Jean Ping (file photo)
Jean Ping (file photo)

The African Union has suspended Guinea-Bissau's membership until constitutional order is restored in the turbulent West African country. The continental body is also working with regional groups to draft tough sanctions against perpetrators of last week's military coup.

In unusually strong language, the AU Peace and Security Council on Tuesday called for international solidarity in condemning the illegal seizure of power in Guinea-Bissau. The council said Guinea-Bissau is suspended from all AU activities until the return of constitutional order.

Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra read a statement blasting military leaders for their repeated interference in the country's political affairs.

"Council stressed that the recurrence of illegal and unacceptable interference of the leadership of the Bissau Guinean army in the political life, which contributes to the persistence of instability and a culture of impunity in the country, hampers efforts at the establishment of the rule of law, the promotion of development and the rooting of democratic culture in the country," said Lamamra.

Lamamra said that considering Guinea-Bissau's record of assassinations and unconstitutional changes of government, consultations would be held immediately to formulate tough sanctions against the coup leaders.

"Given the frequency of coups in Guinea-Bissau, Council requests the Commission to submit to it within two weeks, in consultation with ECOWAS and other AU partners, proposals for additional sanctions against the perpetrators of the coup and their civilian and military supporters, including travel ban, assets freeze and other measures," Lamamra added.

The Peace and Security Council statement said coup leaders would be held responsible for the safety of interim president Raimundo Pereira and former prime minister Carlos Gomes Jr.  Gomes won the first round of presidential elections and was considered the favorite to win an April 29 runoff. His opponent is a former president, Kumba Yala, with close ties to the military.

Earlier, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping rejected a proposal by the coup leaders to set up a transitional national council. He called the proposal a flagrant violation of the West African nation's constitution aimed at thwarting the process of democratic elections.