the March 2022 ECOWAS Authority meeting. Despite various policy measures including the reshuffling of the army command & the understanding reached on the duration of the transition, the security situation in the country did not show any improvement. If anything, the dire security situation has continued to deteriorate since the coup. According to ACLED data, more than 530 violent incidents occurred between February and May 2022, showing a 115 percent year-on-year increase. The humanitarian situation also continues to worsen. According to the latest data provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) published on 5 September, ‘violent attacks has driven more people to flee between January and July 2022 than during the entire year of 2021’ in Burkina Faso, making the country one of the three fastest growing displacement crises in the world. Close to 2 million (nearly one in 10 persons) have been displaced in the country. The same source indicates that the ‘rate of severe food insecurity has nearly doubled compared to last year, with over 600,000 people in emergency hunger levels during this lean season’. The deteriorating security and humanitarian situation underscore the need for ending the political and constitutional crisis and implementing the necessary political and institutional reforms.

On Mali, like in the case of Burkina Faso, diplomatic engagements between ECOWAS and the transition authorities in Mali culminated in acceptable transition timeline of 24 months from 29 March 2022. With Malian transitional authorities submitting a new timetable of 24 months and taking other positive steps notably the promulgation of a new electoral law on 24 June and establishment of the single election management body, Agence Indépendante de Gestion des Elections (AIGE), the 61st ordinary session of ECOWAS authority decided to lift the economic and financial sanctions it imposed on 9 January while maintaining the suspension and targeted sanctions against individuals and groups.

The convening of the 3rd meeting of the Monitoring and Support Group for the Transition in Mali (GST-Mali) took place on 6 September in Togo pursuant to 1027th and 1076th sessions of the Council. Co-convened by the AU, ECOWAS, and UN under the auspices of the Togolese government, the 3rd meeting of the GST-Mali presented an opportunity for Malian authorities to present steps being taken for implementing the transitional roadmap and mobilize support from regional and international actors for the reform process. The Transitional Authority of Mali, during the 3rd meeting of the GST-Mali, also requested the lifting of remaining sanctions. It remains to be seen how Council will respond to the call for lifting also of suspension, which under current circumstances could realistically happen only with agreement with ECOWAS. Mali’s request of the lifting of sanction also brings the gap in AU’s normative framework of sanctions into the spotlight as there is still unclarity on the issue of how and when sanctions are lifted.

On Guinea, the country has witnessed deteriorating political situation as tension erupted between the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) (an alliance of political parties, trade unions and civil society groups and a leading opposition group that spearheaded protests against former president Alpha Conde), and the military authority that took over-power unconstitutionally on 5 September 2021. The opposition group staged protests in late July and on 17 August over concerns of military authority’s ‘unilateral management’ of the transition towards a civilian rule. On 8 August, the transition authorities dissolved the FNDC, a further blow to the country’s transition towards democracy. Following the same pattern in Mali and Burkina Faso, the National Transition Council of Guinea set a 36-month transition to civilian rule on 11 May, which ECOWAS rejected. ECOWAS at its 61st ordinary session requested the transition authorities either to propose an acceptable transition timeline until 1 August 2022 or face economic and financial sanctions as well as targeted sanctions. The authorities did not comply with the provided deadline, and it is accordingly susceptible for ECOWAS sanctions. ECOWAS mediator, former Beninese President Boni Yayi, was reportedly in Conakry in August trying to convince the transition authorities to agree for a shorter duration of transition period, but no indication that such diplomatic engagements bore fruit so far.

On Chad, the situation in Chad is marked by two significant developments since Council’s last session in April. The first is the signing of peace agreement between Chad’s transition government and about 40 politico-military groups on 8 August in Doha, Qatar, after more than five months of peace talks. Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), main rebel group which was behind the April attack that cost the life of former President Idriss Déby Into, remains a holdout group, denting the success of the Doha peace talk. The second key development is the launch of the 21-day ‘Inclusive National Dialogue’ on 20 August following the signing of the Doha agreement. The dialogue gathered some 1,400 delegates from various stakeholders. After the launch, the dialogue ran into procedural challenges, its scheduled end has been pushed back by ten days, to 30 September. Apart from FACT, the dialogue was also boycotted by Wakit Tamma, a large coalition of opposition groups and civil society groups. Last week, Chadian forces fired tear gas on supporters of the leader of Transformers, one of the parties of the coalition that boycotted the dialogue, after he was summoned for questioning by authorities. The authorities have been cracking down on members of Transformers, with about 200 having been arrested and held for several days before their release for planning to stage a rally.

