Monday, 15 September 2003

Bissau (Fides Service) – There is relative calm in Guinea-Bissau after the army led coup on Sunday 14 September. The rebels arrested President Kimba Yalla and took control of strategic points, first of all national radio offices. National power has been taken by army chief of staff General Verissimo Correira Scabre head of the Committee for the Restoration of Constitutional Order and democracy.
“The military continue to broadcast the same message over and over calling for calm and promising free elections immediately” PIME Missionary Father Davide Scicco, in Mansoa, 50 km from Bissau the capital tells Fides Service. “Yesterday the army took charge of strategic points. The people are calm, yesterday evening the rebels said they had released prime minister Mario Pires”.
“The coup was not much of a surprise” the missionary says “for the past nine months, since President Yalla postponed elections, there was an air of tension. Moreover Prime Minister Pires continued to say that if the opposition won the elections there would be civil war”.
Father Davide says the situation is different to the one in 1998 when the army split in two factions and a violent civil war broke out. “This time all the high ranking military officers are in the coup. The President is in the hands of the rebels so he cannot organise resistance”.
After this conversation with Fides Service, Father Davide sent the following e-mail message to our office:
“Dear friends, this morning we woke to find the streets lined with army troops. Our radio Sol Mansi, under army surveillance since yesterday, today was closed down. But all is calm. The army led the coup because the president and the government had overstepped every limit (since the beginning of the year elections have been postponed time and time again, state administration is in the hands of a few and there is corruption and theft of public funds). The army says it will set up a temporary government in view of free transparent elections.
We are safe, as always we are respected. Moreover in a statement the coup leaders praise the Bishops for a letter written some months ago denouncing the situation.
Pray for us, but do not worry, so far not a shot has been fired either here or in Bissau.”
Portugal, of which Guinea-Bissau is a former colony, has condemned the coup with a Foreign Ministry declaration: “The Portuguese government deplores the coup in Guinea Bissau and asks its perpetrators to re-established immediately constitutional legality”. Portugal has called an emergency meeting of Portuguese speaking countries, Brazil Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principle and East Timor. LM (Fides Service 15/9/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)