Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ECOWAS look to UN to settle Guinea Bissau

General Agusto Mario, Guinea-Bissau army chief-of-staff /PHOTO: AFP
Following the failure of the foreign ministers of the Contact Group and Bissau Junta to reach an agreement on a 12-month regional plan for the restoration of democratic rule during an April 29, 2012 meeting in Banjul, ECOWAS is now seeking the backing of the UN. 

The sub-regional economic bloc’s political director Abdel-Fatau Musah describes Untied Nations (UN) support as “crucial”, saying it will show a “united international effort” to restore constitutional rule in one of the sub-regions most unstable nations.

“We need the Security Council to support us, we need the African Union to support the ECOWAS position, so that the stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau will realize that the international community is united around the desire to get that country back to normalcy, as quickly as possible,” Musah is quoted to have said.

On May 7, the West African regional grouping said it believes a solution will be found soon to the crisis in Guinea-Bissau and is calling for "sacrifices and compromises" by supporters and opponents of last month's military coup.

Salamatu Hussaini-Suleiman, ECOWAS' commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, told the UN Security Council that immediately restoring the constitutional order that existed before the coup, as the PAIGC party of the overthrown-government is demanding, could lead to civil war.

During a May 3 meeting of ECOWAS leaders in Dakar, Senegal, regional leaders directed that the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) should be deployed in the country to replace forces of the Angolan Technical Assistance Group.

This, it said, will ensure the security of the transition and assist in the implementation of the programme for the defence and security sector reform.

The issue of “immediate troops deployment” was first raised at an extra-ordinary summit in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, on April 26, however, ECOWAS seems not to be at rush since Guinea-Bissau's junta said it would fight to defend itself if foreign troops intervened.

The warning came barely five days before the declaration of the Abidjan meeting to send in troops in that unstable country.
"Guinea-Bissau will not accept an intervention force because the situation does not require it. If a force is sent, the country will defend its territorial integrity," Lieutenant-Colonel Daba Na Walna told journalists. "An intervention force assumes the presence of warring parties, which is not the case."

Contradictorily, ECOWAS political director says Bissau’s military junta has accepted the deployment of the ESF, to help secure the transition, start work on the security sector reform that has been on ice for several months and ensure that the Angolan military contingent in that country leaves peacefully.

The ECOWAS proposed 12-month transition period which called for the interim president, the ousted President Raimundo Pereira to lead the transition, has been rejected outright by the coup leaders. The majority party, African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) also rejected the offer.

This followed a deal struck between the junta and the opposition for a lengthy return to civilian rule, but ECOWAS said it would never accept the transitional arrangement.

On Monday, Hussaini-Suleiman reiterated that ECOWAS, which has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, will also not accept the proposals of the junta and its allies "because that would be tantamount to rewarding the coup plotters." "A compromise is therefore needed," she said.

Observers say the imminent call to force will be determine by the military leaders decision with 26 parties to establish a two-year National Transitional Council, rejected by ECOWAS, whose proposal for a 12-month transition to culminate in a presidential election was also equally rejected by the junta and allies. 

Speaking at the UN Security Council on Monday, Hussaini-Suleiman said the ECOWAS leaders’ authorization of the deployment of a 600-strong standby force "is imminent.”

ECOWAS imposed diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions on Guinea Bissau after the April 29 talks in Banjul failed woefully. The sanctions also targets members of the junta that seized power in an April 12 military coup, and their associates blamed for the current impasse in the country’s political process.

The coup disrupted the political process to elect a replacement for President Bacai Sanha who died in January 2012. It came at a time when the drug-infested, weak judicial and the military power-hungry country was due to hold an election runoff of which Prime Minister Carlos Gomes was favourite, his opponent, former president Kumba Yalla withdrew from the race citing electoral abnormalities. 

Written by Modou S. Joof


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