By Alberto Dabo BISSAU, April 19 (Reuters) – The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday it has brought medical supplies to Guinea-Bissau’s diabetic former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior twice since he was detained in last week’s military coup.
Gomes Junior had been widely expected to win a presidential election run-off in the tiny West African state until it was preempted by the April 12 coup. He is being held alongside Interim President Raimundo Pereira by the ruling junta.
“We most recently visited them on April 18 and brought medical supplies, water, and hygienic supplies,” spokesman Denes Benczedi said by telephone from Dakar. “We are following Gomes Junior’s medical condition closely,” he said.
He said the ICRC had earlier brought diabetes medicine to Gomes Junior during a visit on April 14, two days after soldiers attacked his residence with heavy weapons and detained him.
World powers have condemned Guinea Bissau’s self-styled “Military Command” for derailing the election and have urged a swift return to democratic rule – a process the junta said on Wednesday would take two years.
The former Portuguese colony has seen several coups and army revolts since independence in 1974 and the latest was a blow to efforts by Western donors to reduce the military’s meddling in the country’s politics and counter drug-trafficking cartels using Guinea-Bissau as a smuggling hub.
Gomes Junior was unpopular with military chiefs because he supported plans to reform the bloated army, which is accused by Western security agencies of involvement in smuggling South American narcotics to users in Europe.
The Military Command said on Wednesday that it would soon create a civilian-led caretaker government to guide a two-year transition back to democratic rule, culminating in presidential and legislative elections some time in 2014.
The move was unlikely to satisfy foreign partners, and lacked the backing of the country’s main political party, PAIGC, which had put Gomes Junior forward as presidential candidate. The African Union suspended Guinea-Bissau in the wake of the coup and West African bloc ECOWAS has condemned the ouster.
Guinea-Bissau’s upended presidential election was meant o replace former leader Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in a Paris hospital in January after a long illness.
Human rights group Amnesty International said earlier this week that Gomes Junior and Pereira were being held at Mansoa Barracks, 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Bissau in a “mosquito-infested small cell with no water or toilet facilities.” (Reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Richard Valdmanis in Dakar; Writing by Richard Valdmanis Editing by Maria Golovnina)