He is a decorated fighter at the rank of General in the Guinea-Bissau military commonly known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People or FARP.
Gen Antonio Indjai rose to prominence during the civil war in the 1990s and led a coup in the West African country in 2012.
It should be noted that Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, has a history of coups and no elected leader has served a full term since independence from Portugal in 1974.
On April 12, 2012, he overthrew the elected government in a coup, citing as the reason the presence of the Angolan military.
The 270 soldiers from Angola had originally arrived to help reform Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces, which stand accused of involvement in a cocaine transshipment trade that sees an estimated 30 tons of the illegal substance ending up in Europe every year.
The United States has labelled Gen. Antonio Indjai as “drug kingpin” and has placed a bounty on his head. In mid-August, US justice promised $ 5 million to anyone who will allow the arrest of this former Bissau-Guinean chief of staff.
He has long been one of the most feared men in the country. And seven years after his retirement, his influence hardly seems to have waned: inquiring about General António Indjai still arouses apprehension and many embarrassed silences. When it comes to shedding light on the grey areas of his career, it’s hard to find any official willing to speak with his face uncovered.
The US wanted notice issued against him by Washington, which considers him a drug lord, has of course not helped. António Indjai’s relatives remember the trap set on the high seas in 2013 by the US Anti-Drugs Agency (DEA) for Bubo Na Tchuto, a former almighty head of the Navy, also accused by the courts of having reigned master of the cocaine trafficking plaguing the country.
Targeted the same year by a similar lure, Indjai will not be taken in, but the case will sharpen his caution.
Chatting with Gen. António Indjai in 2012 After the Coup
If Carlos Gomes Jr. were to come back, would the former Prime Minister be safe?
We would not be responsible for Carlos Gomes Jr.’s security on his return. If he were to come back, he’d be responsible for his own security. I repeat, if he were to come back, whatever happened to him would be his own or the U.N.’s responsibility.
Editors note: Carlos Domingos Gomes Júnior is a Bissau-Guinean politician who was Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau from 10 May 2004 to 2 November 2005, and again from 25 December 2008 to 10 February 2012.
I have read a lot about the April 12 coup but would like to hear about it from you. Why did you organize a coup?
We didn’t organize a coup, we organized a countercoup. Do you know the origins of this coup? Angola and Carlos Gomes Jr. Would America allow a foreign army with heavier weapons than them inside the United States? We said [to Angola], Either you give these weapons to us, or, if not, leave the country and we will continue with cooperation between our two countries in the future.
They said no, and only reinforced their own weaponry. I’m asking you, in light of this, what is the origin of the coup? Angola and Carlos Gomes Jr.
If we hadn’t organized a coup before them, they’d have reinforced their troops here and arrested us. The intention of Carlos Gomes Jr. was to have international forces to add to the Angolan troops, which meant they could have struck us down at any time.
I drew [Carlos Gomes Jr.’s] attention to this more than 20 times — I said not to bring Angolan troops here. This is why we organized a coup. I didn’t ask that he remove the Angolan troops, just that he solve the problem of the weapons.
I’ve heard people in the street say that the coup represents a failure of democracy.
Of course I agree the coup is a failure of democracy. A coup has no place in a democracy. But if you have no other means of escape, you have to look for a solution.
For example, if I took you and locked you in this room with my weapon and I were to shoot, how would you react? You’d want to escape, and you might break down the door — you’d take any means that you could in order to get out.
We removed just two people — the Prime Minister and the President. Where else does that exist, that a coup d’état happens and no one dies? Not one. Since they didn’t want to take our advice, we said leave or you will be dismissed.