G.Bissau leader invokes the Virgin Mary in Ecowas power duel

Tuesday November 12 2019

Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Aristides Gomes (C) chairs the Council of Ministers at the Government Palace in Bissau on November 6, 2019. West African leaders reiterated their support for Mr Gomes on November 3 after he was sacked by the country's interim president Jose Mario Vaz only three weeks to the presidential election on November 24. PHOTO | AFP


Guinea Bissau President José Mário Vaz remains defiant in the face of condemnation from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) over his meddling in government that has caused a political crisis ahead of the country's presidential elections on November 24.

On the campaign trail over the weekend President Vaz declared he was not afraid of anyone and lampooned the Ecowas recognised Prime Minister Aristides Gomes of asking the 15-member economic bloc to sanction him.

Before quickly turning spiritual, he said he wanted to "develop the country" during his second term in office.

“We hand our head to Virgin Mary and to Guinea Bissau people,” he said, during a campaign rally in the capital Bissau on Sunday.

President Vaz comments appeared a response to the Ecowas extraordinary summit of heads of state and government in Niamey, Niger which on Friday said it recognised Mr Gomes government.

The President had days earlier sacked Mr Gomes' government and installed his ally in the elections Faustino Imbali as prime minister.


Mr Imbali resigned the same day after the summit gave his government 48 hours to leave office in favour of Gomes, who became Prime minister on the strength of legislative elections held on March 10 2019.

“The authority reaffirms its full support to the prime minster Aristides Gomes and to his government and urges them to continue to carry out their duties, in particular the efforts to prepare the November 24 elections.”
President José Mário has not so far commented on Faustino Imbali resignation but the country is now effectively being run by two governments, one under Vaz and the other under Gomes.
Mr Imbali's political formation - Social Renovation Party - criticised Ecowas, which has a stabilisation force in the country, for not recognising his government.
“Ecowas usurped Guinea Bissau citizens powers and imposed that other aspects of our parliamentary and semi presidential democracies have to be suspended.

The constitution violation aims at promoting an ill-formed and informed Ecowas objective,” DW Radio quoted the resignation letter reading.

Election materials

Ecowas said it would deploy an electoral observer team in Guinea Bissau and disburse $1.5 million to support the electoral process.

Over the weekend, the country’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) received ballot papers and other polls equipment from Portugal where they were procured from.
“With the reception of this material, I want to assure all that the logistics for the elections is guaranteed”, CNE head Mr José Pedro Sambú said.
Lisbon ambassador to Guinea Bissau António Alves de Carvalho called for respect of the constitutional order and the electoral calendar when he handed over the stationery.
“Presidential elections must in effect take place on November 24 ending the electoral cycle this year”, de Carvallo said.

Ecowas threatened sanctions against those who undermined democracy and elections tasking the heads of state of Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria "to convey" the decisions to President Vaz.

The leaders are expected in Guinea Bissau on November 16 and will be preceded by a mission of Ecowas chiefs of defence, diplomats said.

A Portuguese Speaking Countries Block (CPLP) observation mission headed by Mozambique former foreign affairs minister Oldemiro Balói will also arrive in Guinea Bissau on November 16 to monitor polls.

“The most important thing for CPLP now is that all safeguards are in place for presidential elections to be held normally” CPLP executive secretary Mr Francisco Ribeiro Telles said.