Fears grow for members of toppled G.Bissau government
Fears were growing Saturday for members of the government toppled by a coup in Guinea Bissau, as opposition leaders considered terms the junta had offered them for joining a "unity" government.
In Lisbon meanwhile, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) issued a strongly worded condemnation of the coup and called for UN-backed military intervention, without specifying who might contribute.
Earlier, the foreign minister of the toppled government, Mamadou Djalo Pires had said that his colleagues still in the country were in hiding and in danger of being killed.
“The persecution is continuing,” he said, speaking from Lisbon at the CPLP meeting.
The new self-styled military command under the army vice chief of staff, General Mamadu Ture Kuruma, had told former ministers to surrender, he said.
At a meeting on Friday, they also offered opposition parties a role in a “unity government” in which the junta would keep the defence and interior portfolios.
And the new regime would exclude the toppled African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which has led the country for almost 10 years.
Opposition leaders, due to meet to discuss their response Saturday, have yet to issue a public response.
On the streets of the capital, relative calm returned Saturday, two days after troops had fired rocket-propelled grenades at the premier’s residence and taken over the PAIGC headquarters and national radio station.
Soldiers could be seen outside public buildings. A night-time curfew remained in place and private radio stations were back on the air.
The CPLP statement said they had decided to “take the initiative of … forming an interposition force in Guinea-Bissau, with a mandate defined by the United Nations Security Council.”
Its role would be to guarantee the constitutional order, protect civilians and the country’s legitimate institutions, the statement added.
The initiative would also be taken in coordination with the West African bloc ECOWAS, the African Union and the European Union, it said.
The CPLP statement also supported the role of the 200-strong Angolan military mission already in Guinea-Bissau, but they were preparing to leave Saturday.
The coup leaders announced on Saturday they had reached an agreement with Luanda for the departure of the Angolan troops. A member of Angola’s force confirmed to AFP that the soldiers were waiting for transport home.
The government had been pushing for military reforms, and the junta justified its coup by claiming there had been a “secret deal” with Angola to undermine the army.
Angola had in any case announced the departure of the force last Monday, a few days before the coup. The CPLP comprises Portugal and its former colonies, which include Guinea-Bissau and Angola.
The European Union warned Saturday that it was reviewing all remaining aid to Guinea-Bissau. It called on the junta to free prisoners and re-establish the legitimate government.
“The EU has already suspended most of its aid to Guinea-Bissau,” said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, with remaining aid focussed on direct help to the people.
The coup has already been condemned by the United Nations and the African Union as well as the US, the EU and former colonial ruler Portugal.
The new junta says it is holding Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who had been the favourite to win the second round of the presidential election, President Raimundo Pereira and other members of the government.
Gomes had garnered 49 percent of the vote in the first round on March 18, and campaigning for the second round had been due to start Friday.
Opposition candidates, including ex-president Kumba Yala who would have faced Gomes in the second round, had alleged fraud in the first round and said they would boycott the runoff.
The election came two months after the death of president Malam Bacai Sanha following a long illness.
The leaders of Thursday’s coup include the army, navy and air force chiefs. They announced Friday they had also deposed army chief-of-staff, General Antonio Indjai.
But from Lisbon, Pires dismissed that last claim as “a farce” saying Indjai had been behind the coup.
Since independence in 1974, Guinea-Bissau’s army and state have remained in constant conflict, and no president has ever completed a full term in office. Three have been overthrown and one was assassinated.
The tiny country with a multitude of islands has become a major transit point for cocaine from Latin America to Europe, and the US has accused some senior military figures of involvement in the illicit trade.