Alpha Conde, the beleagured Guinean president who has been detained by soldiers since last week’s coup, is healthy, envoys from the West African political and economic bloc ECOWAS said during a mission to the country.
The visit by the delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Friday took place as diplomatic pressure on the ruling army of Guinea in light of Sunday’s seizure of power.
ECOWAS suspended Guinea’s membership to the 15 – member bloc earlier this week, but stopped imposing further sanctions. The African Union (AU) on Friday also announced the suspension of Guinea from all bloc activities and decision-making bodies.
ECOWAS mediators met with coup leader Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who arrived at the Conakry Hotel where the envoys were staying, flanked by special forces commandos.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who was part of the delegation to the capital of Guinea, said mediators also saw Conde.
“President Alpha Conde is doing well,” he told reporters. “Because we have the instructions of the other heads of state, we are going to do a report.
Foreign Minister Burkinabe Alpha Barry, another delegation member, confirmed that the 83-year-old former leader was healthy.
ECOWAS on Wednesday called for Conde’s “immediate and unconditional release”. It also insists on ‘the immediate return to constitutional order’ and demands that the security forces ‘maintain a constitutional stance’.
The visiting envoys are planning to pressure the military government to appoint a credible civilian prime minister as soon as possible to help Guinea return to constitutional order, a high-ranking regional official told Reuters on Thursday.
The US embassy in Conakry said on Friday that Guinea “must restore democracy immediately”. Thursday, the U.S. denies involvement after a video appeared of U.S. soldiers in a crowd cheering Guinea as the coup unfolded Sunday.
The U.S. State Department said a small U.S. team was involved in a joint military exercise exercise outside Conakry.
“Given the changing security situation, it was decided that the team would be transferred to the American embassy in Conakry. “Guinea’s security forces have provided guidance to Conakry to ensure the safe passage of the team,” the department said.
Guinea’s coup plotters formed what they call the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD), which dissolved the government and the constitution.
It also appointed army officers to head the local administrations, and on Thursday ordered the central bank and other banks to freeze all state accounts to secure state assets.
Doumbouya appeared on television hours after the coup and accused Conde’s government of “endemic corruption” and of “trampling on civil rights”.
He has promised to start talks on forming a new government, but it is not yet clear when, or in what form, it could take place.
When ECOWAS faced a similar predicament in Mali last year, the country imposed economic sanctions, but lifted them after Mali’s ruling army committed itself to restoring civilian rule.
Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. But last year, he pushed through a constitutional change to run for a third term, according to his opponents illegally. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara also won a third term last year after changing his country’s constitution.
ECOWAS was criticized by activists at the time for keeping quiet about the third term of Conde and Ouattara.
Adama Gaye, a former ECOWAS information director, said the bloc was ineffective in tackling crises in the region.
“They slept on the wheels of the organization instead of being really proactive in meeting the challenges in its member states,” he told Al Jazeera.
‘His 15 member states were very pleased with those who broke the law in their countries from Conde to Ouattara … all the problems eventually lead to the current situation we see in Guinea, and somehow ECOWAS comes as [the] doctor after death. ”