Nigeria to deploy troops to Guinea Bissau

Nigeria has announced plans to deploy troops to Guinea Bissau by the end of this week to provide security in the country as part of its commitment to the sustenance of peace and stability in West Africa sub-region.

The Minister of Defence, Dr Mohammed Bello Haliru announced the plan at the opening of the 30th ordinary session of the committee of ECOWAS chiefs of defence meeting in Abuja.

He announced that the Nigerian troops will be deployed to Guinea Bissau by weekend while troops to be deployed to Mali are on standby.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for political affairs, peace and stability, Salamatu Suleiman, in her presentation, had reminded member states on the urgent need for the deployment of troops to help the transition in Guinea Bissau and Mali. The two countries recently experienced military coup d’états.

Ms Sulieman, informed the committee that funds have been released for the intervention.

The military chiefs of ECOWAS sub-region have pledged commitment to the sustenance of constitutional and democratic governance in West Africa

According to Dr Haliru, the instability caused by internal conflicts in ECOWAS member states is a severe impediment to achieving the desired political and economic development of the sub-region.

The Minister noted that developments in Guinea Bissau and Mali gives cause for concern, as he urged the military chiefs of various countries in the region not to relent in their efforts to ensure that democratic governance are restored in the two countries.

The recent coup in Mali and Guinea Bissau was the crux of discussions at the meeting of the chiefs of defence staff of ECOWAS countries.

The chairman of the committee of chiefs of defence staff, General Soumaila Bakayoko, who spoke in French restated the sub-region’s zero tolerance for coup d’états in the region,

He said that negotiations are in top gear for the deployment of troops to the two countries to maintain law and order and help smooth transition to constitutional rule. A position supported by the Nigerian chief of defence staff, Air Chief Marshal, Oluseyi Petirin.

 

AU suspends Guinea-Bissau for coup

The African Union (AU) suspended Guinea-Bissau on Tuesday over last week’s coup, adding to pressure on military chiefs who said they were ready to restore power to civilians after talks with regional mediators.
Guinea Bissau's soldiers leave a news conference at the military headquarters in the capital Bissau, March 19, 2012. Photo: REUTERS
A high-level delegation from the West African regional grouping ECOWAS, which has branded the coup as “unacceptable”, met Guinea-Bissau’s military overnight and ECOWAS Commission head Desire Kadre Ouedraogo told reporters there was an agreement “on the return to constitutional order”.

Foreign governments and international organisations have condemned Guinea-Bissau’s military after soldiers cut short a presidential election in the impoverished West African state, detaining election front-runner and former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior as well as interim President Raimundo Pereira.

“The (AU’s) Peace and Security Council decides to suspend with immediate effect Guinea Bissau from all activities…until restoration of constitutional order,” AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra said after a meeting at the bloc’s headquarters in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Suspension is the African Union’s normal response to any interruption of constitutional rule in one of its members.

Guinea-Bissau’s Catholic bishops added their voice to the condemnation, while Amnesty International accused the army of clamping down on protests, the media and freedom of movement.
With uncertainty gripping the crumbling coastal capital Bissau, which has been tense since the coup, many residents have fled to find safter locations in the interior.

“Increasingly repressive measures are being employed by the military as they try to stifle mounting criticism within the country and internationally,” Marise Castro, Amnesty International’s Guinea Bissau expert, said in a statement.

The London-based rights group called for the release of Gomes Junior and Pereira, saying they were being held at Mansoa Barracks, 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Bissau.

“Reportedly, both men are being held incommunicado in a mosquito-infested small cell with no water or toilet facilities,” it said, adding that Gomes Junior suffered from diabetes.

The former Portuguese colony has seen several coups and army revolts since independence in 1974 and the latest is a setback for efforts by Western donors to reduce military meddling in politics and counter the influence of Latin American drug-trafficking cartels using the country as a transhipment point.

Lieutenant-Colonel Daha Bana na Walna, spokesman for the Guinea-Bissau army leadership, said ECOWAS would send a technical team to assist in restoring civilian rule.

“It was agreed that ECOWAS would help with the restoration of civilian government,” he told Reuters. Na Walna said the country was calm and there was no disorder.

