U.N. imposes travel ban on Guinea-Bissau coup leaders

Reuters News
Posted: May 19, 2012 6:01 AM
U.N. imposes travel ban on Guinea-Bissau coup leaders

By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Friday imposed a travel ban on five leaders of an April 12 military coup in Guinea-Bissau and threatened an arms embargo and financial sanctions if the tiny West African coastal state does not return to civilian rule.

The 15-member council "demands that the Military Command takes immediate steps to restore and respect constitutional order, including a democratic electoral process, by ensuring that all soldiers return to the barracks, and that members of the 'Military Command' relinquish their positions of authority."

The council unanimously approved a resolution imposing the travel ban on coup leader General Antonio Injai, and Major General Mamadu Ture, General Estevao Na Mena, Brigadier General Ibraima Camara, and Lieutenant colonel Daba Naualna.

The Security Council said it was prepared, as needed, to review the appropriateness of the measures in the resolution "including strengthening through additional measures, such as an embargo on arms and financial measures."

The travel ban on the Guinea-Bissau military leaders is the first new sanctions regime imposed by the U.N. Security Council since it targeted former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, other Libyan individuals and firms in February 2011.

West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS started deploying a 600-strong military force to Guinea-Bissau on Thursday to oversee reform of the local army and a gradual one-year transition to civilian rule after the coup.

The ECOWAS contingent is intended to replace an Angolan force of similar size that also had been overseeing reform of the army. The coup leaders justified their power grab last month by accusing the Angolans of meddling in local affairs.

The coup cut short a two-round presidential election widely expected to be won by former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who was briefly arrested by the junta before being released. He is now in exile in Ivory Coast.

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued with coups and unrest since its 1974 independence from Portugal and has become a key hub for Latin American cocaine being shipped into Europe. The United States and others have said senior army officials are implicated in the trade.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was critical that there was a speedy return to constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau to "send a clear and principled message against unconstitutional seizures of power."

In a statement late on Thursday, Ban's press office said he called for a strict adherence to democratic principles and for the military "to return to their barracks, refrain from any political involvement and to respect civilian authority and the rule of law."

(Editing by Bill Trott)