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Guinea-Bissau Coup Leader Calls Meeting to Create Transitional Council - 2003-09-15

The leader of the Guinea-Bissau coup Sunday has called a meeting to create a national transitional council that would oversee the country's return to civilian rule.

General Verissimo Correia Seabra, the coup leader, is meeting with representatives from political parties and civic groups to discuss an interim government. General Seabra has appeared on national television to give his assurances that he has no intention of retaining power. He said that he will remain in power only long enough to stage national elections.

The general ousted President Kumba Yala in a bloodless coup Sunday, saying the president failed "to solve the country's problems." Apart from the presence of soldiers on the city's streets, the capital Bissau was reported to be near-normal.

This is not General Seabra's first try at political power. In a previous coup in 1999, he was number two in a junta headed by the late General Ansumane Mane, which held power for 11 months before handing over to a civilian government.

This latest coup, on Sunday, has been condemned by the United Nations, the African Union and former colonial power, Portugal.

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries has called for the peaceful organization of presidential and legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau. Executive Secretary of the community, Joao Augusto Medicis, said he hoped to see elections before the end of the year.

A fierce civil war in the 1990s, followed by a lengthy period of political instability, left Guinea-Bissau poor, even by west African standards. Since the dissolution of parliament last November, ousted President Kumba Yala repeatedly delayed new elections.