ADDIS ABABA, March 2 – The African Union’s top executive, Jean Ping, on Monday condemned the assassination of Guinea-Bissau’s president Joao Bernardo Vieira by soldiers as a "criminal act".
"I was deeply shocked this morning to hear of the assassination of the president of the republic of Guinea-Bissau, Nino Vieira. The AU and myself firmly condemn this criminal act," Ping told AFP, using Vieira’s nickname.
This assassination "is serious notably because it comes at a time when efforts were under way to bolster peace following the November election," said the AU commission chairman.
Guinea-Bissau soldiers gunned down the veteran president as he fled his home Monday, a military spokesman said.
The West African nation’s army blamed Vieira, 69, for the death of their leader, General Tagme Na Waie, in a bomb attack on Sunday, he said.
Ping deplored the latest in a string of recent coups on the continent.
"It’s sad to observe that in such a short time, we have recorded three coups in West Africa. It’s very alarming," he said.
Coups also took place in Guinea and Mauritania in 2008.
"I am holding consultations with regional leaders to find a way out of the crisis (in Guinea-Bissau)," Ping also said, reiterating the AU’s condemnation of any attempt to seize power through unconstitutional means.