Outrage over Guinea Bissau attack

November 24, 2008 12:00 am

, BISSAU, November 24 – Security forces in coup-prone Guinea-Bissau hunted the mastermind on Monday of an attack by soldiers on the residence of President Joao Bernardo Vieira, only days after the country staged elections.

The attack on Sunday on the home of the president triggered widespread condmenation, including from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and punctured hopes that last week’s largely peaceful parliamentary elections would usher in a new period of stabililty.

While the authorities portrayed the attack as a mutiny by disaffected soldiers, sources within the army confirmed they wanted to track down a relative of main opposition leader and former president Kumba Yala who was himself ousted in a bloodless coup five years ago.

"We are still actively searching for Alexandre Tchama Yala," a navy sergeant who is the nephew of Kumba Yala, one senior military source told AFP.

On Monday morning the situation in the capital seemed calm ahead of the arrival of a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States, a regional grouping, designed to demonstrate solidarity with Vieira.

One suspected mutineer was killed and several other soldiers were wounded as the security forces fought off Sunday’s attack.

Three of the attacking soldiers were arrested, but others made off with some weapons including rocket launchers from a weapons depot behind Vieira’s residence, a senior interior ministry official said.

Two hours later, gunfire could be heard near the Mansoa barracks, one of the country’s biggest, located 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the capital, witnesses reported.

The former Portuguese colony is one of the smallest and poorest countries of the continent and locals had hoped the recent elections would bring much needed stability.

"Every time the country takes a step forward, there is an attempted coup," teacher Saliou Camara lamented.

"All this has been stirred up by people who do not support the development of the country," added Armando Silva, a civil servant.

"There is a lot to do here in the country: schools to be built, safe drinking water to be provided… I am very disappointed in the soldiers."

In recent years Guinea-Bissau has become a drugs hub for South American traffickers who use it as a transit point to the European market.

It was hoped the elections could shore up government institutions which until now have not been very effective in fighting the drugs trade.

ECOWAS said a delegation headed by its Commission chairman Ibn Chambas and Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Alain Bedouma Yoda would arrive here late Monday on a "visit of solidarity" and take stock of the situation.

The legislative elections on November 16 were won comfortably by Vieira’s long-dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), with provisional results showing it likely to get 67 of the 100 seats.

Kumba Yala, whose party came second with 28 seats, denounced the results as rigged and said he would challenge them.

There has been no word from him so far on Sunday’s attack.



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