In apparent departure to its own norms and established practices, PSC did not sanctioned Chad for the military seizure of power in April 2021 but outlined list of conditions that Chad’s transition authorities should meet. During its 996th session held on 14 May 2021, Council requested the Transitional Military Council (TMC), among others, to complete the transition within 18 months from 20 April 2021, further stating that ‘no form of extension of the transition period prolonging the restoration of constitutional order, would be acceptable to the AU’. It also urged the Chairman and members of the TMC not to run for the upcoming elections. PSC’s 18-months deadline will lapse this October and it is unlikely that the deadline will be met. The question therefore remains: will the PSC proceed with sanction or extend the transition timeline? The PSC is seen as having dealt with the military seizure of power & the suspension of constitution leniently. For it to be seen to be applying AU norms fairly, at a minimum it needs to uphold its own decisions on Chad by reaffirming the timeline and conditions of the transition as set out in the communique of its 996th session.

The expected outcome is a communique. Council is expected to welcome the agreement reached between ECOWAS and Burkina Faso as well as Mali on the new timetable of the transition and the resultant lifting of the economic and financial sanctions on these countries by ECOWAS. It may also note the convening of the 3rd meeting of the GST-Mali, the promulgation of a new electoral law and the establishment of the single election management body in relation to Mali and the need for enhancing closer working relationship and support for the transitional process in Mali; and the signing of Doha peace agreement between Chadian Transitional Authorities and politico-military groups, the launch of the ‘inclusive national dialogue’ in relation to Chad as steps in the right direction towards the restoration of constitutional order and ensure lasting peace in these countries. While commending the signing of the peace agreement, it may call upon the holdout groups to join the peace process. It may also reiterate the demands it set in its 996th session and call on the transitional authorities to respect the freedom of assembly and protest of opposition groups and ensure full inclusion of all political and social forces in the national dialogue by addressing concerns of various stakeholders. On Guinea, Council may express its dissatisfaction over the Transitional authorities’ proposal of 36 months transition, and thus, it may urge the authorities to engage with ECOWAS in good faith with the view to reaching agreement on acceptable timetable for a rapid return to constitutional order and call for the operationalization of the Monitoring Mechanism on the Transition in Guinea for working with ECOWAS to get a transitional roadmap agreeable to all. It may also express concern over the deteriorating socio-political situation in Guinea due to the political disagreement with opposition groups over the transition. In this regard, Council may urge transition authorities to respect political rights as enshrined in the relevant instruments of the AU and hold inclusive national dialogue to resolve underlying issues. Council may also express its grave concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation particularly in the context of Burkina Faso and Mali, which Council may call upon international partners to step up efforts to address these situations.


Update on countries in political transition

Guinea

Date | 14 April 2022

Tomorrow (14 April), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1076th session to receive updates on political transitions in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan.

Following opening remarks by Willy Nyamitwe, Permanent Representative of Burundi to the AU and the Chairperson of the PSC for the month of April, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), is expected to deliver a statement. Other participants that will be delivering statements and presentations include: Professor Mohammed Al-Hacen Lebatt, Principal Strategic Adviser of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and AU Special Envoy to Sudan; Representative of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat; Representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Basile Ikouebe, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Office in Chad; Representative of the Republic of Ghana, Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and Maman Sidikou, High Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Mission for the Sahel (MISAHEL).

This session is convened in line with the PSC’s request of the Commission for a regular update on Chad, Mali, Sudan, Guinea and Burkina Faso at its different sessions held to consider the situation in each of these countries after experiencing unconstitutional change of government (UCG). Previously, the Council has dedicated separate sessions to receive updates on the situations in each of the above countries, and this will be the first time that the Council will consider them in one session. Tomorrow’s session is an opportunity for the Council to take stock of latest developments around the transition towards the restoration of constitutional order in member States that have experienced UCG in 2021 and early 2022. It is worth recalling that the PSC has imposed sanctions against all of these countries with the exception of Chad.

It is the second time that the Council considers the situation in Burkina Faso after the 24 January 2022’s military coup against the democratically elected President Marc Roch Christian Kabore, the first meeting being held at its 1062nd session convened on 31 January. In that session, it is to be recalled that the Council suspended the country from all AU activities until the effective restoration of normal constitutional order. Council also endorsed the 28 January 2022 communique of the Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS, which among others requested the immediate restoration of constitutional order without specifying timeline. However, in the subsequent Summit held on 3 February, the regional bloc asked military authorities to ‘establish the Transition institutions, adopt a transition calendar and facilitate the return to constitutional order within the shortest time’.

