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Guinea-Bissau Junta Presents ECOWAS With a Fait Accompli

DAKAR , Apr 21 2012 (IPS) - Six West African heads of state will attend a regional summit in Guinea on Monday, to discuss the situation in neighbouring Guinea Bissau, where an Apr. 12 coup d’état aborted presidential elections.

The Economic Community of West African States sent a delegation to Bissau, the capital, immediately following the coup to urge the immediate restoration of constitutional rule.

Ahead of the Apr. 23 summit, ECOWAS has rejected the authority of a National Transitional Council (NTC) which the coup plotters’ say they have put in place to run Guinea-Bissau for the next two years.

The NTC was established following the signing of an accord on Apr. 18 by the junta and leaders of 20 opposition parties who have come out in support of the coup.

The junta announced that the council was to be headed by Manuel Sherif Nhamadjo, who finished third in the first round of presidential elections on Mar. 18. However, Nhamadjo told Al Jazeera: “I was not consulted for the post of president of the transition.” He said he would remain in his current position as vice president of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

Ibrahima Sory Diallo, from the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), was named as vice president by the junta. The PRS’s presidential candidate, Kumba Yala, was runner-up in the March poll, but has refused to contest a second round against the ruling party candidate and former prime minister, Carlos Gomes Junior, alleging fraud by his opponent.

Following the coup, the PAIGC has joined a coalition with eight other parties in denouncing the NTC as illegal and calling for a return to constitutional legality and the completion of the electoral process.

ECOWAS said on Apr. 19 that it regarded the creation of the NTC as an “usurpation of power”, and reminded the coup leaders that they had earlier this month committed themselves to working with the regional body – to which Guinea-Bissau belongs – to allow the immediate restoration of normal constitutional rule.

The West African leaders urged a swift restoration of constitutional order as well as the release of Gomes Junior and Raimundo Pereira, who was appointed as interim head of state following the death of President Malam Bacai Sanhá in January after a long illness. Both leaders were arrested and have been left out of the transition programme imposed by the military rulers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was able to visit the interim president and former prime minister in custody, said it had been able to give them medical supplies, clothes and toiletries, adding that both men have been allowed to send news to their families.

According to some sources, the coup’s leaders on Apr. 20 announced that five ECOWAS heads of state would visit Bissau on Monday for discussions with military and civil authorities, with a view to finding an exit from the country’s political crisis. But the junta did not specify which ECOWAS leaders they were expecting, and the information has not been confirmed by the regional body.

The Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), currently headed by Angola, adopted a resolution at an Apr. 14 meeting in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, calling for the creation of an “intervention force under the aegis of the United Nations.” The CPLP continues to insist on the deployment of soldiers with the assistance of ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) and the European Union.

But Guinea-Bissau’s military command has accused Angola of interfering in security matters of their country. But Lieutenant Colonel Daba Nah Waina, one of the coup leaders, told IPS, “The crisis has been brewing since Angolan soldiers arrived in Guinea-Bissau with vehicles and weapons, but without notifying the chief of staff of the armed forces of the country.”

The Angolan government operates a bauxite mine in the east of Guinea-Bissau – the country is one of the world’s leading producers of this mineral – and also has an interest in a project to construct a new port in the south.

Since October 2011, some 300 Angolan troops have been present in Guinea-Bissau, drafted in to reform the army and police of the country in line with an agreement between the two governments. But the coup plotters accuse Angola of wanting to “destroy” the country’s army and called for the withdrawal of the troops.

For its part, the African Union decided on Apr. 17 to suspend Guinea-Bissau from all AU activities with immediate effect, pending restoration of constitutional order.

Both the African Development Bank and the World Bank, which have called for a swift resolution of the crisis, have suspended development programmes in Guinea-Bissau, with the exception of urgent assistance.

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