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G. Bissau president warns army top brass, drug traffickers

by Staff Writers
Bissau (AFP) July 9, 2010
Guinea-Bissau President Malam Bacai Sanha on Friday made an outspoken attack on the country's powerful military and on high ranking officials allegedly involved in drugs trafficking.

"Guinea-Bissau is not the private property of soldiers.... We will not accept being perpetual hostages in the hands of the military," he told a stunned meeting attended by new chief of staff of the armed forces General Antonio Indjai.

Indjai in April led a mutiny and arrested and threatened to kill the prime minister.

It is the first time the president has been so outspoken since his election in July 2009, four months after soldiers assassinated former President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

His comment's followed an attack on Tuesday on five traffic police who were badly beaten by troops close to Indjai.

"The people are fed up of it," he said, insisting on the need to restore discipline "in all military and police units."

"We often say that to hold on to power, we have to 'polish the military's pumps'. I say to you that that is finished now, that must be clear to all," the visibly angry president told a meeting of the Superior Defence Council which was also attended by ministers.

On April 1, Indjai ordered soldiers to arrest army chief General Jose Zamora Induta along with Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, whom he threatened to kill.

Coups have plagued the country since independence from Portugal in 1974 as the military and politicians struggle for power, eroding legal institutions and making it an attractive transit point for drugs destined for Europe.

The president also issued a warning to all those tempted by drug trafficking.

"Those who want to devote themselves to drugs trafficking must be excluded from the army. Drug trafficking must end in this country," he said.

"I am addressing myself to all members of the state. It is incompatible with being a state or army official to be mixed up in drug trafficking. Enough, enough, now," he said.

The April mutiny was at first thought to be a coup but despite issuing a threat to kill Gomes, saying he "was a criminal and should be tried as one", Indjai later played down events and President Sanha said there had been "confusion between soldiers."

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