Coup, drug claims rock Guinea Bissau politics

Tuesday October 29 2019

Guinea-Bissau's President José Mário Vaz greets Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta while on a State visit in Kenya. President Vaz dissolved the country's Parliament on Monday prompting allegations of coup plots, drug trafficking and voter roll manipulation among the political elite ahead of elections set for November 24. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP.


A blame game has ensued among Guinea Bissau's political elites after President Jose Mario Vaz dissolved the government led by Prime Minister Aristide Gomez on Monday.

It was the third government to be dissolved in two years with Mr Gomes latest administration lasting only five months.

The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) has accused President Vaz of trying to sway the country's politics in his favour ahead of elections on November 24, 2019.

President Vaz, now in charge on a caretaker basis after his reign ended on June 23, is one of the 12 candidates approved by the Supreme Court two weeks ago to contest in the elections.

President Vaz, who will run as an independent for a second term, said he suspended the government because of a serious political crisis that had hindered the functioning of state institutions.

“The country’s is in a serious political crisis and the normal performance of institution is at stake,” President Vaz said in a decree prompting security to be heightened in the capital Bissau on Tuesday.


He also summoned parties with parliamentary seats and members of the state council for talks to analyse the country’s situation” but no dates were given.

Disputed voters

Protests have rocked the country as the opposition demands delaying the elections to allow for reforms that would level the ground for all players.

“We want an independent review of the voters database because the government has introduced more 25,000 voters who were not in the March legislative polls,” Joaquim Batista Correia, a spokesman of the protest organisers, said.

The National Electoral Commission (CNE) has said it will only use the March legislative polls database leaving out the 25,000 voters but its impartiality is undermined by lack broad representation. 

Some political parties have threatened to boycott the elections if their grievances are not met.

Mr Gomez, however, said there were no new names in the roll of voters.

"The government has not introduced 25,000 voters in the database but has only handed to CNE plenary 5,000 electoral cards,” he said.

On October 20, Mr Gomes accused former PM Mr Umaro Sissoco Embaló, the MADEM-GM candidate and the party leader Braima Camará of plotting a coup to be staged before the elections.

The premier said he would table the evidence 'in due time' but Mr Embalo has denied the allegations.

"The PM that has not respected the constitution and has not fulfilled the legal deadline to submit the government’s programme and budget,” Mr Camara countered.

Ecowas force

The opposition led by United People Assembly - Guinea Bissau Democratic Party (APU-PDGB) also wants the withdrawal of Economic Community of West African States military personnel from the country.

ECOWAS has said its military force ECOMIB will remain in Guinea Bissau and be strengthened ahead of the presidential polls. 

Over the weekend, one person was killed and two injured as Guinea Bissau police violently dispersed demonstrations organised by opposition parties and civil society organisations.

President Vaz criticised the protests saying they were aggravating discord and mistrust during the preparation and run-up to the presidential elections.

Electoral campaigns are scheduled to start on November and take three weeks, with a presidential run-off due on December 29 if necessary.

The government had declared illegal the demonstrations along a key avenue linking the city center to the airport, citing security and short notice which it said should be at least four days.

Supporters of the Social Renovation Party (PRS), Democratic Movement for Alternative (MADEM-G15) and APU-PDGB, a government ally, largely defied the government's orders.

Coup, drug trade claims

Mr Joaquim Batista Correia, a spokesman of the protest organisers, said they were demanding legality returns in the western African country.

“We hold the opinion that this electoral process is organized in a crooked way. When it is so the result will be crooked too. We are fed up of these illegalities,” Mr Correia told German radio DW.

he also accused the government of involvement in drug trafficking to finance the electoral process.

“It is not possible that a government involved in drug trafficking can organise legitimate elections,” Correia said.

PAIGC won legislative elections on March 10 with 47 of 102 parliamentary seats and formed a coalition government with APU-PDGB

No government was formed for more than three months after President Vaz declined the appointment by the party of Domingos Simões Pereira as Prime Minister.

The President had sacked Pereira, the ruling party's candidate in the November poll as his prime minister in August 2015 triggering the crisis that has since beset the country of two million people.

The party later picked Mr Gomez who was not invited by President Vaz to form a government until his term had expired prompting Ecowas to negotiate for a caretaker government which was formed in July.

President Vaz became the first president since 1994 to complete his term in a country hitherto destabilised by coups.

More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line, according toWorld Bank data.