Abuja – West African regional powerhouse Nigeria said on Monday it will deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau this week to shore up security after a coup in the former Portuguese colony last month.

Nigeria remains “committed” to pledges to deploy troops to both Guinea-Bissau and Mali following coups in both countries, Nigerian Defence Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed said at a meeting of regional defence chiefs.

“Our troops are ready,” he said.

“In Guinea-Bissau, we will deploy before the 18th of this month,” Mohammed said, without specifying the size of the force being sent to the country after the government was overthrown on 12 April.

“In Mali, we await the signals from [regional grouping] Ecowas. We have all our forces and equipment ready for airlift,” said Mohammed.

The closed-door meeting ended late Monday without a formal communiqué.

“It discussed details of the deployment of troops to Guinea Bissau. But higher Ecowas authorities will still have to give a go-ahead before the deployment can take place,” an official with the Economic Community of West African States told AFP.

Transition government

“In the case of Mali, the defence chiefs said authorities in that country have to write Ecowas a formal letter to request for military assistance before troops can be deployed there,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

West African leaders had said earlier this month at a meeting in Dakar that they would send regional troops immediately Bamako made a request.

Defence chiefs from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Liberia and Gambia attended the one-day meeting while other Ecowas member states sent representatives, officials said.

West African leaders decided at a summit in Abidjan on 26 April to deploy between 500 and 600 troops from at least four countries – Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast and Senegal – to Guinea-Bissau following the coup.

Guinea-Bissau coup leaders and west African mediators agreed last Friday that parliamentary speaker Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo will lead a transition government, ruling out the return of the ousted team.

Last month’s summit also decided to deploy a regional force to Mali where a coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure on 22 March.

Mohammed said regional instability caused by internal conflicts in some member states was “a severe impediment to achieving the desired political and economic development in our sub-region”.

Developments in Guinea-Bissau and Mali were cause for concern about the long-term survival of democracy in the region, Mohammed said.

The situation in Mali, especially a rebellion in the north and the emergence of several armed groups there, threatened to bring “grave danger to our sub-region,” he warned.

Political chaos

“If not decisively tackled, the development is capable of destabilising the entire region.”

Amid the political chaos in Bamako, the north of Mali remains in the grip of rebel groups such as Tuareg separatists and Islamists who seized the vast desert area in the coup aftermath.

Mali coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo agreed last month to a deal brokered by Ecowas that led to a new transitional government.

Although he has formally quit power, he remains an influential political force and has refused Ecowas demands for elections within 12 months.

In a separate statement, the Ecowas Commission voiced deep concern over “worrying statements and actions” by Mali’s former junta in recent days.

It urged them to reaffirm their commitment to the transitional accord or face the “immediate reinstatement of targeted sanctions” imposed on 02 April but lifted four days later.