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ECOWAS Official Calls for Urgent Military Reform in Guinea-Bissau

Peter Clottey 01 April 2010

A top official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the regional bloc is concerned about the security situation in Guinea-Bissau after mutinous soldiers briefly arrested the prime minister Thursday.

ECOWAS political director Abdel-Fatau Musah said the regional bloc is working closely with the international community to reform Guinea-Bissau’s military.

“We just felt that Guinea-Bissau was turning the corner after last July presidential election and our partners AU (African Union) the UN have been scaling up their efforts to assist the country in the security sector reform. And for a section of the military to once again demonstrate their indiscipline is of course of a matter of great concern to ECOWAS,” he said.

Local media reported Thursday that a group of soldiers briefly arrested Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior after breaking into his office. Some military officers were also reportedly detained.

But Musah said the regional bloc has warned the military to stop interfering in Guinea-Bissau’s democracy.

“We have actually put them on guard, the military in that country, that they will be responsible for their action and they will answer for it,” Musah said.

President Malam Bacai Sanha declared the situation under control shortly after the arrest of the Prime Minister and Army Chief Zamora Induta.

ECOWAS Political Director Musah described the situation in Guinea-Bissau as delicate.

“We know Guinea-Bissau is very fragile. You know that since conflicts began in Guinea-Bissau our organization has maintained a permanent residence in the country. So, we have the special representative of the ECOWAS president who is also monitoring the situation on the ground and we are in constant touch with them,” Musah said.

He further said Guinea-Bissau’s current instability could not be classified as a coup d’état despite the arrests.

Musah said ECOWAS will continue to fight the instability in Guinea-Bissau.

“We feel that this is mutiny. This is indiscipline on the part of the military and it is another sign of impunity in the country. And we believe that we have to scale up our efforts in order to fight it,” Musah said.

He further said the situation in Guinea-Bissau calls for “emphasis and urgency” to reform the military.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Bissau Guineans took to the streets hours after mutinous soldiers briefly arrested Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior to protest the arrest.



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