Monday, April 16, 2012

ECOWAS to Meet Guinea-Bissau Coup Leaders

April 15, 2012

ECOWAS to Meet Guinea Bissau Coup Leaders

Peter Clottey

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are scheduled to meet the Guinea Bissau military junta Monday.

ECOWAS external relations director Abdel-Fatau Musah said the sub-regional bloc will demand an immediate return to civilian rule following last week’s coup d’├ętat.

“[They will] assess the situation and then try to meet whoever is behind the disruption of the political process in Guinea Bissau,” said Musah. “We need to look at the root causes of why that country is going through that cycle. We know it and the international community needs to work together to fix it once and for all.”

ECOWAS Commission President Desire Kadre Ouedraogo will lead the team to Guinea Bissau, which also includes defense chiefs from throughout West Africa.

The coup effectively ended Guinea Bissau’s the campaigning for the run-off between contenders for the presidency. The winner would replace late president Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January. According to the French Press Agency, coup leaders say they intervened after discovering what they called a “secret deal” with Angola to undermine the army.

The international community including ECOWAS has strongly condemned the military take-over and demanded the junta step down and hand over power to a transitional government.

“Not ECOWAS, not the African Union, not the United Nations is going to allow any military to take over power in any part of this region,” said Musah.

In a press statement, ECOWAS accused Guinea Bissau’s military of often conspiring to destabilize the country. It demanded the release of presidential frontrunner and former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. and interim president Raimundo Pereira. The military raided their homes and took both men into custody shortly after the coup.

“The military there are bent on keeping that country as a failed state for their interest, and as long as that situation continues in Guinea Bissau, the peace and security environment in the region and indeed, international security is also endangered,” said Musah.

The sub-regional bloc has voted $ 63 million to help implement the country’s road map for defense and security sector reform. Musah said the reforms were planned to begin once Guinea Bissau had newly elected leadership.

He said ECOWAS will need to deal with both the military and the political situation in order to resolve Guinea Bissau’s challenges.

“The military is one side of the jigsaw. We have the military that for years has been led by generals who can neither read nor write. So, any idea of security sector reform sends shivers down their spine,” said Musah.

“The issue is also [involves] the political class that always gives the opening for the military to intervene because they themselves have not shown a very serious ability to govern that country.”

The West African nation is also known as a conduit for traffickers shipping drugs to Europe.

“We need to deal with the issue that fuels all these issues, and that is drug trafficking, because Guinea Bissau is the gateway for drugs into the region.”

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Guinea Bissau Junta Closes Air and Sea Borders

April 16, 2012

Bissau, Guinea-Bissau--The new Guinea-Bissau junta announced on Sunday the closure of all air and sea borders, after former colonial power Portugal said it was sending navy ships and a plane for a possible evacuation of its nationals.

The “military command” said in a statement that it had decided to shut down all air and sea access, without saying how long the measures would remain in place.

Earlier on Sunday, Portugal said two navy ships and a military plane were on the way to West Africa to prepare for any eventual repatriation of Portuguese and other nationals from Guinea-Bissau following the coup on Thursday.

According to Lisbon, between 4,000 and 5,000 Portuguese nationals are currently in the country.

“Non-authorized Portuguese ships will not enter into our territorial waters. Guinea Bissau is a sovereign nation,” said Fernando Vaz, spokesman for the parties of the former opposition, following a meeting between them and the junta leaders.

“The Guinea-Bissau army is tasked with defending its territorial integrity,” echoed Lieutenant-Colonel Daba na Walna, spokesman for the putschists.

Agence France-Presse

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