West Africa leaders in emergency talks on Guinea crisis
West African leaders, including Togo President Faure Gnassingbe, are to meet in emergency session on Saturday to chart a way out of the crisis in Guinea that experts warn if unchecked could erupt into a civil war and destabilise the region.
They are under pressure to adopt a tough line against the military junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara who seized power last December shortly after the death of longtime strongman Lansana Conte.Last month's deadly crackdown on an opposition demonstration and Camara's intention to stand for elections despite his earlier pledge that he would stay out of the January presidential race, have raised tensions at home and infuriated the international community.
With three months until the vote and warnings the security situation is deteriorating in Guinea, the 15-country Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) is under pressure to adopt a tough position against the regime and prevent the country sliding into further turmoil.
Nigeria, which holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, has hinted that sanctions are most likely to be slapped against the regime.
The UN special representative for West Africa Said Djinnit said it was important that ECOWAS takes a position against the junta especially in the wake of "massive violations of human rights".
"It is in the interest of the ECOWAS to help prevent the situation in Guinea from deteriorating further because its repercussions could be catastrophic," Djinnit said ahead of the talks in Nigeria's administrative capital Abuja.
The United Nations on Friday said it would launch an investigation into the September 28 massacre of opposition activists in which 157 people died and over a thousand injured and women raped.
The International Criminal Court in the Hague is also investigating the football stadium rally mass killings.
The Camara-led junta already faces an African Union deadline on Saturday for the military leaders to rule themselves out of the upcoming vote.
International, regional and opposition groups want the junta to step aside to allow for free and credible elections in the world's top bauxite exporter.
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, ECOWAS' chosen facilitator on easing the crisis in Guinea, will outline his proposals for a speedy resolution of the crisis in the west African country.
"The president will in Nigeria ... explain to his west African counterparts proposals for a quick solution to the crisis in Guinea," one of Compaore's advisers said in Ouagadougou.
The International Crisis Group think tank warned: "If military rule in Guinea is not rapidly ended, there is a serious risk the country will slide into a civil war that could destabilise all West Africa".
But a junta spokesman, speaking in Ouagadougou Friday, brushed off reports of mounting tensions.
"Guinea is doing well, we experience more external than internal pressure," Idrissa Cherif, a special envoy for Camara, told Burkina Faso national television.
The leaders will also discuss Niger where President Mamadou Tandja defied domestic and international protests against his bid to cling to power beyond the then legal limit of two terms.
Following the August constitutional referendum which saw him extend his grip on power, Tandja is due to hold legislative elections on Tuesday. The opposition is boycotting the vote and anti-vote demonstrations are planned for Saturday.