- One month before Guinea-Bissau's presidential elections, the country again is at the edge of political chaos. Ex-President Kumba Yala has declared himself the rightful President of Guinea-Bissau, withdrawing his earlier "renunciation of power." Meanwhile, the country's military leadership has assured its loyalty to interim President Henrique Rosa.
Ex-President Yala, who is one of the candidates to the 19 June presidential polls, today told the press in Bissau that he was still the rightful leader of the country. He had been forced to step down following a military coup in September 2003 and claimed that his "renunciation of power" was null and void.
Since the 2003 coup, Guinea-Bissau has experienced a delicate but so far well implemented transition process towards democracy. This transition process slowly had put an end to the political and economic chaos that had been experienced in Mr Yala's 2000-03 presidency. The 2003 coup was discretely welcomed by the international community, which had lost all confidence in Mr Yala.
As the Bissau-Guinean ex-President earlier this year announced his intentions to stand candidate for the main opposition party at the June elections, political tension abruptly started rising in the country. The transitional charter - a "temporary constitution" accepted by all parties - had barred Mr Yala and other ex-Presidents from political offices until 2008.
Last week, however, the Supreme Court of Guinea-Bissau ruled that Mr Yala was entitled to stand candidate at the upcoming presidential poll. The court also accepted the candidacy of former dictator João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, who earlier this year returned from Portuguese exile to present himself at the polls as an independent candidate. Also Mr Vieira was banned from political activities in the transitional charter.
Since the outspoken and accepted candidacies of Mr Yala and Mr Vieira, the temperature of the political debate in Guinea-Bissau has risen on a day-to-day basis. Foreign observers fear that the country is yet again falling into political chaos and Guinea-Bissau's development partners have already warned of a "donor fatigue" if the situation prevails.
Today's announcement by Mr Yala that he still is the legitimate ruler in Guinea-Bissau - calling Interim President Rosa an "usurpator" - again caused speculations to whether a military coup could end the transition process. There was also an immediate concern that military leaders loyal to Mr Yala could try to reimpose the toppled President.
The Bissau-Guinean Ministry of Defence therefore today saw it necessary to react to the statements made by Mr Yala. There "are no reasons" for concern, the Ministry said, reminding that the armed forces were now firmly under politcal control. Later, General Bitchofela Na Fafe was speaking on behalf of the country's military leadership, saying they "remain loyal to President Henrique Rosa."
The rhetoric used by Mr Yala also has caused concern in the international society. At UN headquarters, the Secretary-General's spokesman Fred Eckhard yesterday said that Kofi Annan had reacted to statements which "appear designed to disrupt the ongoing transitional process in Guinea-Bissau."
Mr Annan called for all concerned there to resist any moves that could exacerbate tensions in the country. The UN Security Council and the European Union (EU) earlier had expressed their concern over the candidacy of Mr Yala, fearling it would jeopardise the country's fragile transition process.
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