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African Union Condemns Guinea Bissau Coup Attempt


The African Union has condemned Sunday's attempted coup d'etat by in Guinea Bissau. Heavily armed gunmen reportedly attacked President Joao Bernardo Vieira's residence yesterday (Sunday) with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The government said the president and his family were not harmed although a presidential guard was killed during the coup attempt. With calm restored in the country, the government said it would soon launch an investigation to find those behind the coup attempt. Professor Okey Onyejekwe is the director of governance at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa that the coup attempt can only worsen the political tensions already existing in Guinea Bissau.

"I'm really disturbed by that because this is also coming in at the heels of the overthrow of the government in Mauritania. And the concern for me is that one would have thought that this has become a thing of the past, given the commitment of the AU (African Union) to eschew all sorts of unconstitutional means of overtaking power. And it's troubling in the sense that it also exacerbates the political tension in Guinea Bissau as well as what we also see in other parts of the continent," Onyejekwe pointed out.

He said this latest coup attempted d'etat in Guinea Bissau has brought into question the African Union's previous stances on military takeovers on the continent.

"On a number of instances, people have wondered about the constituency of the AU in terms of dealing with these kinds of situations, particularly, given the fact that the Constitutive Act of the AU as well as the Lome Convention and the new chapter on governance completely condemn unconstitutional means of taking power. And that is why for example in the Comoros, the intervention of the AU and other African States were welcomed. But the problem is that if there is an attempt or an appearance of inconsistency, there are concerns that the demonstration effect may really not deter others who would want to take over power through non- constitutional means," he said.

Onyejekwe said coup makers in Africa find justification for their acts of subverting their countries' constitution.

"If you ask the leaders of these coup d'etat or insurrection, they would tell you that their cause is just and justifiable because of the inequities and the economic malaise, a lack of inclusiveness. So, they would justify but the AU also recognizes that the situations are very fragile and that these conditions yes, may exist, but we need now to move away and find a way more systematic, peaceful means of transition because these attempts do set us back," Onyejekwe said.

He said it would be difficult for African to attract international investors of the instabilities across the continent persist.

"As long as we do not turn the tide and move towards the trajectory only using non-constitutional means to our seat of power, we would be suffering the reverse, which also impacts our ability to attract foreign investment on the possibilities of growth and equity," he said.

The AU said it totally rejects any form of anti-constitutional government change, and condemned in advance any attempt to seize power by force in Guinea Bissau.

Some international donors are reportedly saying Guinea Bissau immediately needs political stability to be enable to resist the increasing threat of Latin American cocaine cartels, which have been using Guinea Bissau's territory to smuggle tons of drugs to Europe.

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