Monday, 12 January 2009

What to expect in 2009

A belated Happy New Year to those who still make an attempt to visit this page after my rather long holiday from writing.

Two reasons for the long absence have been the pressures of my day job as well as the preparations for my wedding a few days before Christmas.

But while all that was going on, the wheels of global affairs and diplomacy were moving at a frenetic pace in Gaza, Guinea, Congo, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Somalia, the US and on every continent in between.

While the attention of most in the Western world has shifted from Congo to Gaza, the West African state of Guinea witnessed the death of Lansana Conte, its long standing dictator two days before Christmas.

But rather than a constitutional regime change, army officers led by Captain Moussa Camara followed in Conte's footsteps to seize power amidst the political vaccum from the previous leader's death. However, most African states under the aegeis of the African Union & ECOWAS, as well as Western governments have denounced the coup and called for a 'return' to civilian rule via elections. As expected the coup leaders are digging in and appear to have the support of the rulers in Libya and Senegal.

Last week, they also recieved some support from an unlikely source - Ibrahim Babangida, ex military ruler of Nigeria and now ECOWAS special envoy to Guinea. Nigerian President & ECOWAS Chairman, Umaru Yar A'dua had sent Babangida on an assessment mission to Guinea, but on Babangida's return he made the following comments (as reported by the Nigerian Press)
"For God's sake they were patriotic to make sure that the country remains intact. From what we could see upon arrival at the country the people are on the side of the coupists, and it would be unfair to say they have come to power to stay. I think we as outsiders should put our acts together to help the new leadership of Guinea to get the country back to its feet as that is about the most important thing they need from all and not criticism."

As the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Ojo Maduekwe has taken the lead on applying the same punishment to Guinea as was done to Togo in 2005 and Mauritania in 2008 when they went down the coup d'etat route, Babangida's statements ran contrary to Nigeria's official line.

In a decision at the Head of States summit in Abuja on Saturday, ECOWAS suspended Guinea against the advice of its special envoy. Will this decision now make Babangida's position untenable? Especially since he also rubbished the efforts of the foreign minister with these words:
"The minister has no clue of what the situation really is on ground in Guinea. But aside that I'm only acting on the matching order of the president, therefore he is on his own."

There's an excellent analysis of this diplomatic faux pas here

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