US denounces reappointment of G/Bissau ‘drug kingpin’ Navy chief

By Kemo Cham – The US has condemned the decision by Guinea Bissau to reappoint suspected ‘drug lord’ as head of the country’s Navy.

Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto
Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto

Admiral Jose Bubu Na Tchuto was reappointment Friday to a position he held until 2008. “Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto is named head of the general staff of the navy,” AFP quoted a statement attributed to President Malam Bacai Sanha.

“Justice has been rendered to me, I’m satisfied. I’m going to work for the stability of the country, reconciliation within the armed forces and the bonding of the troops,” Bubo, an indicted coup plotter who has been accused by the US of involvement in drug trafficking, told the AFP in an interview.

The US said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, according to a BBC report late Friday evening. The US described it as a step backwards.

The new Guinea Bissau Navy chief clandestinely fled the country in 2008 and lived in Gambia, under the protection of President Yahya Jammeh, following accusations of his involvement in a failed coup plot. In March the following year, the then army Chief of Staff Batista Tagme Na Waie was killed in a bomb attack, followed by the assassination of President Joao Bernardo Vieira by soldiers, in what has been described as a revenge killing.

Accordingly, President Sanha’s decision to reappoint this controversial figure was done “on a proposition of the government (and) after listening to the chief of staff of the armed forces,” General Antonio Indjai, another figure at the center of conflict between Guinea Bissau and its international development partners.

General Indjai was the head of an army mutiny last April in which the country’s Prime Minister and head of army were detained. While Prime Minister Carlos Gomez Junior was later released, former army chief of staff, General Jose Zamora Induta, remains in custody despite increasing international condemnation of his continued detention. General Antonio Indjai’s appointment earlier caused both the US and EU to hold back much needed support for the war ravaged West African nation. Correction: General Jose Zamora Induta has since been realesed from jail.

Tchuto returned to Bissau at the end of 2009 and sought refuge at the UN compound in Bissau. The April 1st mutiny, led by his friend, General Indjai, led to his freedom. And in June, a military tribunal declared him free from responsibility in the 2008 coup attempt.

Na Tchuto is back as head of the navy, a position he used to deal in drug trafficking.