Guinea-Bissau shooting evokes fears of another coup in Africa

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – A shooting incident near the presidential palace in the tiny West African nation of Guinea-Bissau signals that a coup is underway, the main regional organization said on Tuesday – the latest news in a series of military takeover attempts across the region, most of which have been successful.

Guinea-Bissau, an impoverished coastal state bordering Senegal and Guinea, is all too familiar with military takeovers. The country has weathered at least four successful coups and more than a dozen annexation attempts, finally in 2012since it gained independence from Portugal 48 years ago.

President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, who came to power in 2020 after controversial elections the previous year, was holding a cabinet meeting at the presidency around noon on Tuesday when the first shots rang out. , the news agency said.

Last week, in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, soldiers take power and announced the suspension of the Constitution. In the past year and a half alone, there have been military takeovers in Mali, Guinea and Chad. Farther east, in Sudan, the army also took control three months ago.

The sight of weary men wresting control with such frequency, often in neighboring countries, has raised fears of “coup contagion” across a vast swath of Europe. Sub-Saharan Africa. On Monday, the African Union announced that it has Suspension of Burkina Fasomembership until constitutional order was restored in the country.

While many of the most recent military takeovers have been fueled by popular anger at the failure of elected governments to stem the rise of violence by Islamist and other armed groups. In the Sahel, a large area south of the Sahara, the prospect of a coup in Guinea-Bissau is less of a surprise.

In one statement Noting its “great concern” about the shooting, the Economic Community of West African States, the region’s main body, condemned what it called a “coup plot” in Guinea-Bissau , and the warning will hold the military accountable for the safety of President Embaló and high-ranking government officials.

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, speak He was “deeply concerned by news of heavy fighting” in the capital Bissau and called for “an immediate end to hostilities and full respect for the country’s democratic institutions”.

Reached by phone, some residents reported growing dissatisfaction with the gunfire, although in parts of Bissau many people continued their normal activities.

Mamadu Jao said he was at a market around midday when news of the shooting spread by word of mouth. “Right now, everything is fine here and everyone is doing their business,” he said. “We’ve heard two people have died but we don’t know more.”

Mady Camara contributed reporting from Dakar.

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