UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council threatened sanctions against the perpetrators and supporters of the military coup in Guinea-Bissau on Saturday if the legitimate government isn't restored.
A presidential statement adopted by the council and read at a formal meeting reiterated the council's "strong condemnation of the military coup by the military leadership and political elements" on April 12.
The Security Council rejected "the unconstitutional establishment of a Transitional National Council by the military leadership and its supporters."
It demanded the immediate restoration of constitutional order, reinstatement of the legitimate government, and unconditional release of the interim president, prime minister and other officials who were detained during the coup.
Guinea-Bissau was just weeks away from holding a presidential runoff election when soldiers attacked the home of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr., who was the front-runner in the vote set for April 29. He was arrested along with President Raimundo Pereira, who took power after Guinea-Bissau's president died in January, and other officials.
They remain in military custody and the Security Council said they must be freed "in order to enable the completion of the presidential and legislative elections."
The Security Council also expressed deep concern at "reports of violent repression of peaceful demonstrations, looting, restriction of freedom of movement, (and) the arbitrary detention of civilians."
It demanded the release of detainees and called on the military to protect human rights including freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and expression. It also called on the military leaders to release information on the number of arrests and the names and whereabouts of those arrested.
On Thursday, the junta leaders announced that they had agreed on Manuel Serifo Nhamajo, who has served as vice president of the National Assembly, to lead a transitional government. The overthrown ruling party was not involved and later said it "rejects any government stemming from a coup d'etat."
The Security Council held an emergency meeting on Guinea-Bissau late Thursday where the foreign minister in the ousted government and the representative of Portuguese-speaking countries called for deployment of a U.N. force.
Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba of Ivory Coast, speaking on behalf of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, said it intended to deploy a "military contingent" to Guinea-Bissau to ensure protection of VIPs and institutions as well as "the envisaged transition and electoral process."
The Security Council statement Saturday made no mention of a U.N. force but supported measures taken by ECOWAS, the African Union and Portuguese-speaking nations to restore constitutional order.
"The council stands ready to consider possible further measures, including targeted sanctions against the perpetrators and supporters of the military coup, should the situation remain unresolved," the statement said.
No leader in nearly 40 years of independence has finished his term in office in Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony on Africa's western coast that has long been plagued by coups.
Some analysts believe the military leaders behind the latest coup were concerned about interference in the country's lucrative drug trade.
Traffickers from Latin America use the nation's archipelago of uninhabited islands to land small, twin-engine planes loaded with drugs, which are then parceled out and carried north for sale in Europe.
The Security Council stressed that "the recurrence of illegal interference of the military in politics" was contributing to instability and a culture of impunity in Guinea-Bissau, and was hampering efforts to reform the country's law and security institutions, promote development and entrench "a democratic culture."