Since its last session on 31 January, Burkina Faso adopted a Transition Charter on 1 March, setting a three-year transition period. The Charter was adopted after consultations between the military leaders, political parties, civil society groups, and other stakeholders. Among the provisions of the Charter is the one that bars the interim President and the coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba (he was sworn in as President on 2 March to lead the transition), as well as members of the transitional government from running for elections. A civilian Prime Minster and a cabinet consisting of 25 ministers were also appointed on 4 and 5 March. On 19 March, a transitional assembly was appointed as well, which will serve as the legislative body during the transition. The reported release of President Roch Kabore is another welcome development.

While all these developments are positive steps towards the restoration of a constitutional order, the 36 months duration of the transition period will remain issue of concern for the Council though it did not put any specific timeline for the transition at its previous session. On the part of ECOWAS, it has already expressed its concern over the duration of the transition at its most recent extraordinary summit convened on 25 March. The communique adopted at the Summit further demanded the ‘finalization of an acceptable transition timetable no later than 25th April 2022’, failure to which the regional bloc threatened to impose an immediate economic and financial sanctions. On the security front, terrorists have continued to stage their attacks which has exacerbated the humanitarian situation in the country.

The last time the Council considered the situation in Chad was in August 2021 during its 1016th session. Hence tomorrow’s meeting will be the first session of 2022 where the Council considers the developments in the country. It is to be recalled that following the military seizure after Idriss Deby’s death on 20 April 2021, the PSC decided not to suspend Chad contrary to AU norms. The event in Chad was not referred as a coup or unconstitutional change of government by the PSC. However, the Council urged the military to hand over political power to civilian authorities and authorised the urgent deployment of a fact-finding mission to Chad. Moreover, in its 996th session the Council requested, among others, the completion of the transition to democratic rule within 18 months, effective from 20 April 2021; guarantee that the Chair of Transitional Military Council (TMC) and its members do not run in the upcoming national elections; and the urgent revision of the Transition Charter. The Council also requested Chadian authorities to ‘urgently establish the National Transition Council’. During the 996th session the PSC also decided for the establishment of an AU-led Support Mechanism (AUSM) for Chad. The PSC, in its last session on Chad, at its 1016th session has urged for ‘dialogue between the Transition Government and all relevant Chadian stakeholders including opposition political parties and armed groups’.

Tomorrow’s session will be critical in assessing the level of implementation of the various requests made by the PSC and to examine the overall status of the transition process. The National Transition Council has been announced in September 2021 to serve as an interim parliament during the transition period. On the other hand, considerable delays have been witnessed around the national dialogue process. The TMC has declared amnesty for various rebel armed groups to facilitate their participation in the planned dialogue. However, there are still concerns around the inclusivity of the national dialogue, as key civilian groups are still missing and the focus has been more on the inclusion of politico-military groups. It would be also important for the PSC to underline the importance for respecting the 18-month transition period.

Council’s last deliberation on Guinea took place at its 1064th session convened on 10 February 2022. At that session, Council welcomed some of the key positive developments in Guinea’s political transition which include the establishment of a Transition Government with complete appointment of members of the National Transitional Council (NTC), the appointment of a civilian Prime Minister and the adoption of a Transition Charter. The release of former President Alpha Conde was also another positive development highlighted at the 1064th session – although Conde has returned to Conakry on 8 April, after which the transition government announced he shall remain in Guinea as long as his health allows.

Despite taking some positive steps, the transition authorities are also yet to meet the key requirements fundamental to ensuring the restoration of constitutional order. Notwithstanding the appointment of a civilian Prime Minister, key government positions continue to be held by military figures. The transition authorities were also unable to conduct national elections within the six months period stipulated by ECOWAS at its Extraordinary Summit of 16 September 2021 and endorsed by the PSC at its 1036th session of 5 October 2021. Not only have Guinean authorities failed to respect the stipulated timeline for the conduct of elections, they are also yet to announce a clear transition timetable. Having regard to the slow progress of restoring constitutional order and particularly in light of the missed deadline for the conduct of elections, ECOWAS, at its Extraordinary Summit of 25 March 2022, demanded the “finalisation of an acceptable transition timetable no later than 25 April 2022”. It further threatened the immediate imposition of economic and financial sanctions upon the expiry of this deadline without submission of the transition timetable.

In addition to following up on some of the key decisions of its previous session including its request for the AU Commission to ensure provision of technical support to Guinea, Council may urge Guinean authorities to finalise and submit a transition timetable which presents a reasonable and acceptable timeline for the conduct of elections and restoration of constitutional order.

