Monday, March 9, 2009

Guinea-Bissau: Guinea-Bissau wants SA help, says envoy

Guinea-Bissau wants South African help to reform its security forces after this week’s deadly assaults on the president and army chief.

The tiny West African state has also called on the world for financial aid to recover from the current crisis.

In an interview with City Press, Lulu Louis Mnguni, South African ambassador in Bissau, the capital, said he was called to a meeting earlier this week by Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior to brief him on the latest events and ask for South Africa’s help.

“The prime minister invited me and confirmed the situation is now normal,” Mnguni said. “The government is intact and continuing and the military has promised not to interfere with the work of the democratically elected government but stick to their duties as the army.”

“The only problem now is to address the process of security sector reform.”

Mnguni said Gomes had “requested South African assistance” in this regard.

This request was later communicated to Pretoria.

According to Mnguni conditions in army barracks are “appalling” and need to be improved.

Army chief General Tagme na Wai was killed in a bomb blast late Sunday night. Soon afterwards soldiers went on the rampage, attacking the home of President Joao Bernardo (Nino) Vieira, who himself took power in a 1980 coup. He was later elected at the ballot box.

The two had been sworn enemies, and both the army and government had been accused by human rights groups of being involved in the trade in drugs which increasingly pass through Guinea-Bissau en route to Europe.

A day after Vieira’s death the Speaker of parliament, Raimundo Pereira, was sworn in as interim president in line with constitutional rules.

He must organise elections within 60 days.

“For the past decade, no president has ever finished his term,” Pereira told reporters in Bissau on Tuesday.

Pereira later called on in the international community not to withhold badly needed foreign aid.

In the most graphic account of Vieira’s death so far, British thriller writer Frederick Forsyth told reporters this week the helpless president was hacked to death after surviving several gunshots.

Forsyth arrived in the country hours after Na Wai’s death on Sunday night to research a new book.

He shot to fame on the back of “The Dogs of War”, his best-selling 1974 novel about mercenaries trying to stage a coup in a fictional African country that closely resembled Equatorial Guinea.

Forsyth, who dined on Monday with the Dutch pathologist who autopsied Vieira, said the president had to be “pieced together” on Monday morning, the Associated Press reported.

After a rocket attack, he was shot four times, then “slung into the back of a pickup truck ... and cut to pieces with machetes” by soldiers incensed by the death of their chief, AP reported.

Mnguni said South Africa was following events closely.

“They are our friends. We have learned a lot from the people of Guinea-Bissau.”

Source: City Press

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