x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Mutiny in Guinea Bissau thwarted

Guinea Bissau is once again in turmoil with an apparent mutiny against the president one week after parliamentary elections.

BISSAU // Guinea Bissau is once again in turmoil with an apparent mutiny against the president one week after parliamentary elections the international community hoped would bring stability. Early yesterday morning soldiers fired at the residence of Guinea Bissau's president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, who called the neighbouring Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, to warn him.

"There was a mutiny. Guinea Bissau's president called president Wade to inform him that soldiers opened fire on his residence," Mr Wade's spokesman, El Hadji Amadou Sall, said. A source in the Guinea Bissau interior ministry said at least one of the alleged attackers was killed while several soldiers loyal to the president were wounded. "We have noted one dead from the side of the attackers and several wounded in our ranks," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We succeeded in arresting several soldiers."

A source in the general staff of the army in Guinea Bissau said the situation was under control yesterday. The area where the president lives "is entirely controlled by our troops", said the source, who would not give his name. "A group of soldiers last night tried to get hold of an arms depot in the president's residence. There was an exchange of gunfire," the official said. He added that three of the attacking soldiers were arrested, but the others made off with some weapons including rocket launchers.

The unrest follows exactly one week after parliamentary elections in the tiny West African country. Provisional official results released on Friday showed the vote was won by the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). International observers have said the vote was fair. They see the election as a crucial step in rebuilding the country a decade after it was torn apart by civil war in 1998 and 1999.

PAIGC, which has dominated the political landscape since the west African nation gained independence from Portugal in 1974, won 67 out of the 100 parliamentary seats, the national electoral commission said. Mr Vieira first ruled the country from 1980 to 1999 with support from the army and the PAIGC party. He went into exile following a civil war before returning in 2004 and being re-elected a year later. The current PAIGC leader is not on good terms with the president.

Analysts say the newly formed Republican Party for Independence and Development (PRID), created with the backing of Mr Vieira, failed in the elections, winning only three seats, as voters did not want the head of state becoming too powerful. The Party for Social Renovation of former president Kumba Yalla, who was ousted in a 2003 coup, won 28 seats. Some African diplomats speculate yesterday's attack could have been carried out by troops loyal to Mr Yalla.

Guinea Bissau languishes at the bottom of the United Nations development index. Only 37 per cent of the population has been to school and the country is battling a cholera epidemic. International drug cartels use it as a hub to transport South American cocaine to the lucrative European market. According to analysts, Guinea Bissau, which lists cashew exports as its biggest source of income, is in danger of becoming Africa's first "narcostate" controlled by drugs traffickers. * Agence France-Presse