Full Text of BBC Exclusive Interview with Liberia’s former President On Guinea Coup

Guinea has been suspended from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS following the coup that overthrew President Alpha Conde on Sunday, September 3, 2021. Former Liberian president Ellen Jonson Sirleaf has condemned the coup. She spoke with Focus on Africa’s Veronique Edwards about the way forward to reverting to constitutional rule in Guinea.

EJS:I condemn the coup d’état in Guinea and the manner in which President Conde was shamed in public, but I am assured that ECOWAS that has responded adequately and successfully to similar conflicts will do so in keeping with the constitution and the rule of law of Guinea. I am sure that they’ve already had a summit and have taken certain decisions, and that is something that is consistent with ECOWAS policy on their established response to the overthrow of democratically elected government.

BBC: You said you were not pleased the way he was portrayed in the images that you saw. What was it you were not happy about?

EJS: Well, he was not properly dressed, for somebody who has been dignified and has led his country for so many years, it just put him in a very unsightly position. But I am assured that ECOWAS that has responded adequately and successfully to similar crises will do so in keeping with the constitution and the rule of law of Guinea.

BBC: Now that ECOWAS has suspended Guinea, what more can they do to quickly restore the situation in the country?

EJS: They will have to start the process of getting the leaders of Guinea together to see what kind of interim arrangement and transitional bodies can be constituted, and ensure that the country continues to function; that service to the people continues; and that there is a plan for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law to Guinea.

BBC: There seems to be developing trend of military takeover. It happened recently in Mali, Chad. Why do you think this keeps happening?

EJS: It’s a changing world; changing global attitude about democracy, about open society and all of those issues. These are worrying signs for many. It’s shocking that many nations that subscribe to democracy, accountability, transparency, freedom of people, will have to look at these changing winds and show that their institutions are firmly embedded in the principles that they believe in, and that they have adhered to consistent with their national agenda.

BBC: And this is happening a lot in countries where the heads of state are trying to change the constitution, to go for third terms, or change the constitutions to do things which they had promised they were not going to do in the first place.

EJS: When this comes to the Guinea situation, I think we’ll leave that to the leaders of ECOWAS. We all have strong faith and confidence in their ability to address the crisis in Guinea and to restore Guinea to its rightful place.

BBC: You must be worried because this is in the sub-region and whatever happens in Guinea affects your own country Liberia because sooner than later people will be running away from there and crossing into your country, so it must be a very difficult and worrying time for the region.

EJS: I have confidence, Veronica, that we will not get to the place where we will be going back to the days where people had to run away from their country and seek refuge in other places . Nobody in our sub-region that has faced the death and destruction of our conflicts will ever want to see this happen again. So I leave it to ECOWAS to solve the problem.

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