UN agrees to hand over Bissau coup suspect


The United Nations has agreed to hand over to Guinea-Bissau authorities a former navy chief accused of leading a failed 2008 coup in the tiny West African state, according to a joint statement issued last week.

“The United Nations has committed on this day, January 8, to handing over Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto to the government of (Prime Minister Carlos) Gomes Junior,” the statement released after a meeting between UN and government officials said.

Na Tchuto took refuge in the UN offices in the capital in December after returning from exile in nearby Gambia on a canoe and disguised as a fisherman.

His return prompted a tightening of security, including increased road checks, in a fragile state seen as a hub of the narcotics trade into Europe.

Na Tchuto, who is suspected of being involved in drugs trafficking and who retains allies in the military, is wanted for masterminding a failed coup attempt in August 2008 against former President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

Vieira was subsequently killed by renegade soldiers in March 2009 and was replaced by an elected government that has made tentative steps towards stabilising the country.

The country of 1.5 million is one of the world’s poorest, and its institutions have been weakened by the influence of Latin American drug traffickers, who have used the nation as a transit point for cocaine shipments to Europe often with the complicity of the armed forces.