Soldiers have taken control of much of the capital of the Guinea-Bissau in what appears to be a coup attempt.
Heavy gunfire was been heard in the city of Bissau and the residence of outgoing President Carlos Gomes was reportedly attacked.
Troops have also taken control of the national radio station and the ruling party’s headquarters.
I have a strong feeling that this latest coup attempt (just like the murder of President Vieira and Gen. Waie and last December’s coup attempt) is related to the drug trade. Since mid last year the country has witnessed multiple coup attempts, despite a brief flirtation with democratic rule under the late President Sanha.
Guinea-Bissau is among West Africa’s budding narco states which have, in the last decade or so, become a major transit point of drugs from Latin America destined for European markets.
Bacai Sanha, President of Guinea-Bissau has died in a Paris hospital.
Mr. Sanha was elected president in July 2009 following the assassination of former president Joao Bernardo Vieira by elements in the military.
Guinea Bissau has in the recent past experienced drug-trafficking-related political instability. Mr. Vieira’s murder was linked to a dispute between him and his military chief over drug connections. Last month’s arrest of the head of the navy on suspicion of plotting a coup was also drug related. It remains unclear whether Mr. Sanha’s succession will follow constitutional channels or whether the military will take over.
After killing their president earlier this year, the military strongmen in Guinea Bissau seem bent on eliminating his surviving allies. The BBC reports that the tiny West African nation’s army killed a number of suspected coup plotters, including Baciro Dabo, a minister and former close ally of the late president Vieira. Mr. Dabo had expressed interest in running for president in elections that are due later this month. The elections will now more than likely not take place.
The latest episode of violence just illustrates how much out of touch the army is with reality. The impoverished West African nation of 1.5 million has seen slow recovery from a disastrous civil war in the late 1990s. With a per capita GDP of $ 213 ($ 600, PPP) it still has a long way to go. It is heavily dependent on farming and fishing, with cashews being the major crop. Political instability and insecurity are only going to make matters worse. And perhaps the saddest part of all this is that no one beyond the Guinean borders cares. ECOWAS will not help, the UN has its gaze fixed on the many conflicts in Central Africa and the AU, under the leadership of Muamar Gaddafi, would rather not be bothered – beyond issuing statements.
Raimundo Pereira, former speaker of Guinea-Bissau, has been sworn in as the new president of the West African nation. As speaker, Mr. Pereira was next in line to succeed the president, who was assassinated on Monday by suspected agents of the military. President Vieira was assassinated only hours after the army chief of staff, his political rival, was also killed by a bomb in his office.
The new president urged the international community not to forget Guinea Bissau. The impoverished nation of 1.5 million has seen slow recovery from a disastrous civil war in the late 1990s. With a per capita GDP of $ 213 ($ 600, PPP) it still has a long way to go. It is heavily dependent on farming and fishing, with cashews being the major crop. One can only hope that the new president will offer some change. I doubt this though. After the circumstances of former president Vieira’s death, it is obvious that president Pereira will be beholden to the generals in the military, at least until elections are held in 60 days – if they ever get held.
Joao Bernado Vieira, President of Guinea-Bissau, was shot dead today as he tried to flee his house. Earlier in the day the army chief of staff, Gen. Tagme na Waie, was killed by in explosion in his office at the army HQ. It is suspected that it is Tagme loyalists that killed the president. The two – the president and his chief of staff – had recently seen a deterioration in their relations. The Guinean (Bissau) army however claims that this is not a coup. It remains unclear whether the civilian government or the army is in charge right now.
The African Union has condemned both killings, stating that the latest turn of events is a setback to the peace building initiative in the poverty-stricken West African country (per capita nominal GDP is at a mere $213). Vieira himself came to power in a coup in 1980. He won the country’s first multiparty elections in 1994 before being ousted in a coup in 1999 and then being re-elected in 2005. In 1986 he executed his own vice president after a coup attempt.
This is the third coup in West Africa in the last one year. Mauritania and Guinea witnessed coups in August and December of last year respectively. It is a shame that in 2009 West African Generals still see coups as acceptable means of power transfer. The region has seen the most coups on the continent of Africa. Since 1955 there have been 49 successful military led coups among the 16 West African States. Unsuccessful plots approach 100. A lot of blame also goes to authoritarian governments in this region that have denied their citizens of any means of loyal opposition. To paraphrase that old saying, those that live by the gun eventually do die by the gun.