ECOWAS troops head to G.Bissau

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A military force being deployed to stabilise Guinea-Bissau after an April 12 coup will be drawn from Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Senegal, the west African bloc ECOWAS 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.

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. - Sapa-AFP

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