News Opinions & Features March 04, 2020 at 08:00 am

Why is a West African president stepping down just a day after being sworn in?

Nii Ntreh March 04, 2020 at 08:00 am

March 04, 2020 at 08:00 am | News, Opinions & Features

Cipriano Cassama stepped down only one day after he was sworn in as Guinea Bissau president. Photo Credit: Ghanaweb

There is confusion in Guinea-Bissau where a supposed people’s choice, Cipriano Cassama, has resigned from the presidency just one day after he was sworn in.

Cassama was elected by lawmakers in December after Guinea-Bissau’s disputed elections. He had been the country’s speaker of parliament.

But the disputed elections of 2019, a first-round in November and a run-off in December, saw former army general Umaro Cissoko Embalo, declared the winner on January 1, 2020.

Embalo had gone against Domingos Simoes Pereira of the PAIGC, the party that produced outgoing president Jose Mario Vaz.

PAIGC contested the authenticity of Embalo’s win, citing electoral irregularities. The matter went before Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court.

Even though the court is yet to decide on the matter, Embalo was sworn in as president in a Bissau hotel in February this year. The ceremony in the hotel was deemed “symbolic” and had no international diplomats save the ambassadors of Senegal and Gambia.

At the time, Guinea-Bissau’s UN representative, Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, warned that Embalo’s induction into office was inimical to peace.

Sori-Coulibaly told the UN General Assembly:

“…the legal process over the electoral outcome has yet to be resolved, in order to allow for the first-ever peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected Head of State in the country. However, given the deep mistrust between the two political camps, divisions in the Executive branch, and shifting political alliances in Parliament, the swearing in of the future President will unlikely bring about stability.” 

It is clear Embalo, who was the country’s prime minister between 2016 and 2018, is unpopular among the country’s political elite and especially in the PAIGC-dominated legislature. He has not been able to regain the trust of the PAIGC, a party that counted him as a member until 2018.

But Cassama’s decision to step down citing fears that his life might be in danger is not without merit. Embalo’s deep connections with the country’s army may have occasioned Cassama’s fears.

The army has since last week moved to claim control over certain government institutions as well as TV and radio stations.

On Monday, the regional economic group ECOWAS asked the Guinea-Bissau army to stay out of any efforts at resolving the impasse.

ECOWAS made the call while condemning the “successive investiture of two heads of state outside of legal and constitutional frameworks and the co-existence of two prime ministers.”

The body hoped that a political resolution is in the works.

Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, gained independence in 1973. The country has had nine military coups and the election of 2019 was the first time Guinea-Bissau had the opportunity at a peaceful transfer of power.

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