Bissau leader’s new cabinet retains military influence


Guinea-Bissau’s interim leader appointed a new cabinet late, adding a number of smaller parties to the government ahead of elections promised by the end of 2013 but leaving the military in charge of the key defense and interior ministries.

Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo was named caretaker president of the tiny West African nation – a known narcotics trafficking hub – under an agreement between regional bloc ECOWAS and a military junta which staged a coup in April 2012.

Armed Forces Chief General Antonio Indjai, who is suspected of leading the coup and held power briefly before Nhamadjo’s appointment, is still widely seen as the nation’s most powerful man, Reuters reports.

The European Union and a diplomatic grouping of Portuguese-speaking nations have refused to recognize Nhamadjo’s administration and called for the creation of a more inclusive government to lead the country to elections.

Nhamadjo on Thursday reappointed transitional Prime Minister Rui Duarte Barros to head the 34-member government and retained Interior Minister Antonio Suca Ntchama and Defence Minister Celestino de Carvalho, both considered close to Indjai.

The U.S. Department of Justice in April accused Indjai of plotting to traffic cocaine to the United States and sell weapons to Colombia’s FARC rebels, after a months-long undercover operation that ensnared a former navy chief.

Repeated coups, political assassinations and a civil war in the former Portuguese colony have weakened its law enforcement and paved the way for the Colombian cartels to use it as a transhipment hub for tonnes of narcotics destined for Europe and the United States.