UN chief Guterres urges West African juntas to return to civilian rule

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged the military juntas in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali to hand power back to civilian rule as soon as possible. He also reminded the world to deliver on "climate emergency" promises.

Speaking after meeting Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar on Sunday, Guterres said they had agreed on the need to keep talking to the de facto authorities in all three countries so as to get a swift return to "constitutional order".

All three countries, struggling with a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region, have recently experienced military coups: Mali in August 2020 and May 2021; Guinea in September 2021; and Burkina Faso in January 2022.

Sall is the current chair of the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has suspended all three countries from its membership.

Juntas ignore ECOWAS pressure

ECOWAS imposed heavy sanctions against Mali in January after the regime there rejected a rapid return to civilian rule.

It has threatened similar sanctions against Guinea and Burkina Faso if they fail to enable a swift transition to civilian rule within a "reasonable" timeframe.

However the military regimes in both countries have rejected the timetable set out by ECOWAS.

Last Monday, Ouagadougou said they had no plans to shorten the three-year transition period they had already announced.

On Saturday evening, Guinea's junta leader Colonel Mamady Doumbouya said he would implement a 39-month transition period to civilian rule.

The announcement was roundly condemned by opposition leaders in Guinea on Sunday, including both the party of ousted president Alpha Condé and groups that had opposed him.

The regime in Mali is also continuing to defy ECOWAS pressure.

On 21 April it announced the launch of a two-year transition "process" before elections would be held.

ECOWAS had called for polls within 16 months at the most.

Climate crisis must be tackled

Turning to the issue of global warming, Guterres said "the climate emergency... increases the security risk" on the continent.

Acccording to Guterres, African countries are "often the first victims" of global warming for which they are "not responsible".

Developed countries had pledged to help southern hemisphere countries to finance their "transition towards renewable energies and green jobs" he noted.

"It's time to take action. It's time to keep the promise of $100 billion dollars a year made in Paris," he said, referring to national pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement aimed at capping global warming below 2°Celsius.

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