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Guinea-Bissau dissolves parliament following an ‘attempted coup’

A deadly skirmish marks the latest flare-up in the deep political divide between the president and ruling coalition.

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A deadly skirmish marks the latest flare-up in the deep political divide between the president and ruling coalition.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 21 Dec 2023, 11:04 pm

The president of Guinea-Bissau dissolved parliament on Monday in response to what he called an “attempted coup” that had plunged the West African nation into crisis.

Violence erupted last Thursday night, according to reports, as members of the national guard stormed a police station to free Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and Treasury Secretary Antonio Monteiro, who were being held for questioning. They exchanged fire with the special forces of the presidential guard, resulting in two deaths, before taking shelter at a nearby military camp. The tense situation ended by noon on Friday following the capture of national guard commander Colonel Victor Tchonga.

President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, who was attending COP28 in Dubai at the time, arrived back in Guinea-Bissau on Saturday. He labelled the incident an “attempted coup d’état,” adding on Monday that the national guard were complicit with “certain political interests” within the government, rendering the normal functioning of governmental institutions “impossible.” 

[See more: Food aid from China arrives Guinea-Bissau at a ‘critical’ time]

Guinea-Bissau has seen a series of coups and coup attempts since gaining independence from Portugal in 1964, including an attempt in February 2022 against Embalo. The ruling PAIGC coalition in the now-dissolved parliament was elected in its wake. 

The national guard is under the control of the interior ministry, which was dominated by the PAIGC, as were most ministries in the country. The prosecutor’s office that ordered the questioning of Seidi and Monteiro, is controlled by the president.

The two high-ranking officials were brought in regarding a withdrawal of US$10 million from state accounts, then detained again after the army removed them from national guard protection. Speaking on Monday, Embalo condemned the “passivity of the government,” saying the parliament preferred to defend executive officials suspected of corruption, rather than “fight to apply the law rigorously … and to exercise its role as a check on government actions.”

 

UPDATED: 21 Dec 2023, 11:04 pm

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