BY FRANCIS KOKUTSE
ACCRA, GHANA (AP) — West African regional leaders refrained Thursday from imposing sanctions against the new military junta in Burkina Faso, instead calling on the new rulers propose a firm date for returning the country to democratic rule.
But the regional body known as ECOWAS will take further action if the junta continues to detain Burkina Faso’s deposed leader Roch Marc Christian Kabore, said ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.
“If really they don’t release him, they will take sanctions,” Brou said at the conclusion of a summit in Ghana’s capital where the spate of military power grabs and coup attempts throughout the region weighed heavily.
Three of the 15 countries in the bloc are currently suspended because of military coups: Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. And then earlier this week, security forces quelled a coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau too.
“Let us address this dangerous trend collectively and decisively before it devastates the entire region,” said ECOWAS’ chairman, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, adding that the 2020 Malian coup had had a “contagious influence on Guinea and Burkina Faso.”
However, at the meeting’s conclusion ECOWAS did not announce any economic sanctions yet against the military rulers in Burkina Faso, who announced their coup on Jan. 24.
The regional bloc already has taken that action in Guinea and Mali, against junta leaders and their families, and the bloc added even more punishing economic penalties on Mali after elections were delayed by several more years.
While West African leaders called for a proposed timeframe for new elections in Burkina Faso, other similar efforts recently in Guinea and Mali have failed to set dates for votes. After initially agreeing to an 18-month transition in Bamako, Mali’s junta leader announced elections would be delayed for years because of the security situation across the country.
On Thursday, ECOWAS also announced it intends to send a stabilization force to Guinea-Bissau where gunmen tried to topple the president earlier this week.
“The stabilization force is to prevent any attempt by the military to take over the country again,” Brou said.