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ECOWAS Pleased with Guinea-Bissau Democratic Transition Process

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said it is pleased so far with the transition process in Guinea-Bissau where interim president and former parliamentary speaker Raimundo Pereira has promised to organize free and fair elections following the assassination of President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

ECOWAS foreign ministers and the regional bloc's Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas were in Guinea-Bissau Thursday where they met with all the stakeholders to discuss the process of returning the country to democratic governance.

Chambas told VOA that ECOWAS is working with the United Nations and other partners to mobilize the necessary resources for free and fair democratic election in Guinea-Bissau.

"The ECOWAS ministers for foreign affairs thought that it would be significant to meet here in Guinea-Bissau as a gesture of solidarity, and to demonstrate the concerns the region has certainly about the transition process here in Guinea-Bissau. The region is pleased that the succession has gone in conformity with the constitution. We want to encourage Guinea-Bissau to stay on this constitutional track," he said.

Interim president Raimundo Pereira has promised to organize free and fair elections as soon as possible.

Chambas said ECOWAS wants to provide the necessary support to ensure a successful transition which will result in credible and transparent presidential election.

"We want to encourage him, and in fact the ministers have urged the president to ensure that these elections are held in accordance with constitution and to ensure so that they credible, free and fair. In that regard we have already discussed very concretely what the needs of the country will be to ensure such election. We work very closely with the UN, the UNDP, European Union and other bilateral partners to mobilize the resources required. And ECOWAS has undertaken to make up any gap in funding so that funding does not become an obstacle to holding the elections in conformity with the constitution of Guinea-Bissau," Chambas said.

He admits that ECOWAS does not know when the elections in Guinea-Bissau would take place. But he said the regional bloc expects Interim president Raimundo Pereira to announce soon the date for the election.

"As a matter of fact the president has been traveling. He's due back later today or tomorrow, and he will engage in consultations with all the stakeholders. But we expect that within the coming days a date will be announced, and we want to be ready to provide the necessary assistance that they would require to be able to hold credible elections," he said.

Chambas said ECOWAS had also been concerned about the need for security sector reform in Guinea-Bissau.

"The events of March 1 and 2 indicated a total breakdown of the defense and security sector and an indication of the urgency to move swiftly to ensure a security sector reform. And we have undertaken to work very closely with the authorities here, with the UN and other partners so that we can move forward with this important reform that this country has been yearning for," Chambas said.

Chambas also said the ECOWAS foreign ministers were encouraged by their discussion the day before in Guinea Conakry with Captain Moussa Dadis Camera, who seized power following the death of longtime President Lansana Conte.

"He (Captain Moussa) pledged to cooperate fully with ECOWAS and the international community and work closely with political parties and civil society to ensure a successful transition which will end this year. So we were very encouraged by the discussions we held in Guinea, by the openness of the president of CNDD, the willingness to engage in constant and continuing dialogue with all the Guinean stakeholders to ensure a successful transition," Chambas said.