On the 7th July the United States reopened a diplomatic office in Bissau in Guineau Bissau. Washington closed its diplomatic mission in Bissau more than 10 years ago, shortly before a brief civil war erupted.
The re-opening is claimed to be related to the rise in narco - trafficking via West Africa of South American drugs from Colombia, Venezueala and other nearby countries. Opium and heroin from Afghanistan is also reaching North America by this route.The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC )knows of more than 50 seizures of drugs in the past two years in Guinea Bissau alone.
Diplomatic relations with the the former Portuguese colony were conducted via the neighbouring Sengalese Embassy. Janice Jacobs, the United States ambassador to Senegal, in opening the office said ,"“Reopening this office paves the way for the reopening of a U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau,” Claud Young, a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Dakar, Senegal said opening the diplomatic liaison office was part of a five-year program to return to a full diplomatic presence in Guinea-Bissau.(Dakar was the scene of action (The purpose of 'Operation Menace' was to persuade the Governor General that French West Africa should join de Gaulle) for 3 days in late September 1940 when a force of Free French led by Gen. de Gaulle and UK ships attempted unsucessfully to take Dakar from the Vichy Government and their newly appointed Governor General Pierre Boisson)it was a defeat upon which historians have generally drawn a discreet veil.)The force was composed of 31 British and 4 French vessels, 2,400 French and 4,270 British troops. In retribution the French opearting out of Toulon bombed Gibraltar.
Senegal was the he only sub-Saharan nation to send a contingent to participate in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The First Lady Mrs Bush visited Senegal on a 4 nation trip to West Africa at the end of June 2007.
Washington challenged the country’s government last month over its firing of a police chief who won international praise for tackling Latin American cocaine traffickers.
An imopoverished country of some 1.5 million existing on cashew nuts and fishing in it's island crowded littoral they are burdened with debt,high level corruption, violence and many public workers have not been paid for months.
7 smugglers , men from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela and a French woman were arrested in Senegal(NYT) last week after finding more than 2,400 kilograms (1 tonne) (street value US$200 Mn.)the biggest seizure of it's kind in West Africa. Along with the drugs and men airline tickets from tickets from Rio de Janeiro to Bissau were also found.
This followed a large seizure the previous week - more seriously a haul of 600kg of cocaine was seized in Bissau last September but mysteriously vanished after being stored in the treasury.
Former Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister Aristides Gomes said he had ordered the drugs to be burnt , However The Magistrates' Union said the correct procedures had not been followed and expressed concerns about the government's alleged role in the drugs' trade.
Seven top officials, including former ministers and police commanders, have been arrested but remain uncharged.
There have recently been large cocaine seizures in Ghana and Sierra Leone. 49 kg of cocaine was intercepted by Burkina Faso’s authorities on the border with Mali in April 2007. Very often this is associated with people trafficking into Europe as well. In May 2007, Mauritanian authorities discovered 630 kg of cocaine in an abandoned aeroplane near the airport in Nouadhibou, 500 km north of the capital Nouakchott.
**** There is a fascinating eye witness account of the debacle at Dakar by a young Australian seaman ...well worth reading.