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» 08.07.2010 - Guinea-Bissau could head towards new chaos
» 08.06.2010 - Guinea-Bissau PM denies being sacked
» 24.05.2010 - Guinea-Bissau power struggle building up
» 04.03.2010 - Security reforms crucial for Guinea-Bissau, UN report
» 26.01.2010 - UN anti-crime agency help set up police academy in Guinea-Bissau
» 15.07.2009 - World Bank increases support to Guinea Bissau
» 15.05.2009 - Guinea Bissau gets international support for elections
» 15.04.2009 - Two ex-Presidents in Guinea-Bissau polls

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West African summit in Guinea-Bissau without results

Misanet / IRIN, 23 May - A visit to Guinea-Bissau by four West African leaders at the weekend failed to defuse tension that has been building up in the country ahead of next month's presidential election. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior confirmed reports that have been circulating for several weeks that arms have been smuggled into the country to support civilian militias.

And President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria stormed out of a meeting with Guinea-Bissau's former head of state Kumba Yala, who was deposed by a coup in 2003, after Mr Yala insisted to his face that he was still the country's rightful president.

However, a demonstration by Mr Yala's supporters in the capital Bissau on Sunday achieved a much smaller turnout than had been billed by the organisers. Eyewitnesses said about 300 people turned up for the rally, most of whom had been bussed in from the interior of this small West African country.

The modest gathering in a suburb of Bissau got under way six hours later than planned. It took place peacefully but amid heavy security, with police and soldiers looking on while others guarded strategic points of the city.

The Presidents of Nigeria, Niger and Senegal and the Prime Minister of Guinea-Conakry flew into Bissau on Saturday for talks with the government, the military high command and several of the 17 presidential candidates who have been cleared to take part in the 19 June presidential election.

They also held a separate meeting with Mr Yala, who on 15 May raised fears of pre-election violence by announcing that he had withdrawn his resignation as president, forced on him by the army. Yala demanded that he be reinstalled immediately as head of state to serve the remainder of his elected term.

An insider at Saturday's meeting between Mr Yala and the visiting West African leaders told the UN media 'IRIN' that President Obasanjo, the current chairman of the African Union (AU), walked out of the talks in an angry mood after Mr Yala insisted to his face that he was still president, not just a candidate in next month's election. Mr Obasanjo immediately boarded his plane and flew home to Abuja, Nigeria.

On Sunday, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, who supported Mr Yala's election in 2000, had the former leader of Guinea-Bissau flown to Dakar for further talks to try to defuse the situation.

The ex-president's supporters adopted a less confrontational approach on Sunday, by simply referring to Mr Yala as a presidential candidate at the rally to demand his return to power.

- People are trying to confuse things by saying that we have organised this march to put former president Kumba Yala back into the Presidency of the Republic, Artur Sanha, the Secretary-General of Mr Yala's Social Renovation Party (PRS), told reporters at the rally. "But this is a lie because for us Kumba Yala is just a candidate for the elections which take place on 19 June."

Mr Sanha blamed the low turnout at the rally on intimidation by the police and army, saying people were afraid to come out of their homes to join in. Those present dispersed peacefully without attempting to march on the city centre.

On Friday, Bissau-Guinean Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior warned that illegal guns were flowing into the country. He also said there was a plot to assassinate himself and two top officials in the security forces by unidentified people whom he referred to as "these lackeys".

The Prime Minister told this to reporters in Bissau. "I have information that weapons are circulating in some part of the country and I also have information that certain people are trying to assassinate me, the prime minister, the chief of staff of the armed forces, General Tagme na Wai and the Inspector General of the Interior Ministry, General Btchofla Nafafe," Mr Gomes Junior said.

Diplomats and local political analysts are bracing for fresh trouble when former military strongman João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira eventually returns from exile in Portugal to launch his own presidential campaign.

The election is widely expected to be dominated by ex-Dictator Vieira, who staged a coup in the former Portuguese colony in 1980 and ruled until 1999, when he was ousted during the latter stages of the civil war, and Mr Yala, whose PRS is now the largest opposition party in parliament.

The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) is split down the middle, with many influential party leaders supporting Mr Vieira rather than the party's official presidential candidate, Malam Bacai Sanha.

At the end of their mission to Bissau on Saturday, the visiting West African leaders issued a joint statement urging all presidential candidates to avoid violence during the election campaign.

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