The military junta that grabbed power in Guinea-Bissau earlier this year says it has yielded control of the troubled West African nation back to civilian leaders. The announcement by the country’s self-styled Military Command follows an agreement between it and regional leaders mediating the crisis that named the interim Speaker of Parliament as transitional president and calls for new elections in 12 months.
A contingent of troops from the Economic Community of West African States will help restore constitutional order and democratic principles and build professionalism within Guinea-Bissau’s security services.
The United States is following the situation in Guinea-Bissau closely and has taken note of the Military Command’s May 22 statement. Restoring civilian rule is a step in the right direction, but only a step. Much more needs to be done if peace and stability are to be restored to the nation and the region.
Guinea-Bissau has suffered several coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974. The latest came in April, when soldiers stepped in after disputed first-round voting in a presidential election and detained the balloting front-runner Carlos Gomes Jr. and interim President Raimundo Pereira. Later released, both have left the country.
The United States appreciates ECOWAS’ leadership in working to resolve the crisis and restore constitutional rule of law and democratic principles to the country. In a sign of progress being made in this regard since the announcement, the National Assembly has met and a Cabinet has been nominated.
Nevertheless, until Bissau-Guineans live in a country where the rule of law prevails, where narco-traffickers and corruption are punished and made insignificant, and where the economy is stable, there will be no peace and prosperity there.
It is critical that all friends of Guinea-Bissau work together to create a workable, prompt plan to consolidate democracy, restore rule of law, pursue national reconciliation, combat corruption and impunity, and address the other factors that have led to a cycle of instability.