West African regional bloc ECOWAS plans to send more than 600 troops to Guinea-Bissau in coming days to protect institutions and political figures after a military coup there, a senior ECOWAS source and another informed official said on Wednesday.
If ECOWAS follows through, the move risks triggering renewed conflict in the impoverished nation since the military junta that seized power on April 12 has warned it would treat any foreign troops dispatched to Guinea-Bissau as occupiers.
A regional security force in Guinea-Bissau could provide the country’s politicians cover to form a caretaker government and create a fresh roadmap to democratic elections.
The former Portuguese colony has had several army uprisings since independence in 1974. The latest coup has set back Western efforts to reform the military and combat drug cartels that use the small west African country as a transshipment point for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe.
The ECOWAS source said a 638-strong regional force, which will include troops from regional military heavyweight Nigeria along with Ivory Coast, Senegal and Burkina Faso, would be deployed in Guinea-Bissau in the “next few days”.
He said the force would be charged with “protecting state institutions and political figures” in the country, suggesting that ECOWAS would seek to help in the reinstatement of a civilian government.
Officials from ECOWAS, Nigeria, Senegal, and Ivory Coast did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A junta official was not immediately available to comment on Wednesday.
Read More: Reuters