March 16, 2020

Buhari, other West African leaders to travel to Guinea ahead of referendum vote

Leaders of the West African bloc ECOWAS will travel to Guinea on Tuesday ahead of a rescheduled referendum that has sparked fears of violence, senior Ivorian sources said.

The four-person delegation will comprise the presidents of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, and Nigeria, according to sources close to the Ivorian head of state, Alassane Ouattara.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) prepared to send a mission to Guinea in late February but scrapped it at the last minute.

The impoverished state is in the grip of months-long turmoil over suspicions that President Alpha Conde wants to fix the constitution in order to stay in office.

At least 31 civilians and a policeman have been killed.

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Conde wants the public to vote on plans to modify the constitution — a scheme that he says is badly needed to take into account women’s rights and other social issues.

But the opposition says the 81-year-old wants to use the change to reset the clock on his time in office.

His tenure expires at the end of this year after two five-year terms, the maximum under the present constitution.

The referendum should have been held on March 1 along with legislative elections.

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But mounting tension and pressure from the international community prompted the government to postpone the vote to March 22.

ECOWAS has urged Guinea to remove nearly 2.5 million names from its electoral roll of 7.7 million because of doubts about authenticity.

The problem was brought to light last month by the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) — the French-speaking equivalent of the Commonwealth.

Conde entered the record books in 2010 when he became the first democratically-elected president in the coup-prone country’s history.

But critics say he is increasingly using the authoritarian tactics of past dictators.


Vanguard News Nigeria.