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ECOWAS, AU to Meet Over Guinea Bissau

  • Peter Clottey

Guinea-Bissau's army chief of staff Antonio Indjai (C) and head of the national electoral commission Desejado Lima da Costa (R) arrive at a news conference at military headquarters in the capital Bissau, March 19, 2012.

Guinea-Bissau's army chief of staff Antonio Indjai (C) and head of the national electoral commission Desejado Lima da Costa (R) arrive at a news conference at military headquarters in the capital Bissau, March 19, 2012.

Officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plan to meet representatives of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council Friday to discuss efforts to restore constitutional order in Guinea Bissau.

The conference will be held at the headquarters of the African Union in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

ECOWAS political director Abdel-Fatau Musah says the meeting will also focus on building consensus among the international partners to deal with the political and security situation in the West African nation.

“We will see how we can find some kind of international consensus to accompany the people of Guinea Bissau, as they try to transit this very difficult period to restore constitutional order in the country,” said Musah.

Guinea Bissau has suffered from increasing political instability and has become a trans-shipment point for South American cocaine headed to markets in Europe.

But Musah says the country is not fully to blame for the drug problem.

“Guinea Bissau simply lacks the equipment; they lack the capacity to police their territory to prevent the drug trade,” Musah said. “So, we say that instead of making Guinea Bissau a victim, let’s put in the resources and help them to check these illegal activities in the country.”

Analysts also say there have been sharp differences between international partners about how to resolve the crisis following last year’s April 12th military coup.

The coup, some analysts say, forced donors to cut assistance to the West African country, which is reliant on international aid.

“It is a very difficult situation there in Guinea Bissau now, and this meeting is to see whether we can nudge each other as international stakeholders and partners to make sure we get Guinea Bissau out of its current mess,” said Musah.

“Since the coup d’état, ECOWAS has been the only international organization that has maintained relations with Guinea Bissau and trying to push it forward,” Musah said. “And I think several international partners have seen that Guinea Bissau is on the right path, because parliament has been reinstituted, and they are looking at the transitional timetable…to elect a new president.”

Guinea Bissau was originally scheduled to hold presidential elections next month. But regional experts say the country is not yet prepared to organize a peaceful and credible vote.

“There is a parliamentary committee that is looking at this transitional roadmap with the view of fixing a more realistic date for the election. And almost all [members] of the international community are quite hopeful that the parliament can come up with a workable time table…in order to restore constitutional order,” said Musah.

Last year, ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the European Union, agreed to come up with a joint plan to address the challenges in Guinea Bissau.
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