Jul 7, 2010 | Commentary

Responsible for an attempted mutiny on April 1 2010, General Antonio Indjai has been made Chief of Staff of the armed forces in Guinea-Bissau. This appointment comes despite international protests, including warnings by the United States, which urged that the new army chief not be involved in any way with the mutinous events of April 1. In contravening the will of the international community, Guinea-Bissau has put its security sector reform (SSR) program in serious jeopardy.

The European Union is the primary backer of the SSR project in Guinea-Bissau. Having already suspended its mission to help reform Guinea-Bissau’s military until the government offered an explanation for the mutiny, the EU is now reassessing aid to the country and is “review[ing] its ‘overall engagement’ in Guinea-Bissau.” This puts at risk the US$156 million over five years in aid allocated to Guinea-Bissau. General Indjai’s appointment has also resulted in the United States withdrawing its support of the SSR process in Guinea-Bissau, which includes military aid. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also expressed deep concern over this appointment.

In a country beset by political instability and corruption, the need for successful SSR is urgent. Not only is the security of the citizenry continuously at risk, but the security of the region as a whole is being undermined by drug cartels that have taken advantage of the instability in Guinea-Bissau to utilize it as a major trafficking hub between Latin America and Europe. International support is critical for SSR to succeed, especially considering that Guinea-Bissau is one of the world’s five poorest countries. However, the results of General Indjai’s appointment of lead one to seriously consider whether current SSR efforts in the country have been dealt a death blow.