ECOWAS military action is now more likely as Guinea Bissau’s junta leaders stand firm

1 May, 2012

The Economic Community of West African States, which has been mediating a peaceful transition to civilian rule in Guinea Bissau, has now decided to impose diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions on the government.

According to reports from APO, talks in Banjul between Foreign Ministers of the regional Contact Group and Guinea Bissau’s political stakeholders, failed to reach an arrangement to return the country to constitutional rule within 12 months.

The sanctions regime which went into effect by midnight on 29th April 2012 also targets members of the junta that seized power in the 12th April military coup, and their associates blamed for the current impasse in the country’s political process.

The coup has disrupted the political process to elect a replacement for President Bacai Sanha who died in January 2012.

Military intervention by the ECOWAS force seems more likely now with the breakdown of peace talks and the remoteness of a return to civilian rule.

The seven-nation Contact Group of Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Senegal and Togo, which is chaired by Nigeria was set up by the extra-ordinary summit of regional leaders on 26th April 2012 in Abidjan, to follow up the decisions of the summit in resolving the current political crisis in the country.

Guinea Bissau's Parliament now in the control of men in uniforms and big guns

The Abidjan extra-ordinary summit denounced the coup and the attempt by the military command to foist a political arrangement on the country through the formation of a National Transitional Council.

The ECOWAS regional leaders condemned the military regime as unconstitutional and vowed not to recognize it in line with the region’s zero tolerance policy for unconstitutional accession to power.

The summit also authorized the deployment of a contingent of a regional Standby Force to replace Angolan troops in Guinea Bissau.

Furthermore, the summit issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the military junta to submit to a mediation process for a consensual transition arrangement that will result in the restoration of constitutional democracy, with the Contact Group mandated to follow up on the process.

But after more than 12 hours of talks in Banjul between the Foreign Ministers and representatives of the Guinea Bissau junta, political parties and civil societies chaired by President Yayah Jammeh, the Contact Group concluded that; “it was fruitless to continue, as it became obvious that the head of the military junta was not willing to negotiate and clearly prefers to face the consequences.”

A delegation of the Ministers, which includes the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, left for Abuja after the talks to brief President Goodluck Jonathan on the outcome of the meeting.

Heads of State and Government of the Contact Group are due to meet on Thursday, 3rd May 2012 to take “all necessary measures” to enforce the decisions of the 26th April 2012 extra-ordinary summit.

Guinea Bissau shares a lot with Sierra Leone. “Once hailed as a potential model for African development, Guinea-Bissau is now one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a massive foreign debt and an economy which relies heavily on foreign aid. Compounding this, the country experienced a bitter civil war in the late 1990s in which thousands were killed, wounded and displaced,” says the BBC.


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