West African bloc announces Guinea-Bissau troop pullout
West African troops who have provided security to the unstable west African state of Guinea-Bissau will pull out within a year, a top official for the ECOWAS regional bloc said Monday.
The troops were deployed in May 2012 following one of the nation's many coups and have since served with a mandate to protect public figures and institutions.
"That's four years now. The contingent cannot stay in Guinea-Bissau forever. It's costing us a lot, and more and more often the head of state has asked me to organise the demobilisation," said Marcel Alain De Souza, the head of the ECOWAS Commission.
"That's what we are working on, to extend our stay for a year so that the security situation can be reinforced," he added after leaving a meeting with Prime Minister Baciro Dja.
De Souza added that the ECOWAS contingent would concentrate its efforts on training up the tiny state's own armed forces.
"In the next six months, we are going to train men capable of replacing ECOMIB who will then be able to progressively pull out," he said, referring to the ECOWAS military mission.
De Souza had already said Sunday there was "no miracle" for the country's political and economic crises as he made an official visit, saying a country could not be "perpetually in crisis".
Guinea-Bissau is in the throes of a protracted power struggle, which dates back to the sacking of ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) leader Domingos Simoes Pereira in August 2015.
President Jose Mario Vaz named Dja as his choice for premier in June 2016 and a powerful faction of the party have protested the decision ever since.
Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by military coups and instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974, and has more recently become a key cocaine trafficking hub.