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Guinea-Bissau Prepares For Arrival Of ECOWAS Peacekeepers

  • Kate Thomas

Burkina Faso Colonel-Major Barro Gnibanga, appointed commander of the ECOWAS force in Guinea-Bissau

Burkina Faso Colonel-Major Barro Gnibanga, appointed commander of the ECOWAS force in Guinea-Bissau

BISSAU - Five weeks after a military coup in Guinea-Bissau, the country is preparing for the installation of the new transitional government and the arrival of regional peacekeepers, scheduled for Friday. Some residents fear the developments will lead to further upheaval.

Guinea-Bissau has been at an impasse since April 12, when soldiers seized power in a coup and arrested the country's interim president and his prime minister.

After weeks of talks among heads of state in the West African bloc ECOWAS, a peacekeeping force is due to arrive in the capital of Bissau on Friday.

A new interim government headed by parliamentary speaker Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo is expected to be installed next week, with the backing of ECOWAS. ECOWAS President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo recently outlined the regional plan. Mr. Ouedraogo said ECOWAS is supporting what is expected to be a year-long transition period for Guinea-Bissau.

He confirmed that a force comprised of Nigerian troops alongside soldiers from Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo will soon be deployed.

Their role, he said, will be to secure the transition period, enforce a return to constitutional rule and aid security sector reform in the West African country.

Although many Bissau-Guineans support the move, not everyone agrees.

There are fears that a mostly Nigerian contingent could experience communication difficulties in a country where few people speak English. Some people are concerned that the troops will not resolve the crisis, but simply prolong it.

Batista Correia is the spokesman for the Party for Social Renewal, which is headed by Kumba Yala, a candidate in last month's derailed presidential election to replace the late President Malam Bacai Sanha.

Correia said the arrival of peacekeepers could cause more harm than good, particularly if the troops are seen to be taking sides.

Guinea-Bissau's ruling PAIGC party has been slow to accept Nhamadjo's candidacy as transitional leader.

Meanwhile, ousted interim President Raimundo Perriera and his Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior flew to Lisbon Wednesday for talks with the Portuguese government.

While there is apprehension over the arrival of the troops, many, like Peter Mario Da Silva, say they are willing to give the troops a chance.

Da Silva says there is concern the troops could be bad for the country, but that the risk is worth taking. He says it is better to try to stabilize Guinea-Bissau than to allow the insecurity to deepen. Some hope he says is better than none.

About 650 troops are expected to arrive in the country, beginning Friday. They are expected to be stationed at army barracks about 40 minutes outside of the capital.