At its last session dedicated to the situation in Mali – the 1057th session held on 14 January 2022 – the PSC endorsed the Communiqué of ECOWAS’s 4th Extraordinary Summit of 9 January 2022 which imposed economic and political sanctions against Mali, following the latter’s adoption of a transition calendar which delays the national elections until the end of December 2025. Council also strongly rejected the calendar submitted by Mali and referred to the timeline suggested as an “undue elongation of the transition process in Mali” as well as an “unconstitutional, impermissible, inappropriate and a grave obstruction to democratic processes”. Accordingly, it called on Malian authorities to ensure completion of the transition period within 16 months.

Despite the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and PSC’s endorsement of the regional block’s decision as well as condemnations from the international community, the transition in Mali remains very slow. On 4 February 2022, the European Union (EU) adopted sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze, against five members of Mali’s transitional Government, in support of ECOWAS’s decisions. In response, members of the transition authority organised a rally against EU’s sanctions. Recent developments including the request for Danish forces, deployed as part of the Takuba Task Force to leave the country on 24 January as well as France’s Ambassador to Mali to leave the country within 72 hours on 31 January demonstrate the deteriorating relationship of Mali’s transitional government with various partners. Moreover, on 11 April, the EU decided to halt its military trainings in Mali voicing concern over the interference and operation of Wagner Group.

On 21 February, Mali’s National Transition Council (NTC) unanimously adopted a draft law tabled by the Government for amending the 2020 Transition Charter. Among the contents of the revision is the modification of the transition timeline in line with recommendations of the national dialogue of December 2021. Key political oppositions, particularly the Cadre d’échange or “Exchange Framework” have completely rejected the revision of the Transition Charter. Meanwhile, efforts to resolve the impasse between Malian government and regional and international partners have continued. Particularly, ECOWAS’s Mediator for Mali has been actively engaging the transition government, although no agreement could be reached so far. At its recent Extraordinary Summit of 25 March 2022, ECOWAS showed flexibility and indicated possibility for gradual lifting of its sanctions on the condition that Malian authorities adhere to the timeline established by the joint technical team of ECOWAS, AU and UN, to extend the transition period for additional 12 to 16 months, effective from 15 March 2022. However, Mali’s interim President did not take part at the 15 March ECOWAS Summit, despite invitation extended by the regional body. On the other hand, upon ECOWAS’s communication of the proposed addition of 12 to 16 months to the transition period, Malian authorities engaged the ECOWAS mediator for Mali and successively proposed a period of 36, 29 and then 24 months. ECOWAS has however maintained the 12 to 16 months proposed by the joint technical team.

In light of this discourse, Council may urge Mali’s transition authorities to adhere to the new timeline agreed by ECOWAS, AU and UN and to work towards resolving the stalemates faced with regional and international stakeholders. It may also reiterate its previous calls for Malian transition authorities to commit to not participate in the elections at the end of the transition period.

The Council was last updated on the situation on Sudan during its 1060th session held on 25 January 2022. In this session, the Council is expected to hear about latest developments in the country and AU’s engagement to resolve the crisis following the 25 October 2021 coup. The anti-coup protests have continued and the absence of any political agreement that would break the dangerous political stalemate over the future of the transition. The military has continued its grip on power while regular protests against military rule have persisted in Khartoum and elsewhere, leaving at least 94 people reportedly dead and thousands injured.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts have intensified to help Sudanese parties find way out of the current crisis. The Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, visited Sudan in February where he met Sudanese parties for consultation on the political situation in the country. Professor Mohammed Al-Hacen Lebatt, the AU Special Envoy, also visited Sudan on several occasions to ensure consultations are inclusive. A field mission was also scheduled to take place from 27 to 28 February, but this has been postponed pending the readiness of Sudan. The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) also released its report on 28 February highlighting areas of convergence and divergence among stakeholders, which is an outcome of more than 110 consultations. The regional bloc, IGAD, also undertook a fact-finding mission to Sudan from 29 January to 1 February 2022. Though diplomatic efforts by UNITAMS, AU and IGAD were not coordinated initially, this has changed in recent weeks as they agreed to join efforts in supporting Sudan to resolve the crisis.

As noted by Volker Perthes, the Special Representative for Sudan and Head of UNITAMS, in his latest brief to the UN Security Council on 28 March, reaching an agreement on: interim constitutional arrangement, the criteria and mechanisms to appoint a Prime Minster and a cabinet, a roadmap for the transitional period, and the type and timing for the elections remain ‘urgent priorities’ to address the current impasse and put the political transition back on track.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communiqué. Having addressed the key issues specific to each of the countries on its agenda, Council may generally emphasise the importance of adhering to AU norms on democracy, good governance and constitutionalism in order to avert the occurrence of coups and the resulting disruption to constitutional order as well as peace and security. On Burkina Faso, Council may take note of the positive developments notably the adoption of the Transition Charter, establishment of transitional bodies and the release of President Roch Kabore. However, echoing the 25 March 2022 Communique of ECOWAS, it may express its concern over the duration of the transition period set for 36 months under the Transition Charter.

