, PARIS, Jan 9 – The leader of the troubled West African republic of Guinea-Bissau, President Malam Bacai Sanha, has died in a French hospital in Paris, a French government official said on Monday.
The 64-year-old was admitted to the Val de Grace military hospital late last month, he said. The nature of his illness has not been made public, but the official said he had “been in a coma for a while”.
The presidency in Bissau confirmed the leader’s death.
Guinea-Bissau is an unstable nation where the corrupt state and army are intertwined and cocaine cartels wield much influence. Last month two military units clashed, triggering fears of a coup d’etat.
Over the past 17 years, none of the president’s elected in Guinea-Bissau have been able to finish their five-year terms, as all three of Bacai Sanha’s predecessors fell prey to coups or assassinations.
In December, a newspaper in Guinea-Bissau’s northern neighbour Senegal announced Bacai Sanha’s death. His government denied the report, but his wife Mariam told AFP that the president was “in a critical state”.
He was elected in 2009, but has since been hospitalised several times in both Senegal and Paris.
The opposition had demanded a public debate about the state of his health, fearing that a power vacuum could lead to unrest in a country that has been wracked by instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974.
The latest fighting dated to December 26, when mutinous soldiers attacked government buildings. The regime branded this an attempted coup, but the rebels said they were simply looking for a pay rise.
Outside West Africa, Guinea-Bissau is best known as a notorious stop-off on the route bringing cocaine from Latin America to Europe.