Dakar (AFP) June 29, 2010
Guinea-Bissau's controversial army chief General Antonio Indjai was inaugurated Tuesday despite the international community shunning him for overseeing a mutiny three months ago.
The United States said Tuesday it "regrets" Indjai's appointment, calling him "unfit" for the job and announcing the withdrawal of support for vital security sector reform in the country encumbered by a large, undisciplined army.
No Western representative attended the inauguration ceremony, according to an AFP journalist at the event.
President Malam Bacai Sanha defended his decision to appoint Indjai, who on April 1 ordered soldiers to arrest the army chief along with the country's Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, whom he threatened to kill.
"We took a sovereign decision to name General Indjai as the head of the army, because Guinea-Bissau is a sovereign country. I am speaking as the democratically elected president," said Sanha, in power since July 2009.
Speaking directly to Indjai, the president said: "I recommend you prioritise dialogue to resolve the problems in the barracks. The army must respect and submit to the political regime."
One of the country's most controversial soldiers, former navy chief Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto -- named by the United States as a drug kingpin -- was at the inauguration where he shook hands with the new army chief.
"I want to show you that there is no problem between the general and me," said Tchuto who fled into exile after being accused of treason over a 2008 coup attempt, only to emerge back onto the stage on the same day as Indjai's mutiny.
The US embassy in Dakar released a statement on Tuesday saying that as a result of Indjai's appointment, the United States would "not support the security sector reform process" in the country.
Referring to the mutiny and threats to kill the prime minister the embassy said: "These acts of insubordination, indiscipline and mutiny render Major General Indjai unfit to lead the country's armed forces."
The European Union is the main backer of the 200-million-dollar security reform programme which is also supported by the US, China and regional economic group ECOWAS and is seen as key to internal stability in the country.
The reform includes downsizing a military which officially has 4,440 men per 1.6 million inhabitants but is believed to be two or three times that size.
The troubled west African nation has been plagued by coups since independence from Portugal in 1974 and instability has attracted South American drug cartels to use the country as a transit point to Europe.
The United States last week urged that a new army chief be appointed who was not implicated in the events of April 1, also warning it would halt military and security cooperation if people connected with drugs trafficking remained in senior military positions.
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