ECOWAS had also insisted in the talks that Gomes Junior and Pereira be freed.

“As soon as the conditions of security exist for this,” they will be freed,” na Walna said. But he did not specify when or whether Gomes Junior would be allowed to stand again for fresh elections, which the military has said it wants to be held.

SHADOWY COUP LEADERSHIP

It was the second coup in West Africa in less than a month. A March 22 military takeover in Mali saw that Sahel country split in two with Tuareg and Islamist rebels holding the north.
Guinea-Bissau’s military has announced the formation of a “national transition council” tasked with leading the nation to fresh elections. But a refusal to participate by the main political party, PAIGC, has robbed this of any credibility.

Gomes Junior and Pereira are PAIGC members.

The former was the expected winner of a scheduled April 29 presidential election run-off, interrupted by the coup.

Gomes Junior was unpopular with military chiefs because he backed plans to reform the bloated army, which is accused by Western security agencies of involvement in drug-trafficking.

Confusion persists over exactly who masterminded the coup.

A shadowy self-styled “Military Command” said it acted to head off what it alleged was a secret pact between Gomes Junior and Angola to “annihilate Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces”.

Angola had been providing military trainers and advisers to the smaller state in a military cooperation mission. But it announced earlier this month that it was ending the mission.

Guinea-Bissau military spokesmen have declined to confirm rumours that armed forces Chief of Staff General Antonio Indjai also was removed in the coup, saying only that he was “safe”.

Many believe Indjai, the nation’s most influential military figure, was the architect. “The question has been whether Indjai is in detention or behind the coup but the consensus now is that it is the latter,” one Bissau-based diplomat said.

REUTERS

Jonathan condemns coup in Guinea-Bissau

The Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan on Friday condemned the on-going attempt by a segment of the military in Guinea- Bissau to subvert the country’s constitutional order and truncate the democratic process which has already been initiated for the election of a legal successor to late President Malam Bacai Sanha.

The Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan condemns the on-going attempt by a segment of the military in Guinea- Bissau

In a press statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Jonathan urged “the Military High Command of Guinea-Bissau to refrain from any further action that threatens the lives of the elected leaders of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the established democratic order.”

The Nigerian President also demanded “the immediate release of all those being detained and the restoration of civil democratic rule and constitutional order” in Guinea-Bissau.
He welcomed the Military’s declaration that it is not interested in political power, and urges them to take urgent action in confirmation of that declaration.

Mr Jonathan further said that “Nigeria is ready and prepared to act in concert with other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure that the collective effort being made by the people of Guinea-Bissau and friends of the country to entrench democracy, good governance and political stability in the country is not thwarted by an unwelcome military intervention in whatever guise.”

He said that whatever grievances the military may have had that prompted them to take these actions can be redressed through dialogue and noted that some of the grievances were already being addressed by the ECOWAS at its Meeting held in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire on Thursday.

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau have arrested the outgoing Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Junior, in a suspected coup bid.

A military press attaché and his wife confirmed his detention, after gunfire was heard close to his home in the capital overnight.

The military seized government offices and controlled main roads in the capital on Friday after attacking the former prime minister’s home in an apparent coup to derail his election to the presidency, diplomats and residents said.

Military seizes power in Guinea-Bissau

A senior diplomat in Guinea-Bissau says the military has taken over the central district of the capital and there are reports of heavy arms fire including mortar shelling.

Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr

The diplomat who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media said Thursday the whereabouts of the country’s interim president and prime minister are unknown.

“There is some trouble. We don’t know what it is. There is shooting, sporadic machine gun fire and there have been three loud bangs … We hear it is coming from near Carlos Gomes Junior’s house,” a diplomat in the capital Bissau told Reuters.

State television had stopped broadcasting.

Guinea-Bissau has weathered successive coups and attempted coups since winning independence from Portugal in 1974. The country was due to hold a runoff election on April 29, pitting Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. against a former president, Kumba Yala.

Yala recently announced that he planned to boycott the vote. The emergency election is being held after the death of former leader Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January after being rushed to Paris for treatment for end-stage diabetes.