Similarly, Council may emphasise its concern over the slow progress in Guinea’s transitional process. Based on its previous practice, it is possible for Council to endorse ECOWAS’s decision with respect to Burkina Faso and Guinea adopted in the Communiqué of its Extraordinary Summit of 25 March 2022. It is however possible that some members of the Council may find the threatened imposition of immediate sanctions in ECOWAS’s Communiqué counterproductive to diplomatic efforts and engagements with the transitional authorities of each country, particularly having regard to the recent experience of Mali. With respect to the transition in Mali, Council may welcome and commend the engagements between Malian authorities and ECOWAS Mediator. It may also welcome the initiative of the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs to set up a Framework for dialogue at the political and technical level, which led to the formation of the joint technical team of ECOWAS, AU and UN that proposed an electoral timetable of 12 to 16 months.

On Chad, the PSC may urge the military council to honor its pledges to limit the transition to eighteen months and exclude its own members from running in the planned election. The PSC may further underline the importance of holding an inclusive and genuine national dialogue.

Regarding Sudan, the PSC may express its concern over the lack of political agreement on the future of the transition and its impact on the economic and security conditions of the country. Council may welcome the joint efforts of AU, UNITAMS and IGAD to facilitate consultations among Sudanese stakeholders. It may also urge both the military and the civilian political forces to reach a deal on a transitional arrangement that would steer the country to the election. The PSC may reiterate its call upon the Sudanese authorities to refrain from using excessive force against protesters and hold perpetrators to account.


Updates on the situation in Guinea

Guinea

Date | 10 February, 2022

Tomorrow (10 February), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to convene its 1064th session. As one of the agenda items of the session, the PSC will receive updates on the situation in Guinea.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Kenya to the AU, Jean Kamau, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to provide update to the PSC. The representative of Ghana, as Chair of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and Government, is also expected to deliver a statement.

The last time Council addressed the situation in Guinea was at its 1036th meeting convened on 5 October 2021. At that session, in addition to upholding the decision of its 1030th session to suspend Guinea from all AU activities until the restoration of constitutional order, Council endorsed the outcomes of the communiqué of the 16 September 2021 Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS. The ECOWAS communiqué, among others, called for the conduct of general elections in Guinea within six months period. Tomorrow’s session is expected to review developments in Guinea since PSC’s last session and consider how to address challenges to the return of constitutional order in Guinea.

Despite the measures taken both at the level of the AU and ECOWAS, Guinea is not any closer to having clear plan for return to constitutional order. According to ECOWAS’s decision, Guinea was to conduct elections in the upcoming month of March 2022 to ensure the end of the transition period and peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected government. Five months after the coup, the authorities are yet to adopt a transitional calendar. It is to be recalled that Guinea’s authorities have already expressed concerns that more time may be required for constitutional review and institutional reforms to be completed.

From the perspective of the AU and ECOWAS, some of the policy challenges that the coup in Guinea and the other West African countries give rise to include the parameters for determining timeline for restoration of constitutional order and the set of reform measures that the AU and ECOWAS need to support to ensure that the countries will not find themselves in the same situation. While speedy return to constitutional order prevents the chance of the men in uniform entrenching their hold and influence on the political process of their countries, it does not give enough time for initiating, developing and implementing the minimum reform measures that address the factors that created the conditions for the coup. Striking the balance between the two demands necessitates that ECOWAS and the AU along with the UN and other actors need to adopt a hands-on approach to the initiation, development and rolling out of the requisite reform measures by being active part of the process of drawing up transitional plans by the countries concerned.

