African diplomats arrive to cement Guinea deal
Although some points are clearly doubious (such as « Forestiers » representing only 1 per cent of the population, or being an ethnic group, etc.), I am pleased to reproduce here this post from msnbc.com.
From The NBC World Blog
By BRAHIMA OUEDRAOGO
Associated Press Writer
updated 5:30 p.m. ET Jan. 16, 2010
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – African diplomats descended on Burkina Faso on Saturday to ensure a deal is sealed calling for Guinea’s injured leader to step down and for his country to hold democratic elections within six months.
Arriving in Ouagadougou, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf hailed the accord and said that she felt compelled to travel there because instability in Guinea could threaten the entire region.
She joined a delegation from ECOWAS, a regional bloc representing 15 West African nations, whose leaders also rushed to Ouagadougou following the signing Friday of the landmark accord there.
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The agreement calls for Guinean leader Capt. Moussa « Dadis » Camara who suffered a bullet wound during an assassination attempt, to go into voluntary exile and to allow his deputy to organize elections in order to hand over power to civilians.
« I have to be concerned because Guinea is our neighbor, » Sirleaf said at the airport. « If any problem happens in Guinea, it would affect Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone … We want to see peace in our sub-region, » she said.
Guinea shares a border with six other countries and is one of the only nations in the region that has not experienced civil war. Many worried that if Camara was allowed to return it could spark a war that would engulf the region.
Camara is blamed for creating ethnic divisions in Guinea by favoring people belonging to his ethnic group, the ‘forestier’ which represent less than 1 percent of the population. In September, the coup leader’s presidential guard opened fire and killed at least 156 people at a peaceful rally calling for an end to military rule.
Survivors said that the soldiers, who spoke forestier dialects, were actively targeting civilians that appeared to be Peul, the nation’s largest ethnicity who are recognizable because of their lighter skin. The Peul ethnic group spans much of West Africa and has sizable populations in most of the countries bordering Guinea — including Liberia — raising the specter of a spillover effect if they are violently targeted.
The breakthrough deal calling for Camara to go into exile comes six weeks after the 46-year-old was shot by his aide-de-camp. He was rushed to Morocco for emergency surgery and then, unexpectedly, was flown to Ouagadougou on Tuesday after he reportedly became belligerent toward his Moroccan hosts, demanding to be returned to Guinea.
His No. 2 Gen. Sekouba Konate flew to Ouagadougou as the future of Guinea hung in the balance. Konate came to power at the same time as Camara in a Dec. 23, 2008 military coup, but unlike Camara he wanted to see a quick transition to democracy following the model of neighboring countries like Mali — which became a democracy following a coup by an army officer who then organized multiparty elections.
With Camara out of the picture in Morocco, Konate moved quickly to put the country on track toward elections, meeting with opposition leaders to discuss a roadmap toward elections. A Jan. 5 report by the U.S. State Department indicates that Konate promised the U.S. and France to prohibit Camara from returning in order to prevent him from derailing the effort.
In Ouagadougou, Konate met with Camara and allegedly presented him with a four-page resignation letter threatening to step down if Camara did not agree to go into exile, according to a security official that was present at the talks and asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
At one point, it appeared as if Konate might be overruled by a group of officers loyal to Camara who flew in on a private plane demanding to be allowed to take their president back to Guinea. Hundreds of civilians from the forestier ethnic group descended on the airport in Conakry, the Guinean capital, vowing to not let any plane land unless it was carrying their leader.
By Saturday, the pro-Dadis demonstrators had left the airport and instead opposition groups had sent out word to their thousands of supporters asking them to give Konate a hero’s welcome upon his return, expected in coming days.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the chairman of the ECOWAS commission, says the Ouagadougou agreement opens the way for free and fair elections.
« We have come to meet with the mediator … but also to congratulate them for the Ouagadougou declaration which has created today a new dynamic in Guinea, » Chambas said.
Also on Saturday, Guinea’s security minister who is said to be deeply loyal to Camara told state television that the military will support and protect the junta’s No. 2 leader as he leads the country toward elections. « We will keep the peace according to the directives established in Ouagadougou, » Cmdr. Claude Pivi said.
Pivi who is forestier and who commands several hundred men had remained one of the country’s wild cards since Camara was wounded. He had led the brutal house-to-house searches for Camara’s attacker, arresting dozens of civilians some of whom have not been heard from since.
Associated Press writers Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.
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