WARY of a possible diplomatic backlash that could carry corresponding sanctions, the government of Guinea Bissau has apologized to Nigeria over Tuesday’s incident, which saw an attack on the Nigerian embassy in Bissau by armed gangs.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mission in the country, (a non combat mission) meant to lend training support to Bissau’s armed forces in the pursuit of security sector reform, is essentially a Nigerian affair with support mainly from Senegal and the Gambia.
But authorities in that country consider the peculiar xenophobia as the handiwork of some disgruntled and apparently misguided political elements that see Nigeria’s role in trying to stabilize the troubled West African country as a huge cog in the wheel of their own political ambition.
President Goodluck Jonathan is the chairman of ECOWAS Contact Group on Guinea Bissau, charged among others with the task of stabilizing the country.
Confirming the latest development Wednesday, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed, also debunked reports of number of Nigerian casualties, stating, “one Nigerian died in the incident, contrary to media reports (not The Guardian). We have received their commiseration and investigations have already begun because the killing of one Nigerian is not something that we as a government would allow to go without justice in the new foreign policy practice.”
The minister who spoke to The Guardian late yesterday in Abuja after emerging from the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting gave insights into possible implications of the attack and the future of Nigeria-Guinea Bissau relations after the normalization of affairs.
According to him, relations have almost returned to normal. “Things have calmed down with an apology letter dispatched today (yesterday). The embassy is now well secured and our ambassador has sent a dispatch from that same building… Normal activities have resumed. It was a random mob, spontaneous activity borne out of pent up anger against Nigeria and our role in restoring civil democratic order there.”
“ECOWAS stood between vested interest in that country and rest of the world presumably has a different interest and so there is the need to maintain the precarious balance, which could easily be used to whip up sentiments against Nigeria,” he added.
The minister disclosed that the country’s President, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who was away in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj when the incident took place, is fully aware of the situation and has directed appropriate action to prevent a recurrence.
Dr. Mohammed made further disclosures: “The Guinea Bissau authorities have today confirmed to us that they are suspecting political enemies who are trying to put a wedge between Nigeria and the actualization of the overall political yearnings of the citizens…the unruly mob had political motives.
Some political groups see Nigeria as the country standing between them and an illegitimate ambition. So, there is that sentiment under the guise of anti-Nigeria demonstration. Fortunately our ambassador was not at the embassy when they struck. The mission was not the primary target. There was a group of Nigerian community who went there to meet with their welfare officer. So, the mission was a secondary target not a primary target. And the talk of looking for Nigerian kidnappers is just a rumour, a wild lie. In fact investigations have today shown that the alleged kidnapper was a citizen of Guinea Conakry, not a Nigerian.”
On the immediate future of diplomatic relations, Mohammed said, “But for this (attack), Guinea Bissau is a friendly country. It was a rude shock to everybody. Following our first line protest now lodged, we have been assured that it won’t recur. We are investigating the root cause of the problem and where necessary, appropriate punishment would be meted out.”