West African Bloc to Mediate Guinea-Bissau Coup Crisis

Posted April 16th, 2012 at 1:40 am (UTC-5)
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The West African regional bloc ECOWAS is sending a delegation to Guinea-Bissau Monday in a bid to help resolve the country's political crisis.

The international community has strongly condemned last week's military coup and called for a return to civilian rule.

ECOWAS external relations director Abdel-Fatau Musah told VOA that nobody is going to allow a military to take over power in the region.

“The military there are bent on keeping that country as a failed state for their interest and other things. 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.”

Musah said ECOWAS has budgeted $63 million for a program to reform Guinea-Bissau's defense and security sector, including restructuring and downsizing the “ill-disciplined” military. He said the plans have been in place pending a democratically elected president to begin the process.

The power grab on Thursday disrupted campaigning for a presidential runoff vote that had been set for April 29.

Musah described Guinea-Bissau's elections as typically one of the best-run in the region, and said that the problems come after the vote. In addition to the military, he listed the country's political class and especially drug trafficking as major challenges in the unstable West African nation.

Since winning independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has struggled through a dictatorship, three coups and the assassination of president Joao Bernardo Vieira by renegade soldiers in 2009.

“We need to look at the root causes of why that country is going through that cycle. We know it, the solutions are there and I think the international community has to come together to fix it once and for all.”

He said Guinea-Bissau needs a functional government without military interference to resolve all of the country's problems.

Guinea-Bissau's political parties have been in tense negotiations for several days with the coup leaders. A spokesman for the parties, Fernando Vaz, said there will be a solution by Monday.

The upcoming election was planned to replace late president Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January following a long illness.

Former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who is a member of the ruling party, had a comfortable lead against challenger Kumba Yala, a former president who has had close ties to the military.

The military junta seized Mr. Gomes and interim president Raimundo Pereira at their homes. Their whereabouts remained unknown on Sunday.