Jan. 10 (GIN) – Malam Bacai Sanha, president of the west African nation of Guinea Bissau, has died in a hospital in France, where he was being treated for diabetes and an unknown blood disease. A member of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), he was a former aide to the “father of independence,” Amilcar Cabral.

His death has put the country on edge, with opposition parties rejecting a plan to name an interim president.

Under the constitution, the parliament chief is to serve as interim leader and organize elections, which are to be held within 90 days of the president’s death.

But on Tuesday, a coalition of opposition parties released a statement rejecting National Assembly leader Raimundo Pereira as interim president.

Mr. Sanha’s passing raises the prospect of a power struggle in the small Portuguese-speaking country which has become a major transit hub for cocaine shipped from Latin America to Europe. Neighboring countries fear a struggle over drug profits that could infect the region.