Barely two days after sanity returned to Mali as the coup leaders who seized power in that country gave way for an interim president, soldiers in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau yesterday overthrew the country’s Interim Government.
Interim President, Raimundo Pereira and outgoing Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Junior have reportedly been arrested and detained.
President Goodluck Jonathan said the coup was unacceptable to Nigeria and asked the soldiers to immediately hand over power. ECOWAS and the AU have also condemned the coup.
In a statement read on state radio in Bissau yesterday morning, the military said it had “no ambition for power” and had acted to halt what it called foreign intervention.
It alleged that the Interim Government had entered a secret deal to allow Angolan troops to wipe out Guinea-Bissau’s army.
Earlier this week, Angola said it was withdrawing about 200 Angolan officers who have been in the country for the last year to help with training and army reforms.
The arrest of Pereira and Gomes Junior followed hours of gunfire in the capital, Bissau, on Thursday night.
Gomes, who is running for president in this month’s run-off vote, is believed to be unpopular with the military over plans to scale it down.
Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, has been plagued by a long series of coups since gaining independence in 1974 – and has recently become an important staging post for gangs smuggling drugs from Latin America to Europe.
An emergency election was called last month after the death in January of President Malam Bacai Sanha, following a long illness.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan in a statement rejected “the ongoing 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.”
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.
President Jonathan called for “the immediate release of all those being detained and the restoration of civil democratic rule and constitutional order.”
The Nigerian President welcomed the Guinea Bissau’s military declaration that it was not interested in political power, and urged them to take urgent action in confirmation of that declaration.
The statement from the Nigerian President reads:
“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.
“President Jonathan believes that whatever grievances the military may have had that prompted them to take these actions can be redressed through dialogue. Indeed, he notes that some of the grievances were already being addressed by the regional organization, ECOWAS at its Meeting held in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire yesterday.
“He therefore calls on the military leadership of Guinea-Bissau to follow the path of honour and uphold the rightness of the country’s constitutional order in keeping with the global demand for democratic rule and good governance,” the statement adds.
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