The Economic Community of West African States is to strengthen its military presence in chronically-unstable Guinea-Bissau as the country prepares for nationwide elections, it has announced.
Ivorian general Soumaila Bakayoko, chairman of the bloc’s Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, made the announcement to reporters late Wednesday in the capital Bissau, without specifying how many troops would be added to its current deployment of 750.
He said the objective was “to ensure security for all during the elections to be held on April 13”.
The transitional government installed after a coup in April 2012 had decreed that presidential and legislative elections would take place on March 16 and no new date has been officially announced.
The vote was originally due to take place within a year of prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior’s regime being overthrown but it has been postponed several times.
Guinea-Bissau, which gained independence from Portugal in 1974 after a war with its colonial master lasting more than a decade, has suffered intermittent unrest since its liberation.
The chronic volatility has fanned poverty in the country of 1.6 million people with few resources other than cashew nuts and fish, attracting South American drug cartels which have turned it into a hub of cocaine-trafficking for west Africa.
It has seen a series of military coups attributed largely to the unprecedented bloating of the army after the war.
Read more at AFP