/ 20 April 2012

Guinea-Bissau warns against foreign interference

Guinea-Bissau’s junta vowed on Friday to defend itself if foreign troops intervened in the country, as the international community condemned an “illegal” two-year transition government.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) was taken aback by a deal struck between the junta and opposition for a lengthy return to civilian rule, and said it would never accept the transitional arrangement.

The 15-nation bloc and the main group of Portuguese-speaking nations, the CPLP, have mooted sending an intervention force to Guinea-Bissau, where soldiers ousted the government in the middle of an election process on April 12.

But the junta issued a stern warning to the international community on Friday after ousted foreign minister Mamadu Saliu Djalo begged the Security Council to send a UN-mandated stabilisation mission to the coup-prone nation.

“Guinea-Bissau will not accept an intervention force because the situation does not require it. If a force is sent, the country will defend its territorial integrity,” Lieutenant Colonel Daba Na Walna told journalists.

“An intervention force assumes the presence of warring parties, which is not the case.”

Portugal’s Foreign Minister Paulo Portas called for a visa ban and asset freeze on the junta and its political backers, who agreed to dissolve government and set up a transitional authority.

Unstable nation
Addressing the Security Council, he indicated the European Union was about to order the measures, while supporting the call for a peacekeeping force in the chronically unstable nation.

Pressing forward with their transition plans, opposition parties and the junta on Thursday named former parliamentary speaker and independent presidential candidate Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo to lead the interim government.

The ruling party has been excluded from the deal, including its presidential candidate, former prime minister Carlos Gomes, who claimed the most votes in a first-round election before the April 29 run-off was aborted by the coup.

Ecowas has called an emergency summit Thursday next week in Abidjan on the crises in both Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

On Thursday the body issued a statement saying it had “learned with surprise” of the plan by the junta and 24 opposition parties to rule for two years.

“The commission strongly condemns this illegal initiative, particularly after the junta had given a written undertaking … to step aside to pave the way for the immediate return to constitutional normality with the facilitation of Ecowas.”

The former ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and smaller allied parties denounced the “irresponsible, undemocratic attitude of certain politicians hiding behind the military to access power”.

Suspended from the AU
The World Bank and the African Development Bank have frozen development programmes to the country, which has already been suspended from the African Union.

The international community has also called for the release of Gomes and interim president Raimundo Pereira, along with other top officials arrested during the coup.

Since 1998, Guinea-Bissau has been through one war, four military coups and the murder of one president and four military chiefs of staff. No president has ever completed a full term in office.

This has allowed cocaine trafficking to Europe to flourish, leading the former colonial power Portugal to warn that the country faces a stark choice.

“What is at stake is a choice between a state based on constitutional rule or a failed state based on the power of drug trafficking,” said Portas.

“The responsibility for these acts belongs to certain elements of the armed forces and a few politicians who keep fuelling instability and institutional weakness of the country.”

Mamadu Saliu Djalo, the Guinea-Bissau foreign minister who was away at the time of the coup and has been unable to return, told the Security Council, “I beg for action.”

The coup leaders said the ouster was motivated by the government’s growing reliance on a large contingent of Angolan troops stationed in the country.

With coups and army assassinations an ever-present threat, observers say Gomes was seen as setting up a private security force after he was abducted during an army mutiny in April 2010. — Sapa-AFP