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Guinea-Bissau travel lockdown

April 16, 2012

Guinea-Bissau's coup leaders have closed the country's air and sea space after staging a coup. The development comes as West African regional mediators were scheduled to arrived for talks.

Soldiers at the D'Amura Military Headquarters in Bissau.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Guinea-Bissau's military closed the tiny West African nation's air and sea space Monday, four days after soldiers ousted civilian leaders in a coup.

The new military junta warned Monday that all violations would lead to a “military response”, according to a statement issued by armed forces leaders.

The announcement seemed to be a barely concealed response to calls from the Portuguese Community of Countries for a U.N.-mandated intervention force. It also followed reports that a Portuguese warship is heading to Guinea-Bissau, possibly to rescue stranded Portuguese and foreign nationals.

Mediators awaited

It was unclear what implications the air and sea lockdown would have on the planned arrival of West African regional mediators, who are due to touch down in Guinea-Bissau on Monday. Desire Kadre Ouedraogo, the president of the ECOWAS commission, is expected to head a delegation meeting with coup leaders on Monday.

ECOWAS has been critical of the coup which the military of the tiny West African nation launched on Thursday.

Guinea-Bissau's opposition pledged Sunday to successfully negotiate a power-sharing deal with the coup leaders after talks with the junta. The latter appeared to make overtures to the country's political parties Friday by mooting the prospect of opposition parties playing a role in a new "unity government." However, under the deal the defense and interior portfolios would be reserved for the military.

It is not yet clear what role political leaders from the ousted government would play if such a deal was brokered. The country's Prime Minister Carlo Gomes Jr., who was tipped to win the presidential run-off vote scheduled for later this month, was arrested by the army on Friday. Although a spokesperson for the opposition said Sunday that the party of the arrested prime minister had subsequently been invited to participate in talks, whether they will actually do so remains in doubt.

sej/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)