On 3 February 2022, ECOWAS convened an Extraordinary Summit where it deliberated on the occurrence of repeated coups in multiple countries in the west African region. The session addressed the political situations in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali. While the communiqué of the Extraordinary Summit was strongly worded in its rejection of coups and in affirming the regional bloc’s “principle of zero tolerance for ascension to power through unconstitutional means”, it also makes it evident that there is a need for flexibility and striking a balance between those competing needs of speedy return to constitutional order and investing enough time and the requisite support for ensuring successful transition. This was demonstrated through the request of ECOWAS for the proposal of acceptable transitional timelines in the cases of all three countries addressed at the session. In the case of Guinea, while it expressed concern over the lack of an electoral calendar and decided to uphold the sanctions imposed at the Extraordinary Session of 16 September 2021, it requested the transition authorities to submit “an acceptable timetable for restoring constitutional order”. ECOWAS’s choice to refrain from demanding that the previously stipulated timeline of six months be met could be regarded as a more realistic approach which would allow the authorities to take account of circumstances on the ground and determine the shortest possible period it would take for conducting elections. While the recognition of the need for such principled flexibility and balancing explains this policy shift on the part of ECOWAS, the controversial reactions invoked by ECOWAS’s additional sanctions against Mali imposed at its Extraordinary Summit of 9 January 2022, and particularly Guinea’s following declaration that it will not close its borders with Mali in clear opposition to ECOWAS’s sanctions, could have also influenced the regional bloc’s somewhat softened stance.

While determination of a specific timeline for the elections is still a pending issue, the formation of the National Transitional Council (CNT) has been a commendable step achieved by Guinean’s transition authorities. The CNT which is to serve as the interim legislative organ is expected to adopt the transition calendar which will establish the schedule for the conduct of the elections. The CNT convened its inaugural session on 5 February 2022 where notably, the importance of drawing up a constitution which will not allow elites to remain indefinitely in power was highlighted. Having regard to the context under which Guinea’s unconstitutional change of government took place and noting how one of the underlying factors which facilitated the coup was the 2020 constitutional amendment – which served to keep former President Conde for a third term in office – the CNT’s focus on drafting a constitution which cannot be easily manipulated for extension of presidential term limits is well placed. But it is imperative that such constitutional review process actually serves such public and democratic purposes by, among others, enhancing separation of powers and checks and balances, independence of the judiciary, accountable and constitutionally limited authority of the executive and security sector reform that ensures a professional military that is under a democratic civilian authority.

Another development since Council’s previous session on the situation in the country is the appointment of a civilian Prime Minister, although key political positions in the transition, including positions of regional administrators, continue to be occupied by military figures. It is also to be recalled that the demand to release former President Conde has been repeatedly reiterated by both the PSC and ECOWAS. Following the initiation of legal proceedings to look into crimes committed during Conde’s term in office, the former President has reportedly been permitted to leave the country for medical reasons. The continued limitation to Conde’s freedom of movement in the absence of any concreate legal charges would constitute violation of basic human rights standards. The decision to allow the former President’s medical travel is therefore a move made in the right direction for Guinea’s transitional leaders which should be maintained.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. Council is expected to note the formation of the CNT and encourage Guinea’s military authorities to sustain their commitment in finalising the establishment of the interim legislative body. It may urge Guinea’s transition authorities to prioritise the determination of a timeline for the transition period and schedule the date for general elections. Council may also encourage Guinean authorities to ensure that they stick by the decision made not to run for elections at the end of the transitional period. It may also stress the need for the authorities to ensure inclusivity in the constitutional review and institutional reform processes. Council may also follow up on the request made at its 1036th session for the AU Commission to provide the needed technical support to Guinea in order to assist the authorities in developing and implementing a transitional plan that ensures restoration of constitutional order and successful implementation of necessary constitutional and institutional reforms. The PSC may also call on the AU Commission working with ECOWAS and the UN to undertake a needs assessment mission to Guinea for engaging Guinea authorities and other stakeholders on the adoption of transitional plan that is in accord with AU and ECOWAS norms and addresses the factors that precipitated the coup in Guinea. It may also reiterate its plan to undertake a field mission to Guinea.


Updates on the Situation in Guinea

Guinea

Date | 05 October, 2021

Tomorrow (5 October), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to hold its 1036th session. The third agenda item of the session will be an update on the situation in Guinea. PSC is expected to consider the developments in Guinea, since its previous session held on 10 September, which saw the country’s suspension from AU activities until restoration of constitutional order.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the AU, Alfredo Nuvunga, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. The High Representative on Mali/Sahel Maman Sambo Sidikou is also expected to make a presentation. The Chair of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ghana, and the representative of ECOWAS secretariat are also going to deliver their statements.

At its 1030th session convened following the military coup in Guinea, which took place on 5 September, the PSC totally rejected the act as an unconstitutional change of government and imposed immediate suspension against Guinea until restoration of normal constitutional order in the country. In the Communiqué, the Council also specified particular demands and conditions to be urgently met by Guinea’s military. Among these was the immediate and unconditional return of the military to the barracks, while refraining from further interference in the country’s political processes and allowing return to constitutional order through a civilian-led government. It is also to be recalled that the Council decided to undertake an assessment mission to Guinea, so as to identify areas for AU support to Guinea, through engagement with relevant stakeholders. Tomorrow’s session may also provide updates on the process of dispatching this mission.

