Military officials in the tiny West African coastal nation known for its illegal drug trade said Friday that Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. had been arrested on accusations of plotting with Angola to crush his country’s military.
Gomes, who was pushing to reduce the size and power of Guinea-Bissau’s military as part of an attempt to fight corruption and drug trafficking, was expected to win a presidential runoff election April 29, especially after opposition parties vowed to boycott the poll.
Gomes was reportedly taken away in a pickup truck after soldiers attacked his home Thursday night. Soldiers also arrested other politicians and took over the state-run radio station. The whereabouts of interim President Raimundo Pereira was not immediately known.
“The military command has no ambition for power,” military officials said in a statement. “It was forced to act this way to defend itself against the diplomatic maneuvers of the Guinea-Bissau government aimed at eliminating the army with a foreign military force.”
The military's action, widely condemned by the international community, served as another illustration of Africa's one-step-forward-two-steps-back road to democracy.
In Mali, interim President Dioncounda Traore took over Thursday from a military junta, which agreed to step down after a coup three weeks ago that resulted in the resignation this week of ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure. And Malawi, in Southern Africa, narrowly escaped an unconstitutional seizure of power by allies of President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office. It was averted when several key government figures opposed the power grab and Vice President Joyce Banda was sworn in last week as president.
Among those condemning the military action in Guinea-Bissau were the United Nations Security Council, regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union.
AU commission chief Jean Ping called on the military officers to “honor their commitment to serve under the authority of the constitutionally established institutions of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.”
-- Robyn Dixon
Photo: Dabana Na Walna, a military spokesman , talks to journalists in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, on Friday. Credit: Fernando Peixeiro / European Pressphoto Agency