The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced that it will have an army on standby in Guinea Bissau to prevent a coup.
ECOWAS made the announcement yesterday, Monday 25, 2019, warning all parties to maintain peace during the elections and respect the results. The West African body also said all those who may have issues with the polls should approach the courts for redress.
According to ECOWAS, the presence of the army is not to interfere with the election results but to “re-establish order” in the event of a coup in Guinea Bissau.
AFP reports that the warning came as the West African states rejected claims of ballot fraud in Sunday’s election despite claims by incumbent Jose Mario Vaz’s campaign team that his rivals bought votes and stuffed ballot boxes.
You will recall that the president has clashed with parliament on different occasions over who should lead the government. This has caused severe political deadlock and raised considerable fears of violence at the pools.
ECOWAS says its 75 election monitors saw no tampering at polling stations during the Sunday presidential election in the country.
Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, a former Malian prime minister who heads the ECOWAS election observation mission in Guinea-Bissau, urged all candidates to respect the results and the legal institutions.
“This is a crucial step in the consolidation of the democratic gains of the Bissau-Guinean people,” he said.
President Jose Mario Vaz has previously said he would respect the results.
Guinea-Bissau is not new to coups. The West African country has a long history of military coups and political assassinations since its independence from Portugal in 1974.
Interestingly, incumbent president, Jose Mario Vaz is the first president in 25 years to finish his term without being ousted, and the country’s last military coup occurred in 2012.
Francis Behanzin, an ECOWAS commissioner in charge of political affairs and security, told reporters on Sunday that neighbouring countries would no longer tolerate coups in Guinea-Bissau.
“We have a standby force. We will intervene just as we have intervened elsewhere to re-establish order,” he said, citing discussions with national security forces across the region.
Earlier, Guinea-Bissau’s electoral authority also denied election irregularities.
“There was no ballot stuffing,” said Felisberta Vaz Moura, a spokeswoman for the National Electoral Commission.
Twelve candidates in total, including Vaz, are running for president.
Many critics around the world have commended ECOWAS for the initiative to provide a standby army, saying the body should continue in that path to curb election and post-election violence in the region.
Header Image: ISS Africa