On 27 September, the military unveiled a transitional charter, which it claims is aimed at steering the country back to civilian rule. While the document sets out major tasks such as the drafting of a new constitution and the holding of “free, fair and democratic elections”, it still raises concerns not only with respect to its drafting process, but also with regards to some of its contents.

The drafting of the charter by the military in itself poses an issue and raises the question as to whether the military has the legitimacy and whether it is best placed to take charge of the drafting process. In addition, as announced by the military, the transition is to be led jointly among the National Rallying Committee for Development (CNRD) (a committee set up and headed by Col. Mamady Doumbaya, the main architect of the 5 September coup), the president of the transition (a position assigned to Col. Doumbaya, who will also be serving as the head of State and chief of armed forces), a government headed by a civilian Prime Minister, and a legislative body called the National Transition Council (CNT). As the PSC emphasised at its 996th session relating to Chad’s military seizure of power, the roles and functions of a transitional government should be separately defined from those of the military. In the case of Guinea, not only has the military taken full charge of mapping the transition process, it has also assigned key political positions in the transition to military figures, including the removal of regional administrators and their replacement by individuals from the military. Moreover, members of the deposed government of former President Alpha Conde were completely side-lined from taking part in the transition process. While some oppositions of the former government welcomed this claiming that previous regime lawmakers promoted and assisted in the former President’s stay in office for a third term, it is also important to consider that a transition process which is not inclusive of all political actors may not have the desired long-term results.

As far as the contents of the transitional charter are concerned, the decisions to hold elections and to draft a new constitution can be considered as moves made in the right direction, mainly provided that the amendment of Guinea’s 2010 constitution to extend the presidential term limit and the highly contested elections of October 2020 which allowed President Conde to remain in office for a third term have triggered the current crisis in the country. Particularly, the transitional charter’s indication that none of the figures or institutions taking charge of the transition will be allowed to participate in either national or local elections to be conducted at the end of the transitional period is a positive development. However, there has been no clear indication as to when the election will be taking place.

While the ECOWAS at its Extraordinary Session of 16 September set six months as the time limit for the conduct of elections, Guinea’s military doesn’t seem to strictly follow that deadline, indicating in the transitional charter that the duration of the transition is yet to be determined. Hence, there is a possibility that the new transitional authorities may push ECOWAS to reconsider the deadline it has set for holding the elections. In light of the support Guinea’s military seems to have obtained from political opposition groups in the country, and also recalling ECOWAS’s conceding to extend Mali’s transitional period from one year to 18 months after the August 2020 coup, the balance seems to be tilted in favour of Guinea’s new transitional authorities in any negotiations that may take place regarding the period of transition.

Both the PSC and ECOWAS have also been clear in their demand for the immediate and unconditional release of former President Alpha Conde and other arrested officials. Despite these calls from the two institutions, Guinea’s military is yet to release the former President. According to reports, the military has remained adamant on the issue even after Col. Doumbouya’s meeting with ECOWAS representatives on 17 September, where the regional block’s demands for the release of Conde and his associates was reiterated. According to Guinea’s military leaders, the former President who has been rumoured to have the intention of leaving the country, shall remain in Guinea while being treated humanely.

While the continued refusal to release the former President as well as the military’s seeming intention to have the transitional period extended beyond ECOWAS’s timeline of six months could possibly serve as grounds for the regional economic community to proceed with economic sanctions, this seems to be improbable. Not only have the people of Guinea already expressed concerns over how any economic sanctions would directly impact the population, ECOWAS delegation’s statement that “ECOWAS and Guinea will find a way to walk together” following its meeting with Col. Doumbouya and his associates on 17 September would seem to imply that further sanctions are unlikely. Although a valid case could be made against the imposition of economic sanctions, simply accepting the terms set by the military very much endangers the future of democracy in the continent. Hence, it is important to note that both the PSC and ECOWAS have options other than economic sanctions, such as the imposition of targeted sanctions, including denial of visas, travel restrictions and freezing of assets of specific perpetrators of the coup, options properly put to use by ECOWAS at its Extraordinary session of 16 September.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a Communiqué. Council may take note of the steps taken, particularly the decision to ensure that none of the transitional figures, including those from the military, will be allowed to run for elections at the end of the transitional period. Council may also emphasise the importance of ensuring that the process of drafting a new constitution is all-inclusive and transparent. It may reiterate its call for the release of former President Conde and strictly condemn the arrest of officials of the ousted government without adherence to due process of law. It may once again reiterate its call for the military to hand the transitional process over to a civilian-led authority and to establish clear timeline for the transitional period and for holding elections.


