Bissau putschists vow to restore democracy

2012-04-17 14:04

Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's coup leaders have reaffirmed their pledge to restore democratic rule to the tiny west African state, the head of a regional grouping said on Tuesday following overnight talks.

"We agreed on the fact that the soldiers accept the decision of Ecowas ... which demanded the restoration of constitutional order," Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said after meeting with the putschists who seized power last week.

"We demanded the release of prisoners, which constitutes an essential condition for the return of constitutional order," added Ouedraogo, the Economic Community of West African States' Commission president.

The putschists continue to detain the ousted prime minister and interim president, Carlos Gomes Junior and Raimundo Pereira, and several former ministers.

They justified the power grab last Thursday by claiming that there had been a "secret deal" with Angola to undermine the army, but have since repeatedly pledged to restore civilian rule.

Angola last year sent 200 troops to Guinea-Bissau to help reform the army. Ouedraogo said an Ecowas force would replace them "if the authorities agree to a return to normal constitutional order".

The coup aborted a second-round presidential vote set for 29 April, an election whose validity was already in doubt after five candidates, including first-round runner-up Kumba Yala, cried foul and declared a boycott.

Despite international calls for the run-off to go ahead, the army dissolved all existing institutions and declared a National Transitional Council together with opposition parties.

Guinea Bissau, a country of 1.6 million people, has a history of military coups and has become a hub in the drug trade between South America and Europe.