The first wave of peacekeeping troops from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS have landed in Guinea-Bissau in a bid to stabilize the country after last month’s military coup.
The first 70 soldiers arrived on Thursday afternoon at the Bissau airport from Burkina Faso, the Associated Press reports. ECOWAS says it plans to send a total of around 600 troops over the coming days.
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Guinea-Bissau’s military – widely viewed as corrupt and deeply complicit in drug trafficking between Latin America and Europe – seized power in a coup in April, arresting Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior just two weeks before he was to take part in a presidential run-off election.
The ECOWAS forces arrived as the prime minister of a transitional government, Rui Duarte Barros, was sworn into office, according to the BBC. The leaders of the coup had earlier agreed to a 12-month transition to civilian rule, as demanded by the 15-nation regional bloc.
On Wednesday US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson pressed for a return to democratic rule in Guinea-Bissau, pointing out that the US had acted to cut non-humanitarian assistance for the West African country and saying that “every effort should be made to restore constitutional order and civilian rule,” according to the Agence France Presse.
No elected leader has ever completed a full term in office in Guinea-Bissau since it secured independence from Portugal in 1974.
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