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Democratic Transition in Guinea-Bissau Could Take Up to 2 Years - 2003-09-19


West African leaders say Guinea-Bissau's transition to democracy will take at least two years. Years of instability led to the overthrow of the government last Sunday.

Speaking on behalf of the regional economic block, ECOWAS, President John Kufuor of Ghana said it will take up to two years to find a solution to what he called the profound crisis that grips Guinea-Bissau following a coup last Sunday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who was also present, said the problem in Guinea-Bissau was both political and economic, and agreed that electing a legitimate government and returning the country to democracy will be a slow process.

The ruling junta, headed by General Verissimo Seabra Correia, has agreed not to retain power and work with the future Prime Minister and transitional government. Earlier this week, it agreed with representatives of civic groups to set up a transitional government.

Sunday's coup, which has been broadly welcomed in Guinea-Bissau, though condemned internationally, has been given a veneer of legitimacy, after ousted President Kumba Yala publicly relinquished his claim to power Wednesday.

In a speech broadcast on national television, the former president, who had been under house arrest since the coup, said he was resigning, "in the name of national unity, and in the interest of resolving our problems peacefully."

Leaders of the bloodless coup said they were fed up with President Yala's repeated postponement of parliamentary elections, following the dissolution of the parliament last November.

A fierce civil war in the 1990s, followed by years of political instability left Guinea-Bissau poor, even by West African standards.

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