SI SG and Presidium members, PAIGC leader and other local leaders and international guests
On the 29th of January, the day before the Congress was due to open, the party leadership received a communication from the police authorities that the congress would not be allowed to proceed, an act that led hundreds of militants to occupy the party headquarters on the 30th, where the congress was due to be held. However, in the early hours of 31 January, the police forced their way into the building, expelling close to 300 PAIGC members, detaining a number of them, and occupying the premises in order to prevent the holding of the congress.
A number of international guests had arrived on the eve of the congress, invited to attend by the PAIGC, including the Secretary General of the SI, some of the SI Vice-Presidents from the region, and other party leaders and representatives. PAIGC leader Domingos Simões Pereira, on the morning of the 31st, held a meeting with the international guests, in which he explained the difficulties encountered by the party following the decision by the government to prevent the holding of their ordinary congress, which should have opened the day before. He reiterated the will of the party to hold the announced event. By the perseverance of the party leadership and despite the arbitrary impediments imposed, the congress finally opened on the 31st close to midnight in an outdoor space in the grounds of a hotel in the capital. The congress was then inaugurated in the open air, with speakers addressing the gathering out loud and with a hand-held megaphone. Thus, with the attendance of a large number of party delegates the working sessions of the congress were initiated.
The following morning, the 1st of February, the leader of the PAIGC, along with a number of leaders of different political parties of Guinea Bissau, held a special meeting with the Socialist International representatives and other guests invited to the congress, at which the media was also present. In this meeting, the leaders and representatives of the Guinea Bissau political parties participating closed ranks with the PAIGC. The Secretary General of the Socialist International addressed the gathering denouncing the act by the authorities as an undemocratic attempt to silence the voice of the people and to dismantle crucial rights and freedoms protected by the constitution and the law and fundamental principles of a democratic system, and he conveyed the unequivocal solidarity of the SI with the PAIGC and all the democratic political forces in the country. Other members of the SI Presidium and party leaders and representatives from different political forces also addressed the meeting expressing their rejection of these developments.
Later that day, an official statement was issued by a delegation of ECOWAS, the organisation of West African states, in which it called on the Bissau government to respect previous Accords on the political situation in Guinea Bissau or to face sanctions, and deplored the lack of respect for freedom of assembly. At the same time, it launched an appeal to the authorities of Guinea Bissau to fully comply with the rule of law and to respect human rights, including the right to free assembly, while exhorting the national security and defence forces to maintain a neutral republican position in regard to the country’s political actors.
Following all these developments, the IX Ordinary Congress of the PAIGC resumed close to midnight on the 1st of February at the party headquarters, in line with the sustained efforts of the PAIGC leadership, of their members, the other democratic political actors of the country, and the unanimous support of all the specially invited international guests to the event.
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The release from prison of Manuel Rosales, leader of Un Nuevo Tiempo, UNT, of Venezuela, an SI member party, has been warmly welcomed by the Socialist International. He was unjustly imprisoned following his arrest in October 2015, returning to the country after six years in exile. While celebrating his release, we vigorously protest against the conditions imposed on his freedom, including the need for him to regularly report to authorities, and forbidding him from leaving the country. The International salutes his courage and strength, and expresses its support and solidarity to his family, friends, and comrades...