Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau have released the country’s interim president and leading presidential candidate after seizing the two men in an April 12 coup, local media and a minister in Ivory Coast have revealed.
Ex-premier and presidential election front-runner Carlos Gomes Junior and interim President Raimundo Pereira arrived in Abidjan in Ivory Coast on Friday evening, according to Adama Bictogo, the Ivorian minister for African integration.
The two men said little upon arrival Friday night about their future political plans.
“It’s also our country and we are waiting,” Pereira told reporters after thanking Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara for his help. Gomes did not address the crowd that gathered ahead of their arrival.
The pair were released a day after the West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), announced the deployment of a military force to the country.
The organisation also threatened sanctions against soldiers who resisted ECOWAS demands for the return to civilian rule.
The military also announced on Friday that it would follow ECOWAS’ recommendations of a 12-month transition period after the army had initially proposed a two-year transition.
A team of the country’s former rulers arrived late on Friday in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast’s main city, the Ivorian presidency said.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, current head of ECOWAS, has pledged a firm response to the instability “to prevent our sub-region from giving into terrorism and transnational criminality”.
The announcements came shortly after a team of West African leaders left Guinea-Bissau after several hours of closed-door talks with their counterpart Antonio Indjai, who is widely thought to have masterminded the coup.
Daba Na Walna, Guinea Bissau’s military spokesperson, downplayed regional concerns, saying the “return
to civilian rule is on track”, and adding: “The right place for soldiers are the barracks.”
The future transition government “will be a government of technocrats and neutral personalities who will have to oversee a transition period of 12 months”, he added.