Angola donates US$16.5 million to rehabilitate Guinea Bissau armed forces

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Angola has given Guinea Bissau US$16.5 million to rehabilitate the army in order to maintain peace and stability in the country following a coup attempt in the capital on December 26 and the death of the West African country’s president on Monday.

Xinhua reports that Angola’s Minister of Defence, Cândido Pereira Van-Dúnem, announced the aid on Sunday during a visit to Guinea Bissau. Angola has sent 300 personnel to the country to ensure safety and security and to train the military.

Van-Dúnem said that Angola is committed to supporting stability in Guinea Bissau and implementing proposed reform in the security forces. In September 2010 Guinea Bissau asked Angola to help it reform its armed forces in a bid to end coups and drug trafficking.

During his visit, Angola’s defence minister visited Guinea Bissau’s Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, President of the National Assembly Raimundo Pereira, and the defence chief General Antonio Injai.

Guinea Bissau has seen a series of coups and coup attempts since its independence from Portugal in September 1973. President Malam Bacai Sanha was elected in 2009, after the assassination of former president Nino Vieira and ex-army chief Batista Tagm na Wai in March of that year, but Sanha died on Monday in a Paris hospital, raising fears of a fresh power struggle in the chaotic West African state.

Sanha had been in poor health since coming to power in 2009 and left Guinea Bissau in late November for treatment abroad. Shortly after his departure, mutinous soldiers attacked government buildings on December 26. The regime branded this as an attempted coup.

New elections to replace Sanha must be held within 90 days according to the constitution, and are likely to pit Gomes Junior against rivals, including former president Kumba Yala, who enjoys support from fellow ethnic Balanta in the military. Raimundo Pereira is meant to act as interim president during the transition.

The U.S. embassy in Dakar warned its citizens on Monday that there was an “an increased potential for political instability and civil or military unrest” as a result of reports of Sanha’s death. The coastal state is notorious as a stopoff for cocaine being smuggled into Europe from South America and has suffered several coups since independence from Portugal in 1974.

Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade said Sanha’s death could spark unrest in neighbouring Guinea Bissau, and invited armed factions to mediation in Senegal. Rival groups in Guinea Bissau’s military have fought repeatedly in the past.
“We are worried that with this death factions will clash,” Wade told Reuters. “Senegal is interested in stability in Guinea Bissau. Put down your weapons, come to Senegal and spend some time discussing with one another,” he said.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore had also accepted a request by the African Union to broker a peace deal between Guinea Bissau’s rival factions after a gunbattle erupted in the capital on December 26.

In addition to supporting military reform, Angola is investing in Guinea Bissau’s mining industry. In a month’s time Angola will begin to exploit bauxite in the south of Guinea Bissau and construct a deepwater port at Buba to facilitate the transport of bauxite by sea to the port of Bissau. This is part of a US$321 million project to mine bauxite by Bauxite Angola.