Nigerian troops, police, others head for G/Bissau

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Nigeria is dispatching 160 soldiers and 140 policemen to crisis-torn Guinea Bissau, where a coup on 12 April, halted the nation’s democratic transition and threw up a junta quickly denounced by West African leaders and the international community.

There will be other soldiers from Burkina Faso and Senegal to make up the ECOWAS intervention force, the bloc’s spokesman said on Friday.

“The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) standby force will be composed of 629 men and women,” said ECOWAS representative Ansumana Cisse.

“Nigeria is sending the largest contingent of 300 men,” of whom 140 are police and 160 soldiers,” he said. “Then, Burkina Faso will provide 140 paramilitary police, 73 of which arrived Thursday.”

The rest of the Burkinabe contingent will arrive Saturday night, he added.

“Senegal hasn’t given us an exact figure yet but, according to projections, they will send a military engineering company which will repair certain barracks, and a team of doctors,” Cisse said.

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The ECOWAS force will replace a 600-strong Angolan mission, whose presence prompted soldiers to carry out the coup in the middle of an election process, with the rebel forces claiming the foreign soldiers were conspiring with the government against them.

Guinea-Bissau’s army and state have been in constant conflict since independence in 1974, resulting in coups, counter coups, political assassinations and a chronic stability which has seen cocaine trafficking flourish.

Cisse said the new troops, would provide protection for the Angolans as they prepare to withdraw on May 29, and then the force would protect all politicians in the country.

“No one will have to fear for their security, it will be normal for all — even those who are hiding in embassies or other places afraid for their lives,” said Cisse.

Reported by AFP