UN chief urges return of Guinea-Bissau government

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2012 6:47 PM
UN chief urges return of Guinea-Bissau government

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday the United Nations wants an immediate restoration of the ousted government in Guinea-Bissau, which was overthrown by the military last month.

He told the General Assembly that he asked the U.N. envoy in Guinea-Bissau to work closely with the African Union, the West African regional group ECOWAS, and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries to resolve the crisis.

"As international partners, we seek an immediate return to constitutional order," Ban said.

Guinea-Bissau was just weeks away from holding a presidential runoff election when soldiers attacked the front-runner's home and arrested him along with the country's interim president on April 12. No leader in nearly 40 years of independence has finished his time in office in Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony on Africa's western coast that has long been plagued by coups.

There are divisions among the key regional and international players on how to deal with the coup.

ECOWAS Commissioner Salamatu Hussaini-Suleiman, whose organization has taken the lead in mediating, told the Security Council on Monday that immediately restoring the constitutional order that existed before the coup could lead to civil war.

Following the coup, military leaders decided with 26 fringe parties to establish a National Transitional Council to rule the country for two years.

But ECOWAS _ the Economic Community of West African States _ rejected their agreement and instead demanded a 12-month transition that would include the coup leaders in key positions and culminate in a presidential election. ECOWAS leaders also authorized the deployment of a 600-strong standby force which Hussaini-Suleiman said "is imminent."

Guinea-Bissau's Foreign Minister Mamadu Saliu Djalo, who was out of the country when soldiers seized the presidency, warned the Security Council that the ECOWAS proposal may aggravate the country's problems and "legitimizes the coup d'etat by not endorsing the continuation of the electoral process for the second round of voting, nor the legitimate authorities serving until April 11."

He said the proposal goes against ECOWAS's "zero-tolerance" principle of coups.

On Tuesday, the Security Council urged ECOWAS to implement its "zero-tolerance" policy and pursue measures to restore the legitimate government.

The council reiterated its strong condemnation of the coup and called on the secretary-general "to engage actively" with ECOWAS and other international organizations to "enable the restoration of the constitutional order" and the resumption of the electoral process.

It also reiterated its "readiness to consider targeted sanctions against the perpetrators and supporters of the military coup, should this situation remain unresolved."

Ban told the General Assembly on Wednesday that he was concerned about reports of human rights violations by the military junta.

"Let me speak clearly: those responsible for the coup and subsequent violations of human rights will be held accountable by the international community," he said.