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Guinea And Burkina Faso Juntas Risk More Sanctions Over Democratic Transition Delays

CONAKRY/OUAGADOUGOU, April 25 (Reuters) – Guinea’s ruling junta on Monday signalled it might break a deadline to set out its plans to return to civilian rule, opening up the prospect of more sanctions from West Africa’s political and economic bloc.

There was no immediate announcement from the military rulers of Burkina Faso who were facing the same Monday deadline to present “acceptable” plans to hand back power to civilians after their January coup.

West Africa has been rocked by two coups in Mali, one in Guinea and one in Burkina Faso since August 2020.

Leaders of the regional ECOWAS bloc last month told the juntas in Guinea and Burkina Faso they had until April 25 to explain how and when they would hand back power to civilians or face immediate sanctions.

When asked about the deadline in a radio interview on Monday, Guinea’s government spokesman said: “Guinea’s reality will prevail over all other imperatives.”

“We are going to evolve, taking into account the context… and specific situation of our country, towards exiting the transition,” Ousmane Gaoual Diallo told local radio station FIM FM.

He did not go into more detail and the government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

ECOWAS – the Economic Community of West African States – did not immediately reply to a request for comment on how and when sanctions will be imposed on Burkina Faso and Guinea if they did not meet the April 25 deadline.

Guinea’s National Transition Council has yet to set a date for elections after the September ousting of President Alpha Conde.

Burkina Faso’s military government, in power since a January putsch, has said it needs three years to restore constitutional rule, citing security concerns caused by Islamist insurgents wreaking havoc in West Africa’s Sahel region.

ECOWAS has not directly commented on this timeline, but urged a review by April 25.

Burkina Faso’s junta spokesman Lionel Bilgo said on Sunday evening that restoring peace and security remained a pre-requisite for constitutional rule.

“If we manage to do this in less than three years, we will organise these elections,” Bilgo told state television, calling on ECOWAS to be more sensitive to on-the-ground realities.

The bloc has already imposed sanctions on Mali, where the same coup chief first toppled the government in August 2020 and then pushed aside an interim president in May 2021. (Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga in Ouagadougou, Saliou Samb in Conakry and Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Sofia Christensen Editing by Bate Felix and Andrew Heavens)

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