ECOWAS deploys stabilisation force in Guinea Bissau


A bloc of West African nations began deploying a stabilisation force to Guinea-Bissau Monday after the country was thrown into turmoil when its president escaped a coup attempt in February.

The Guinea-Bissau Stabilisation Support Mission comprises some 600 troops from Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana, according to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc.

“It will cover the whole country,” the mission’s military chief Mohammed Alhassan said.

The mission will last one year and is renewable, said General Francis Behanzin, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security.

President Umaro Sissoco Embalo escaped a February 1 coup attempt that left 11 people dead.

ECOWAS decided the same week to send a stabilisation force.

The bloc had already deployed a force for stability and security in Guinea-Bissau after the April 2012 coup that overthrew prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who was the favourite to win the presidential election.

The force of more than 1,000 soldiers and police officers left the country in September 2020 at the end of its mandate, having ensured the country’s stability for eight years.

“It is the same mission… since the situation has not completely stabilised,” Behanzin said.

Guinea-Bissau, a small nation of around two million people bordering Senegal and Guinea, is prone to coups. It has experienced four of them since independence from Portugal in 1974 — the last in 2012.

Since 2014, while committed itself to a return to constitutional order, there has still been unrest but with reduced violence.

Tensions persisted after Embalo was elected president in December 2019.

In mid-May, Guinea-Bissau’s president dissolved parliament, which he accused of having become “a space for political guerrilla warfare and conspiracy”.

He has set December 18 as the date for legislative elections.