Fears of another coup in West Africa as gunfire is heard near gov’t palace in Guinea-Bissau

Mildred Europa Taylor February 01, 2022
Umaro Sissoco Embaló is president of Guinea-Bissau. GETTY IMAGES

Gunfire has been heard near the presidential palace in the capital of Guinea-Bissau, media reports say. President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, who came to power in 2020 after a disputed election, was holding a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace when gunfire was heard.

The state broadcaster reported that the shooting has damaged the presidential palace. Soldiers have reportedly detained the president and his ministers. Local markets have also been closed while military vehicles have been seen driving through the streets, according to AFP news agency.

Since it gained independence from Portugal 48 years ago, Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, has witnessed at least four successful coups and more than a dozen attempted takeovers, with the last being in 2012.

If confirmed, this would be the fifth military coup in the past year in the region of West and Central Africa. A coup occurred in Burkina Faso just last week.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday condemned what it described as an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau. “ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the situation in Guinea-Bissau…where military gunfire is taking place around the government palace,” it said.

“ECOWAS condemns this attempted coup and holds the military responsible for the safety of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and members of his government.”

The African Union also released a statement asking the military to free government members who have been detained. “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.

“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 added.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was deeply concerned and called “for an immediate end to the fighting and for full respect of the country’s democratic institutions”.

Emmanuel Kwesi Aning of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre told Al Jazeera that Guinea-Bissau has been a “fragile state” for years.

“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,” he said.

According to him, the above issues have been “building up frustration … Particularly where we have leadership that doesn’t speak the language and behave in a way that reflects the aspirations and hopes [of the youth].”

In the last 18 months, there have been coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. If this coup is confirmed, it will be a big blow to West Africa, according to analysts who believe that the success of the coup in Mali has inspired militaries in other countries to take power.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 1, 2022


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