Guinea-Bissau: Heavy Gunfire Heard Near Presidential Palace

Armed men surrounded the presidential palace as West African bloc ECOWAS decried what it said is a coup attempt.

Guinea-Bissau: Heavy Gunfire Heard Near Presidential Palace
Several shots were heard near the Guinea-Bissau government palace, and the military has set up a security perimeter around the area and is not allowing civilians to pass



Heavy gunfire has been heard in in the capital of Guinea Bissau near the seat of the government, according to to media reports. Armed men surrounded the government palace on Tuesday, where the President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were believed to have gone to attend a cabinet meeting. The


state broadcaster also reported that the shooting has also damaged the government palace, which is located also close to the airport, and that invaders are holding government officials. Reports from the Dakar in the neighbouring Senegal, said it was unclear whether the gunfire was the presidential guards trying to protect the



president, or if there was an attack on the government palace. Portugal’s foreign affairs minister said that Embalo was at his official residence, but it was not clear if the attack on the government was over. The latest information I have is positive given that the president is already at his palace, at his official residence but we still



don’t know if the attack is over, Augusto Santos Silva also said in an interview with Portuguese broadcaster. 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, according to the media. If confirmed, this would be the



second coup in West Africa in as many weeks after the military seized power in the Burkina Faso last week. Meanwhile, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS condemned what it described as an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau, which has also a history of political instability. ECOWAS is following with great concern the



evolution of the situation in Guinea-Bissau…where military gunfire is taking place around the government palace, the organisation said. ECOWAS condemns this attempted coup and holds the military responsible for the safety of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and members of his government. For its part, the African



Union said it was very concerned about what it also described as an attempted coup and called on the military to free detained government members. The President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is following with grave concern the situation in Guinea-Bissau, consisting of an attempted coup against the country’s government, the AU said in a



statement. He calls on the military to return to their barracks without delay and to protect the physical safety of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and members of his government and to immediately free those of them who are in detention, it said. The West African nation has suffered four military putsches since gaining independence in 1974, most recently in 2012.


Deeply concerned

UN chief Antonio Guterres also called for an immediate end to the fighting. The Secretary General is deeply concerned with the news of heavy fighting in Bissau, said a statement on Tuesday. Guterres called for an immediate end to the fighting and for full respect of the country’s democratic institutions. 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 also declared himself president without waiting for the outcome of his petition to the Supreme Court. Since gaining



independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced four coup d’etats and more than a dozen attempted coups. Grievances amongst the military have been brewing for a long time in Guinea- Bissau. There is a lot of resentment from the military towards the government. The small nation of about 1.5



million people has long been beset by corruption and drug trafficking. In the 2000s, it became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe as traffickers profited from corruption and weak law enforcement. Three countries in West Africa Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have experienced military



takeovers in less than 18 months. If this is a coup, this is a big blow to the region, Haque said. It seems that what has happened in Mali and its apparent success, has informed other militaries in the region that they can take up power, he added. The region’s mounting instability is due to be discussed on Thursday at a



summit of the ECOWAS. Journalists said that Guinea-Bissau has been a fragile state for decades. In the last 10 years the benefits of democracy have been trickled down, corruption is still endemic, unemployment is problematic, and quality of education dubious. The country’s population has also increased dramatically



over the years, leaving many youths unemployed and uneducated. All of this has been building up frustration. Particularly where we also have leadership that doesn’t speak the language and behave in a way that reflects the aspirations and hopes [of the youth], Journalist said.