West African bloc ups pressure on G.Bissau junta
4/30/2012 9:10:04 PM -
BANJUL, Gambia (AFP) - The West African bloc ECOWAS on Monday said it had slapped sanctions on the junta in Guinea-Bissau, ahead of the expected arrival of hundreds of troops from member states.
The decision came after the leaders of the April 12 coup apparently shattered any earlier hope they might accept a return to civilian rule during talks in the Gambian capital Banjul.
The Economic Community of West African States said in a statement that the head of the junta was "not willing to negotiate and clearly prefers to face the consequences", warning an upcoming summit would discuss tougher action.
The statement said that the talks, which involved seven foreign ministers from the region and lasted 12 hours Sunday, were held primarily with General Antonio Indjai, the country's army chief and head of the junta.
"At the end of discussions, no agreement was reached with the military command and its allies," the statement said.
"The rejection of the position of the Regional Contact Group means that the imposition of sanctions... kicked in at midnight on 29th April," it said.
The sanctions target the junta's top leaders but also include diplomatic and economic measures against the state.
ECOWAS said the Banjul negotiators would report to the contact group's chairman, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
"A meeting will be convened at the level of the heads of state on 3rd May, to take all other necessary measures, including the use of force to enforce the decisions of the summit," the statement added.
When he opened the Banjul meeting on Sunday, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh had warned the junta that the region's patience was wearing thin.
The 15-state regional bloc on Thursday decided to send troops to stabilise Guinea-Bissau following the coup, which took place between the two rounds of a presidential election in which outgoing prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior was the frontrunner and the opposition claimed fraud.
At a summit in Abidjan on April 26, ECOWAS gave Guinea-Bissau's junta 72 hours to agree to a return to constitutional order and to allow in 500 to 600 troops or face targeted sanctions.
The day after the Abidjan summit, the junta had signalled it would accept ECOWAS' demands for a one-year transition period and the deployment of a regional peace force.
Indjai was involved in several of the coups and coup attempts that rocked the nation over the past few years.
He initially posed as a victim of the April 12 putsch and his arrest was even announced but it soon emerged he was the coup's mastermind.
The ECOWAS regional force's first troops had been expected late Sunday for their deployment was delayed.
"The arrival of the first troops from the Economic Community of West Africa States has been delayed by a few hours," a military source told AFP Monday.
Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast and Senegal are expected to contribute to the force. Its deployment is also aimed at facilitating the withdrawal of a 650-strong Angolan force present in Guinea-Bissau.
The Guinea-Bissau army has claimed it staged its coup this month because of an alleged secret deal by the government with Angola, also a former Portuguese colony, to destroy the armed forces.
Since 1998, the country of 1.6 million people has been through one war, four military coups and the murder of one president and four military chiefs-of-staff. No president has ever completed a full term in office.
This has allowed traffickers to exploit the struggling state as a key transit point for cocaine being moved from Latin America into Europe.