CONAKRY, Guinea - The African Union suspended Guinea from the continentwide bloc yesterday and threatened further sanctions unless the military junta that seized power last week restores "constitutional rule."
That seems unlikely in the immediate future, however, as many in Guinea appear to welcome the bloodless coup that followed the Dec. 22 death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte.
The coup leaders have promised elections in two years, and plan to woo international delegations invited today to the capital of Conakry to hear their arguments.
But the African Union said it was giving the coup leaders six months to restore constitutional order or face further sanctions.
It made the announcement after a meeting of its Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital, where it is based. "We will not accept that the coup d'etat sticks in Guinea," AU Chairman Patrick Sinyinza said.
Conte himself was a soldier who took power in a coup after his predecessor, Guinea's first president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, died in 1984.
Conte paid lip service to the wave of democracy that swept West Africa in the 1990s, getting himself elected in 1993, 1998 and 2003 in ballots riddled with irregularities. But he had refused to go to the electorate since 2006, when the mandate of the current parliament expired.
The African bloc's commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, said Guinea's constitution provides for the head of parliament to become president and for elections to be held within two months of a president's death. Some Guineans note that the parliament has long had no mandate.
But it appeared that the African Union might be out of step with Guinea's closest neighbors. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States has said the coup leaders should be given a chance to prove their good faith.
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade spoke by phone last week to the coup leader, Capt. Moussa Camara, and said Camara was willing to hold elections earlier, perhaps within eight months, then return to his barracks.
Wade was more concerned about conflict among different parts of Guinea's armed forces. "Some see power and want to keep it," he warned.
The military junta on Sunday demoted more than 20 of Guinea's top generals, including the heads of the army, navy and air force, setting the scene for a possible struggle with battalions no longer under central command. None of the military chiefs has commented on the move.