Guinea-Bissau president leaves for treatment

AP News
Posted: Aug 31, 2011 7:29 PM
Guinea-Bissau president leaves for treatment

The president of Guinea-Bissau left the country for what the government said Wednesday was a medical checkup, heightening speculation about the leader's health.

Spokesman Agnelo Regala said President Malam Bacai Sanha had been taken Tuesday to the capital of neighboring Senegal for treatment. He called it a "routine medical checkup."

Sanha's departure was sudden, however, and on Tuesday he missed the swearing-in ceremony of new members of his government, who chose to cancel the ceremony after his no-show. He was also scheduled to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, who is visiting the country this week.

The suddenness of his departure and the fact that it was not planned has raised questions about Sanha's illness. A diplomat who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media said the president is a diabetic and has become a regular visitor in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. Hospitals there are better equipped than in tiny Bissau, a nation of just 1.6 million people.

Sanha won the 2009 presidential election in a peaceful transition of power that marked a rare bright spot for Guinea-Bissau.

He replaced President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, who was assassinated in March 2009.