Guinea-Bissau’s military junta said on Wednesday it would take two years to restore democratic rule in the West African state through elections that will be set by a soon-to-be-named caretaker government. The announcement came after broad international condemnation of the shadowy “Military Command” which seized power last week and cut short a presidential poll by detaining its front-runner, former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior. The former Portuguese colony has seen several coups and army revolts since independence in 1974. The latest coup was a blow to efforts by Western donors to reduce military meddling in the country’s politics and counter the influence of drug-trafficking cartels using Guinea-Bissau as a transshipment point.
“The restoration of power to civilians will happen little by little,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Daha Bana na Walna told reporters after the Military Command issued a decree dissolving the country’s public institutions and announcing a “transition period that will last two years.”
The decree said that a civilian-led council would soon be formed to guide the transition process to simultaneous presidential and legislative elections. The plan was signed by 19 political parties, but not Guinea- Bissau’s biggest one, PAIGC. Gomes Junior is a member of the PAIGC and was expected to win a presidential election run-off on April 29 before it was pre-empted by the coup.