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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Guinea-Bissau Continues to Destabilize

BISSAU (Reuters) - Military officers in Guinea-Bissau tried to stage a coup last week as the West African nation faced a political crisis, the armed forces spokesman said on Friday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arsenio Balde said Rear-Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, the head of the navy, was in custody and other officers were being questioned about the attempt. He said the situation was under control.

"A military commission of inquiry has been set up and all those implicated in this attempted coup are being questioned to shed light on this affair," Balde told reporters in the capital Bissau. "We have Americo Bubo Na Tchuto in our hands," he said.

He said officers toured barracks in the West African country last week, trying to enlist support for military intervention to end a political crisis while Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai was abroad.

  • Na Tchuto's arrest on Wednesday added to a deepening political crisis in the former Portuguese colony, which has come under increasing diplomatic pressure to curb a booming international cocaine trade.
  • Within the past week, President Joao Bernardo Vieira has dissolved parliament and appointed a new prime minister after the Supreme Court declared the lawmakers' mandate invalid and the opposition withdrew from the unity government.
  • Legislative elections are not scheduled until November.
  • Guinea-Bissau is no stranger to coups and instability, having been shaken by a series of crises since independence in 1974, but it is now under international scrutiny over its role in the multi-billion-dollar global cocaine trade.

Taking advantage of long, porous borders and poor policing, smugglers have turned Guinea-Bissau into a transit point for cocaine on its way from Latin America to Europe.
Some political analysts say local civilian and military authorities are complicit.

Last month, two planes were seized in Bissau. International drug experts were allowed on board one of them only after a standoff between two branches of the security services.

The plane was found to be empty but sniffer dogs confirmed it had carried cocaine. The head of the control tower was subsequently arrested and the deputy head of the air force is wanted for questioning, security sources said.

Drug experts have said the drugs trade and rivalry between factions involved in it risked aggravating instability in weak countries in West Africa.

Guinea-Bissau's northern neighbour Senegal said late on Thursday it had sent a minister to Bissau after Vieira spoke to Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade on the subject.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

BISSAU, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Military officers in Guinea-Bissau tried to stage a coup while Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai was abroad last week, Na Wai's spokesman said on Friday.
Lieutenant-Colonel Arsenio Balde said Rear-Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, the head of the Navy, was in custody and other officers were being questioned in connection with the "attempted coup". He said the situation was now under control. (Reporting by Alberto Dabo)

The Rest @ alertnet

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