News

Heavy Shooting Near Guinea-Bissau Government House

Sustained gunfire was heard on Tuesday near the seat of government in Bissau, the capital of the small coup-prone West African state of Guinea-Bissau, AFP reporters said.

Heavily-armed men surrounded the Palace of Government, where President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have gone to attend a cabinet meeting.

The Palace of Government is located on the edge of the capital close to the airport.

People were seen fleeing the area, the local markets were closed and banks shut their doors, while military vehicles laden with troops drove through the streets.

The former Portuguese colony is an impoverished coastal state of around two million people lying south of Senegal.

It has suffered four military putsches since gaining independence in 1974, most recently in 2012.

In 2014, the country vowed to return to constitutional government, but there has been little stability since then and the armed forces wield substantial clout.

Embalo, a 49-year-old reserve brigadier general and former prime minister, took office in February 2020 after winning a second-round runoff election that followed four years of political infighting under the country’s semi-presidential system. 

He was a candidate for a party called Madem, comprised of rebels from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) which had led Guinea-Bissau to independence. 

His chief opponent, PAIGC candidate Domingos Simoes Pereira, bitterly contested the result but Embalo declared himself president without waiting for the outcome of his petition to the Supreme Court.

Late last year, the armed forces chief said members of the military had been preparing to launch a coup while the president was on a working trip to Brazil.

Troops had been offering bribes to other soldiers “in order to subvert the established constitutional order”, armed forces head General Biague Na Ntam said on October 14.

His account was denied the following day by the government spokesman.

In addition to volatility, Guinea-Bissau also struggles with a reputation for corruption and drug smuggling.

Its porous coastline and cultural ties have made it an important stop on the Africa trafficking route. In 2019, nearly two tonnes of cocaine were seized.

Three countries in West Africa — Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso — have experienced military takeovers in less than 18 months.

The region’s mounting instability is due to discussed on Thursday at a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

afp

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