The United Nations Security Council said Saturday it may impose sanctions on the leaders of Guinea-Bissau’s military coup, rejecting the junta’s planned two-year transition to democracy.
Pressure has been mounting domestically and outside the tiny West African country for the shadowy self-styled ‘Military Command’ to relinquish power after it derailed presidential elections by arresting the poll’s front-runner on April 12. “The Security Council rejects the unconstitutional establishment of a Transitional National Council by the military leadership and its supporters,” the 15-member body said in a press release, referring to the junta’s creation of a transitional body to guide the country to elections in 2014. “The Council stands ready to consider possible further measures, including targeted sanctions against the perpetrators and supporters of the military coup, should the situation remain unresolved,” it added.
Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by army uprisings since it won independence from Portugal in 1974, and the latest coup has been a setback to Western efforts to reform the military and take on drug cartels that uses the country as a transit point.
Earlier on Saturday, the man the junta chose to run the proposed transitional council refused the offer, saying the National Assembly should resolve the crisis. “There is no place in the current situation for such a transitional council,” said Manuel Sherifo Nhamadjo, who came third in the first-round presidential poll in March before the run-off was derailed by the coup.
The junta detained former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, the presidential poll front-runner, during the coup after a night-time attack on his residence with heavy weapons in the rundown capital Bissau. Gomes Junior was unpopular with Guinea-Bissau’s army because he supported efforts to reform the military, which has been accused by Western bodies of involvement in narcotics trafficking between South America and Europe.
The World Bank and the African Development Bank said last week that they had suspended multi-million dollar aid programmes in the country, where the average person ekes out a living on less than $2 a day.
Thousands of residents of Bissau have fled for the interior of the country or to its offshore islands due to security concerns since the coup. “The situation in the country right now has complicated things for an already very poor people,” Amadou Diallo, a 32-year-old mason in Bissau said. “Half the population of Bissau has left because of this.”