UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council on Monday joined regional voices calling for restraint and dialogue to end the latest political crisis in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau.
Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz triggered the latest escalation in an ongoing power struggle with the ruling PAIGC (African Party of the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) party, of which he was once a member.
Last Tuesday, he dismissed Prime Minister Aristides Gomes and named a replacement from a minority political party.
But Gomes has refused to step down, escalating tensions ahead of an already delayed presidential election scheduled for November 24.
The 15-nation West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, called Gomes’ firing “illegal." While the U.N. Security Council did not go as far as ECOWAS, it did issue a consensus statement Monday in which it refers to Gomes as prime minister and “in charge of conducting the electoral process."
In its statement, read by Council president Ambassador Karen Pierce of Britain, the U.N.’s most powerful organ said there is an “urgent need” to hold the elections on time for a peaceful transition of power.
“The Security Council also reminds all actors that the Council’s possible reconsideration of the existing sanctions regime will depend on their orderly conduct as well as that of other political actors," Pierce said. "It also reminds stakeholders that it will consider taking appropriate measures against those who undermine stability.”
South African envoy Jerry Matjila expressed hope stability would prevail.
“We hope the army will remain in the barracks, that the protestors will tone down a bit, and then you will have free, fair elections around the country," Matjila said.
At least one person was killed and several injured Saturday in a pre-election protest.
Guinea Bissau has a history of instability and coups since becoming independent in 1974, although President Vaz, elected in 2014, has been able to complete his five-year term.