Emergency VTC meeting on the situation in Guinea

Guinea

Date | 06 September, 2021

Today (6 September), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene an emergency meeting on the situation in Guinea. It is expected that the PSC will receive update on the situation from the AU Commission. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. A representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may also address the PSC. The representative of Guinea may also make a statement as per the usual practice of the PSC.

This emergency meeting comes after special forces of the Guinean army staged a coup d’état on 5 September in the capital Conakry. Following gun fire near the presidential palace that lasted for some hours, the coup makers captured President Alpha Conde and held him in detention. They announced on television that the constitution is suspended and the government dissolved. Criticizing the government for corruption and mismanagement and professing their commitment to democratic values, they told the public the establishment of The National Committee for Rally and Development.

It is to be recalled that Guinea held elections on 18 October 2020. President Conde, running for a third term, was declared a winner of the presidential election and was on his first year of his third term in office. The President stood for a third term during the 2020 elections after a controversial constitutional referendum removed the clause of the constitution limiting presidential term of office to two terms. The 22 March 2020 referendum was boycotted by the opposition who contested that the referendum was called by the Speaker of Parliament instead of the parliament itself as required by the Constitution of the country. Reports indicated that at least 32 protestors were killed by police in the run up to the election. At the time various international actors including ECOWAS, the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel and the European Union expressed their concern over the lack of inclusiveness and credibility of the referendum and the parliamentary election.

The presidential election in October 2020 was marred by violence. At least 30 people were reportedly killed by security forces as demonstrators staged protests during the election. The opposition also rejected the electoral outcome alleging that the presidential election was fraudulent.

The response from regional and international institutions shows a common position condemning the coup. In a joint statement issued on 5 September, the AU Chairperson, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, condemned ‘any seizure of power by force’ and called for ‘immediate release of President Alpha Conde’. The joint statement also invites the PSC ‘to meet urgently to examine the new situation in Guinea and to take appropriate measures in the circumstances’.

ECOWAS also issued a statement through the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority, President of Ghana. In the statement, it noted ‘with great concern the recent political developments which occurred in Conakry, Republic of Guinea’ and condemned ‘with the greatest firmness this coup attempt’. It reaffirmed its ‘disapproval of any unconstitutional political changes.’ ECOWAS further demanded ‘respect for the physical integrity of the President of the Republic’ and ‘his immediate and unconditional release as well as that of all the personalities arrested’.

Similar sentiments of condemnation have also been voiced by Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In the meantime, some people in Conakry have been seen cheering coup makers and celebrating the ouster of President Conde.

In today’s session, it is expected that the PSC will make a determination on whether what the AU statement called ‘the new situation in Guinea’ involving the ouster of the President of the country and the suspension of the Constitution and dissolution of government constitutes a military coup warranting the application of the measures envisaged under the Lomé Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government of 2000, the AU Constitutive Act, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and Article 7 of the PSC Protocol. All indications are that the measures taken by the special forces including the seizure of power by force, the suspension of the constitution of the country and the dissolution of the government have all the ingredients of a military coup prohibited under these AU instruments.

While the reading of the Lomé Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government of 2000 and other relevant instruments of the AU including the AU Constitutive Act and the dominant practice of the AU suggests that the application of suspension of the county in which unconstitutional change happened to be automatic, there have been instances in which the PSC opted for holding back the automatic application of these legal consequences. Such was the case in respect to the situation in Burkina Faso in November 2014 and that of Sudan in April 2019. On the other hand, the PSC recently at its 1001st session imposed automatic suspension on Mali following the ouster by Malian army of the leaders of the transitional government in May 2021.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. It is expected that the PSC would condemn the seizure of power by the special forces of Guinea by force. It may also urge the army to restrain from any acts that further endanger the peace and stability of the country. While echoing the call for respect of the safety and security of the President and other government leaders in its custody, the PSC may also echo the call for the unconditional release of the President. The PSC may consider the situation in Guinea as military coup in line with the Lomé Declaration of 2000 and the African Charter on Elections, Democracy and Governance. It is also expected to invoke Article 7(1)(g) of the PSC Protocol suspending Guinea until the restoration of constitutional order. The PSC may call on the perpetrators of the coup to uphold the Constitution of the Country and stick to their constitutional mandate and cease interference in the political processes of the country by returning to the barracks in compliance with their professional duty. The PSC may also request the AU Commission working with ECOWAS and other regional and international actors to initiate efforts to assist the Guinean actors towards the restoration of constitutional order and find a peaceful and inclusive solution to the current crisis and achieve reconciliation.