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Angola could keep forces in G.Bissau: minister

Soldiers of Guinea-Bissau patrol in Bissau (© 2009 AFP)

Angolan soldiers could stay in Guinea-Bissau if the international community requested it through a United Nations resolution, minister for economic affairs Manuel Vicente said Thursday.

In April Luanda agreed to recall about 600 soldiers from the poor and unstable west African nation, though it denied Angolan troops had any role in Guinea-Bissau’s coup last month.

“In the case of a United Nations resolution which asks for the collaboration of the Angolan government, we are ready to review our position,” said Vicente.

The Guinea-Bissau army said it had staged a coup on April 12 because of an alleged secret military deal signed by the government with Angola.

“This accord aims to legitimise the presence of foreign troops, namely the Angolan military mission, in order to protect the government in times of crisis,” a statement read out on radio said.

But Vicente said the deal was not valid anymore.

“Angola was present in Guinea-Bissau in the context of a bilateral relation,” he said during a news conference on the government’s performance during the first quarter of 2012.

“The Angolan government has already explained that this relation is over and that it will withdraw its military force, but it has also said it could review its position in the context of an intervention at international level,” said Vicente, the former head of state oil company Sonangol.

He was recently moved into government and has been touted as a possible successor to longtime Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

His announcement followed comments from foreign minister Georges Rebelo Chikoti calling for sanctions against the perpetrators of the coup.

Speaking at the UN Security Council on Monday, Chikoti supported calls from Guinea-Bissau’s government “to deploy a stabilisation force under a UN-mandate”.

The force would be composed of soldiers from the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries (CPLP) and regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The soldiers who took control on April 12 ahead of a run-off presidential election have sought to strike a deal with opposition parties for a two-year transition period that would exclude the former ruling party and its allies.

Meanwhile mediators of ECOWAS, led by Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru were to meet with junta leaders after their talks with the long-dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) Thursday.

ECOWAS is also pressing the junta to accept a deal under which a transitional government would organise elections in 12 months.

It warned Monday that civil war could erupt in Guinea-Bissau if the international community forces the junta to hand back power to the government it deposed last month.

Since rebel soldiers carried out Guinea Bissau’s fourth coup in 14 years, ECOWAS, the European Union and CPLP have all imposed sanctions.

Angola first deployed 200 soldiers in Guinea Bissau in March 2011 following an agreement between the two governments the previous year. The force was gradually increased to over 600 soldiers.

Signature : Estelle Maussion LUANDA (AFP)

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