Guinea-Bissau’s president has returned home after two weeks of medical treatment in France, and said he is well, despite having been advised to skip an African Union summit and two planned trips abroad.
State television showed images of President Malam Bacai Sanha arriving at the airport late on Monday evening, countering reports in local media that he was in a coma.
Sanha, a diabetic who diplomats say was flown to France late last year for urgent medical treatment, became leader of the tiny West African nation last year after his predecessor and the army chief were killed in a string of political assassinations.
“I am very well. I didn’t leave my country because I was ill. I went to France for a medical check-up,” Sanha told reporters after arriving at Bissau airport late on Monday.
“(But) the doctor advised me not to go and take part in the AU summit in Addis Ababa,” he said, adding that trips to Brazil and former colonial power Portugal had also been put off.
No further details were given about the president’s health but diplomats say Sanha has a long history of problems linked to diabetes, which have been exacerbated by the stress of leading the tiny, chaotic country.
Guinea-Bissau is at the heart of the Latin American cocaine trade, which passes through West Africa en route to Europe.
Although he has the backing of the international community, which is keen to see an end to decades of instability in the country, Sanha’s government faces well-armed drugs mafias often acting with the complicity of groups in the armed forces.
Concerns over the health of Guinea-Bissau’s leader come as regional powerhouse Nigeria grapples with a political stalemate caused by the long-term absence of its president.
President Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea Bissau