Guinea’s former military leader Moussa Dadis Camara was thwarted on Wednesday in an attempt to return to his home country from exile in Burkina Faso when the commercial flight he was travelling on was turned back, his lawyer said.
Camara has said he wants to stand for the presidency in elections in the West African state set for Oct. 11 and his lawyer Jean-Baptiste Haba linked the aborted attempt to return to a bid to prevent him from standing.
Camara ruled the country for almost a year after seizing power in a coup in 2008 and remains popular in the country’s southeast, though his reputation was tarnished by a massacre of protesters in 2009, for which he was indicted in July.
Camara and three aides took off on Wednesday aboard an Air Burkina flight from Ouagadougou bound for the Guinean capital, Conakry, via Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Haba said.
“We had almost landed when the pilot told me that Ivorian authorities had refused to let us land and the plane was going to detour to Accra,” he said, referring to the capital of Ghana.
“When we got to Ghana, police came on board the plane and made all the other passengers get off except Camara and his aides. Then the plane flew us back to Ouagadougou,” he said.
Haba said authorities in Ghana and Ivory Coast were complicit with Guinea in preventing free movement by a citizen of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) within the boundaries of the bloc and this was illegal.
“They are preventing him from returning until September when the deadline expires for candidates to hand in their election papers,” he said.
A senior security source in Ghana said that under an ECOWAS protocol, Camara was not supposed to leave Burkina Faso and was thereby prevented from landing in Ivory Coast. Accra-bound passengers were allowed to disembark in Ghana, the source added.
Meanwhile, a government source in Guinea, which is Africa’s top producer of bauxite, confirmed that the plane did not land, but denied any responsibility. There was no immediate comment from authorities in Ivory Coast.
Security forces in Guinea used tear gas to disperse hundreds of Camara’s supporters who had gathered at the airport to welcome him home, witnesses said.
Guinean authorities in July indicted Camara over a massacre and rapes at a stadium in the capital in 2009 in which soldiers are accused of killing at least 157 people.
The indictment could cast doubt upon his participation in elections. He was set to run for the newly created Patriotic Forces for Democracy and Development (FPDD) party against President Alpha Conde.
Camara has lived in Burkina Faso since resigning the presidency. He is also recovering from an assassination attempt in Guinea.