afrol News, 8 October - The mutiny among Bissau-Guinean ex-peacekeepers, which saw the killing of the country's army leaders, is over, according to a statement by transitional President Henrique Rosa. The President further expressed hope that this "setback" in Guinea-Bissau's transition to democracy and stability would not stop international political and economic aid.
President Rosa, who heads the country until next year's elections, further confirmed the death of Army leader Veríssimo Correia Seabra, who was killed by the mutineers on Wednesday. While the President would not confirm further casualties, journalists in Bissau were shown the dead bodies of General Seabra and Army Spokesman Domingos Barros in a hospital in the Guinean capital.
Soon after the killing of General Seabra, strong national and international efforts were launched to prevent the mutiny from developing into a coup or a new period of armed conflict in the impoverished country. The Bissau-Guinean President and Prime Minister yesterday negotiated with the mutineers and high officials from West Africa and the community of Portuguese speaking countries (CPLP) flew into the country.
After long rounds of negotiations, President Rosa yesterday evening could announce to the press in Bissau that the mutiny was over. He emphasised that there had been no coup attempt; only a deep frustration among the Bissau-Guinean soldiers over delayed payments. After the agreement was reached, the mutineers had guaranteed him they would commit no more acts of violence, Mr Rosa told the press.
The rebellion had been among a group of Guinea-Bissau's former UN peacekeeping contingent in Liberia. The peacekeepers had been stationed in Liberia for nine months but only received salaries for three months. A long period of waiting and unfulfilled promises had finally led to a confrontation with the military leadership.
Government payment arrears have been a major reason for years of instability in Guinea-Bissau. Democratically elected President Kumba Yala in September last year was toppled by General Seabra after months of protests from civil servants, who had worked for up to one year without any payments. Several calls from the UN - which has had peace facilitators in the country since 1999 - for increased aid to Guinea-Bissau have been ignored by international donors.
For Guinea-Bissau, the mutiny and killing of General Seabra has been a major setback in its efforts to re-establish democracy and stability. Since General Seabra's coup last year, which removed the unpopular President Yala, the country has made major achievements. Parliamentary elections have been held and a President is to be elected in March next year. The human rights situation has improved significantly.
The government of Guinea-Bissau was now hoping that this process of stabilisation and democratisation would lead to enhanced donor support, the restart of World Bank and IMF funding and foreign investments in the country. This new act of violence is therefore giving a clear signal that stability is yet to be achieved in Guinea-Bissau, something that will scare off many potential investors.
President Rosa therefore was careful to play down the mutiny, repeating it was not a coup attempt but only a temporary "setback" in the process towards stability. He further urged the international community to continue its political and aid support to Guinea-Bissau.
Also Guinea-Bissau's international partners were alarmed by the possible return to armed violence in the country. Delegations from the CPLP, including José Ramos Horta of Timor Leste, and from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were rapidly sent to Bissau to facilitate negotiations and to pressure the mutineers.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday deplored the action by the mutinous soldiers and urged all parties to "resolve the crisis peacefully and quickly." The UN Security Council, in an extraordinary session called for by Portugal, condemned the killing of General Seabra and said it was concerned "over the tragic turn of events at a time when Guinea-Bissau is making steady progress towards the full restoration of constitutional order."
The Security Council also called on the international community to "maintain its confidence in the process of democratic consolidation in Guinea-Bissau and to uphold their commitments to development in that country."
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