The leader who Guinea-Bissau’s military rulers proposed to run a two-year transition to democracy has refused the offer, casting doubt on the country’s roadmap toward elections as the UN Security Council threatened sanctions against the West African nation.
Manuel Sherif Nhamadjo, who lost in a first-round presidential poll in March before a run-off was derailed by the coup, said late on Friday that he would remain in his current position of vice-president of the ruling PAIGC party.
“I was not consulted by for the post of president of the transition,” he said, a day after the coup leaders nominated him to lead a National Transitional Council charged with organising elections sometime in 2014.
But the military said on Saturday that the two-year transition with Nhamadjo named as leader had only been a suggestion, in an apparent climbdown following threats of sanctions by the UN and the region.
“It was only a proposal, not an official announcement,” military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Daba Da Walna told the AFP news agency by phone from Bissau, in reference to plans for a lengthy transition before a return to democracy.
“Nobody names a president and a transitional body by issuing a statement.
“We are deeply committed, along with ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) to finding a way out of the crisis.”
The African Union and ECOWAS earlier rejected the military’s two-year transition plan and urged a swift restoration of constitutional order, with the African bloc condemning the coup leaders’ nomination and calling it “illegal”.
“The (ECOWAS) Commission wishes to reiterate its rejection of the usurpation of power by the military command, and to make it known that it will never recognise any transitional arrangement emanating from the junta,” it said.
The UN Security Council on Saturday threatened Guinea-Bissau with “targeted sanctions” if the country’s military rulers did not step down and return the government to civilians power.
The council reiterated its “strong condemnation” of the April 12 military coup, and demanded the “immediate restoration of the constitutional order as well as the reinstatement of the legitimate government of Guinea-Bissau”.
The official statement said the council “rejects the unconstitutional establishment” of a transitional council by the coup leaders and their supporters.
“The council stands ready to consider possible future measures, including targeted sanctions against the perpetrators and supporters of the military coup, should the situation remain unresolved,” the statement read.
The council also “demands the immediate and unconditional release” of interim president Raimundo Pereira, prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, “and all officials currently detained”.
Those people “responsible for violent an illegal acts must be held accountable,” the statement read.
The Guinea-Bissau junta has banned marches and warned of “severe repression” against any demonstration or march came amid growing international pressure on the coup leaders.
The council said it was “deeply concerned by reports of violent repression of peaceful demonstrations”.
It also called on the military “to protect human rights including the rights to freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and expression”.
The World Bank and the African Development Bank have suspended millions of dollars of aid to Guinea-Bissau, raising pressure on the coup leaders to hand back power to civilians. The African Union suspended Guinea-Bissau following the coup.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Portuguese-speaking nations called on the UN Security Council to back an international peacekeeping force for the country, which was colonised by Portugal.
Speaking on behalf of Portuguese speaking nations, Georges Chikoti, Angola’s foreign minister, urged the UN Security Council to support a peacekeeping force and step up sanctions against the coup leaders.
“Time is of the essence. We cannot afford to wait and let the people, who are at the mercy of military power, suffer,” Chikoti told a council meeting on Guinea-Bissau.
The Portuguese-speaking nations and ECOWAS are already discussing the makeup of a force, diplomats said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday it had brought medical supplies twice to Carlos Gomes Junior, Guinea-Bissau’s diabetic former prime minister, since he was detained in last week’s military coup.
Gomes Junior had been widely expected to win a presidential election runoff that had been scheduled for April 29 until it was pre-empted by the coup.
He is being held alongside Raimundo Pereira, the interim president, by the coup leaders.
Since gaining independence in 1974, Guinea-Bissau’s army and state have remained in constant conflict, and no president has completed a full term in office. Three have been overthrown and one assassinated.