Conde still held despite West Africa talks with Guinea junta, official says

ECOWAS seeking to freeze junta's financial assets

Two West African leaders have failed to secure the release of toppled Guinea's president Alpha Conde following a meeting with the military junta.
Two West African leaders have failed to secure the release of toppled Guinea's president Alpha Conde following a meeting with the military junta.
Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Two West African leaders met Guinea's new military junta on Friday to try to win the release of President Alpha Conde, detained since his overthrow on Sept. 5, but he remained captive following their one-day visit, a senior Guinea official said.

During their visit to Conakry, Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara and Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo appealed to coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, a special forces commander and former French Legionnaire, for Conde's release, the senior Guinea official said.

"This point was raised by the Ivorian president," the official said. Outtara had been hoping to leave Guinea with Conde, a senior regional government official told Reuters.

"Yes, he's still detained," the Guinean official told Reuters after the meeting.

Ouattara and Akufo-Addo, representing the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held a separate meeting with Conde at the Mohamed VI Palace in Conakry, but flew out the country on Friday evening empty-handed.

The senior Guinean official and a witness said Conde was not on board the leaders' departing planes.

Ouattara told the Ivorian state broadcaster at Conakry airport before leaving: "I met my brother Alpha Conde, who is doing well. We will remain in contact."

Akufo-Addo told Radio-Télévision Guinéenne: "We've had a very frank and fraternal meeting with Doumbouya and his collaborators. I think that ECOWAS and Guinea are going to find the best way to move forward together."

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.

The bloc agreed on Thursday to freeze financial assets of the junta and their relatives and bar them from travelling. The junta has not responded.

'COUP-BELT'

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.

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.

On departing the airport in Conakry, the ECOWAS motorcade passed dozens of pro-junta demonstrators brandishing signs.

One read: "ECOWAS does not decide for us."

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