W.African army chiefs meet ahead of deployment in Mali, Bissau By TAMBA JEAN-MATTHEW and AFP | Monday, May 14   2012 at  15:54

Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff Oluseyi Olusegun Petinrin. His country together with Burkina Faso plans to deploy 1,500 troops in Guinea-Bissau. Photo | AFP 

West African army chiefs were meeting in Abuja Monday to plan the final deployment of a 3,000-strong intervention force in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

The day-long meeting would also examine plans to address the increasing security challenges in the region posed by terrorist groups in Mali and Nigeria.

The meeting comes ahead of an exhibition of military equipment by the Nigeria Armed Forces in Kaduna on May 15, 2012.

A statement said the meeting is in continuation of preparations mandated by an Ecowas heads of state summit on the two countries that was held in Dakar on May 3.

Ecowas officials said Nigeria and Burkina Faso will deploy a total of 1,500 troops in Guinea-Bissau where the military junta seems to be rescinding on an earlier agreement to allow the deployment.

Ecowas leaders pushed for the deployment to forestall recurrent mutinies that have affected Guinea-Bissau’s stability.

Second thoughts

Bissau junta leader Gen Antonio Indjai has since been hinting that the deployment would interfere in the “structure and training” of the local army.

The junta ousted elected former premier Carlos Gomes Jr. and interim president Raimundo Pereira over claims that the two men had concluded an agreement with Angola to bring in soldiers to train and restructure the Bissau army.

Following the military coup on April 12, 2012, the junta ignored demands by Ecowas and the international community to return to the barracks and adhere to constitutional rule.

On his part, Mali’s ex-junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo is opposing deployment of any foreign troops in his country arguing that Mali only needed logistical and financial support to fight the Tuareg insurgency in the north of the country.

Disagreement

On Monday he urged interim leaders to hold talks to choose a transition president after regional mediation failed to resolve a dragging political deadlock.

Sanogo told journalists at the Kati military barracks, headquarters of the former junta, that he had called for a convention led by current interim leader Diancounda Traore to choose a transition president.

Last month Sanogo agreed to the formation of an interim government headed by Traore.

However he has not taken his hand off the wheel, and is sticking to a constitutional point stating that the interim government should last only for 40 days, allowing the soldiers to lobby for a new leader to lead the country to elections.

Ecowas mediators quit the country on Saturday having failed yet again to reach agreement with the ex-junta.

Ecowas wants Traore to continue leading the interim government for a period of 12 months.