In one of the harshest criticisms of a military coup since President Obama took office, the White House and Department of State blasted Guinea-Bissau defense officials for seizing control from the civilian government.
Statements released from both buildings Saturday "strongly condemned" the military coup in the tiny West African nation.
"We regret that [certain elements of the military] have chosen to disrupt the democratic process, which already was challenged by the opposition's call to boycott the second round of elections," State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner wrote in a statement. The coup comes a night before campaigning was to begin in a presidential run-off election.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney echoed this statement, saying, "we call for the immediate restoration of the legitimate government...We call for the release of all government leaders and urge all parties to reconcile their differences through the democratic process."
Members of what is being called the ruling "military command" deposed the prime minister, interim prime minister and army chief-of-staff Thursday night in an armed revolt. They later claimed the revolt was undertaken after secret agreements between the civilian government and Angola were uncovered allowing the southern African nation to station troops in Guinea-Bissau.
The U.S., often reluctant to formally characterize such a seizure of power as a military coup without further investigation, did not hesitate to do so this time.
"We strongly condemn the attempt by certain elements of the military to forcibly seize power and undermine the legitimate civilian leadership of Guinea-Bissau," Toner's statement read. Under U.S. law, all non-humanitarian aid must be cut off to any country whose military overthrows a democratically-elected government.
However, the United States has already done so, suspending "over $120,000 in annual International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding and other military cooperation as a result of the April 1, 2010 mutiny by the Bissau-Guinean military leadership," according to the State Department.
The U.S. has issued a travel warning for its citizens, warning them to avoid the country if possible. On Friday, reports indicated the airport was closed. The travel warning recommended "to shelter in place and avoid the downtown area of Bissau."
The United Nations, African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have also condemned the coup.
by RTT Staff Writer
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