Regional mediators to intervene in Guinea-Bissau
Presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior campaigns atop a car during a rally on the final day of presidential campaigning, in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, Friday, March 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Gabriela Barnuevo)
Published Monday, April 16, 2012 6:58AM EDT
BISSAU - West African regional mediators headed to Guinea-Bissau for talks Monday after the military coup leaders who seized power last week said they were forming a transitional government without the country's ruling party.
Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the president of the ECOWAS commission, was to lead the delegation meeting with junta leaders in Bissau.
The military officers who seized power of the tiny former Portuguese colony last week said Sunday they were forming a National Transitional Council along with various opposition parties.
Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr., who was the front-runner in this month's presidential runoff vote, was arrested after his home came under attack from grenades. Interim president Raimundo Pereira was also detained by the military.
A Portuguese government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said Portugal had received information that both men were doing well.
The prime minister needed insulin and the Portuguese embassy organized for the Red Cross to get it to him on Saturday, the official said.
Gomes' opponent Kumba Yala, a former president who was overthrown in a 2003 coup, had planned to boycott this month's vote because of irregularities in the first round of balloting.
The special election was being held after the country's elected president died from an illness at a Paris hospital in January.
Guinea-Bissau has weathered successive coups, attempted coups and a civil war since winning independence from Portugal in 1974.
The country has been further destabilized by a booming drug trade. Cocaine is smuggled across the Atlantic Ocean from South America in boats and planes which dock on Guinea-Bissau's archipelago of virgin islands. The drugs are carried north to Europe.
The unrest in Guinea-Bissau takes place just weeks after mutinous soldiers overthrew the democratically elected president of Mali, who was about to retire after an April election. The country's junta leader handed over power to an interim civilian president last week.
Guinea-Bissau's upheaval presents another dilemma for the regional bloc known as ECOWAS, which is already considering military force to oust rebels who declared independence in northern Mali.