Sunday, September 14, 2003

Trouble in Guinea-Bissau

It looks like there's been a coup in Guinea-Bissau:

Soldiers Seize Power in Guinea - Bissau

Filed at 6:33 a.m. ET

BISSAU (Reuters) - Soldiers seized power Sunday in the tiny coup-prone West African nation of Guinea-Bissau and pledged to restore constitutional order to the impoverished former Portuguese colony.

After a dawn putsch, troops carrying automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers patrolled the center of the capital Bissau on Sunday morning. No shooting was heard.

Army Chief of Staff Verissimo Correia issued a statement saying the military had dissolved all state institutions and set up a military committee to restore democracy.

Correia said the army was imposing a night curfew and that army chiefs would meet the government later Sunday. President Kumba Yalla was believed to be in his home.

Yalla came to power in January 2000 after elections designed to end chronic unrest following an army revolt in 1998 but he has since faced two attempted coups and has had to reshuffle the government several times.

This cannot be allowed to stand. The first thing these over-ambitious army officers always say after pulling one of these stunts is that they intend to "restore democracy"; the one thing about which one can be certain is that they have no such aim in mind. What one would like to see now is a forceful response from regional and Western powers, warning the coup-plotters to either give up their arms immediately or expect to have constitutional government restored by means of external force. The message needs to be sent in Africa that the when soldiers could get away with overthrowing elected governments are over.