Guinea-Bissau Junta Seeks New “Constitutional Arrangements”

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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Guinea-Bissau's military junta says it wants to work out a new “constitutional arrangement” for the country, defying international demands for the current constitution to be restored.

A spokesman for the junta, Lieutenant Colonel Dahba Na Walma spoke by phone to VOA on Tuesday. He said junta leaders are in consultation with opposition parties, trying to form a new government

He said, “The Military Command is working with political leaders to create a new solution. We will present that to the ECOWAS team.”

Leaders from ECOWAS – the Economic Community of West African States – met with junta chiefs Monday in the capital, Bissau. Na Walma said ECOWAS agreed to send a technical team to help with the transition back to civilian rule.

ECOWAS and the African Union have rejected last week's coup and are demanding the junta release interim President Raimundo Pereira and former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior. Mr. Gomes was the leading candidate in a presidential run-off vote that was scheduled for April 29.

Na Walma said the two leaders will remain in custody until a new government is formed and what he calls “proper security conditions” are in place.

He said, “We do not have a working government, and security will only be restored through the constitutional arrangements we will create with the ECOWAS technical team, in order to form a government.”

Earlier Tuesday, the African Union suspended the membership of Guinea-Bissau. In a statement, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said coup leaders are violating the constitution, and urged Guinea-Bissau politicians to avoid involvement in what he called window dressing for the takeover.

He also said the coup leaders are trying to arbitrarily halt an ongoing election process. The runoff election was to replace the late president, Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January after a long illness.

Former prime minister Gomes was to oppose Kumba Yala, a former president who has had strong ties to the military. Mr. Gomes won the first round of voting, but fell just short of a majority and an outright victory.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “grave concern” over the crisis in Guinea-Bissau.

The country has endured decades of instability marked by numerous coups and coup attempts and the assassination of President Joao Bernardo Vieria in 2009 by renegade soldiers. Guinea-Bissau has also become a transit point for international drug traffickers.