The United States on Thursday offered a $5 million reward for the arrest of Guinea-Bissau’s former coup leader Antonio Indjai who is wanted for alleged drug trafficking on behalf of Colombia’s FARC rebels.
Indjai, then army chief of staff, staged a coup in 2012 between rounds of presidential elections in the long unstable West African nation.
US prosecutors filed charges against Indjai in 2013, saying he had agreed to store tons of cocaine for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, with the money used to buy weapons for the rebels and also to pay off officials in Guinea-Bissau.
“Indjai was seen as one of the most powerful destabilizing figures in Guinea-Bissau, operating freely throughout West Africa, using illegal proceeds to corrupt and destabilize other foreign governments and undermine the rule of law throughout the region,” a State Department statement said.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday promised that Nigeria will support Guinea-Bissau in any way possible, saying “a peaceful and prosperous Guinea-Bissau is a win for West Africa and for Africa.”
In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari joined other Heads of State and Government of Senegal, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso to celebrate the country’s 47th independence anniversary.
“I feel delighted because this is my first official visit to Guinea Bissau since my assumption of office in 2015 and because I am here to join you, brotherly people of Guinea Bissau, as you celebrate this great day with renewed hope and aspiration.
“I am truly grateful for the warm reception accorded me and my delegation, since our arrival in this city.
“As you mark your freedom as a nation “free forever’, let me seize this opportunity to salute all Bissau Guineans both at home as well as in the Diaspora, for the strides you have made as a country.Permit me to say Parabens!Congratulations!” Buhari was quoted as saying.
The President said he was proud of the support Nigeria provided to the West African country in the previous elections, adding that helped to entrench democracy.
According to him, Nigeria’s deployment of troops under the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau played an important role in maintaining peace and security.
While congratulating President Umaro Sissocco Embalo, the government and people of Guinea Bissau on the country’s independence anniversary, Buhari prayed for continued growth and prosperity.
He also expressed good wishes for greater achievements in the years ahead for the West African country.
President Buhari recalled that when Guinea Bissau declared its independence from Portugal on September 10, 1974, it brought the Portuguese colonization to an end after a protracted struggle for freedom.
“It is fitting on this august occasion to remember your forebears and to celebrate them for the sacrifices they made for you to be free.
“The highest tribute we can pay them is to build on the gains of independence.It is my sincere prayer that your country will continue on the path of national cohesion, growth and unity,” he said.
Buhari thanked President Embalo for being a good host to Nigerians resident in the country, saying “colonial boundaries will never break the bond of kinship that binds us.”
As with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that it is ill-equipped to handle a large outbreak.
Nabiam said that a “good number” of members of an interministerial coronavirus committee had caught COVID-19, suggesting that this was because they have been “at the forefront” of fighting the disease.
Health Minister Antonio Deuna told AFP that three other government ministers had been infected in addition to the premier.
Interior Minister Botche Cande has tested positive, he said, as well as Secretary of State for Public Order Mario Fambe, and Secretary of State for Regional Integration Monica Boiro.
Deuna added that several ministers and government officials were tested after the country reported its first coronavirus death on Sunday, in Senior Police Commissioner Biom Nantchongo.
A police officer assigned to the interior ministry, who requested anonymity, said that ministry staff are in close contact and often converse without wearing masks.
The man appointed interim president of Guinea-Bissau by the side beaten in the December presidential election has stepped down because of death threats, less than two days after being nominated.
“Given the death threats against me and my bodyguards, I have decided to give up the role of interim president for which I was nominated, to avoid a bloodbath in Guinea-Bissau,” said Cipriano Cassama.
“I fear for my physical integrity,” he said in a press statement, less than 48 hours after he was appointed by the country’s historic ruling party, the PAIGC.
“My life and that of my family is in danger. I have no security,” he said, adding that soldiers had come for his bodyguards on Friday.
But he said he would stay on as leader of the National Assembly.
The PAIGC has dominated political life since the former Portuguese colony won independence in 1974, and on Friday 54 of its deputies, out of the 102 parliamentary seats, appointed Cassama interim president.
Two rival contenders for the presidency have been battling to assume power since the December 29 run-off vote.
Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo 47, won 53.55 per cent of the votes in the second-round vote, according to the National Electoral Commission.
Domingos Simoes Pereira, 56, also from PAIGC, won 46.45 per cent but denounced the result as fraudulent.
Ousted premier denounces ‘attempted coup’
The Supreme Court, responding to a petition by the PAIGC, ordered a check of the vote tally sheets, but this has failed to resolve the dispute, with a row breaking out between the Supreme Court and the election panel.
On Thursday, Embalo conducted his own presidential swearing-in ceremony and moved into the presidential palace, without waiting for a final ruling from the Supreme Court.
On Friday, he appointed Nuno Gomes Nabiam as prime minister after sacking the internationally recognised incumbent Aristides Gomes.
Embalo, a former prime minister who fell out with the ruling party, styled himself as the outsider in the election campaign. He has vowed to break with the decades-long domination of the PAIGC.
But after soldiers occupied the prime minister’s office on Friday evening, according to an AFP correspondent, Gomes denounced what he described as “attempted coup”, in a statement on his Facebook page.
Guinea-Bissau has suffered chronic instability since independence, with the army often playing a major role. The country has suffered four coups and 16 attempted coups since 1974, the last one in 2012.
One of the world’s poorest countries, it is also ranked as one of the most corrupt.
Drug traffickers use it as a transit point, moving cocaine in from Latin America towards Europe, with the suspected cooperation of army officers.
The Nigerian Army has deployed 185 officers and soldiers to Guinea Bissau on a peacekeeping mission.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, announced this at an event on Friday in Kaduna State.
Buratai was represented by Major General Kelvin Aligbe at the passing out ceremony of the troops from the Martin Luther Agwai Peacekeeping Centre in Jaji.
This comes ahead of their departure to Bissau, the Guinea Bissau capital as they are expected to depart Nigeria immediately after their induction.
Aligbe warned the troops that the Nigerian Army would not tolerate any act of cowardice or professional misconduct during the operation in the West African country.
He advised the contingent to abide by the rules of engagement, exhibit braveness as professionals, and to also respect the cultural sensitivity of the people of Guinea Bissau.
The army chief’s representative reminded the soldiers of the United Nations’ zero tolerance for drug trafficking and human rights abuse.
He asked them to avoid indecent characters capable of tarnishing the image of the Nigerian Army and the nation in general.
The Commandant of the Martin Luther Agwai Peacekeeping Centre, Major General James Ataguba, also spoke at the event.
According to him, the training is in line with the Nigerian Army Headquarters’ desire to ensure that troops receive the needed robust and theatre-specific pre-deployment training prior to their induction into peacekeeping missions.
Ataguba was confident that the high level of enthusiasm and cohesion exhibited by the soldiers and officers would reflect on their operational conduct abroad.
He disclosed that the troops were deployed following a 4-week special training in preparation for their induction into the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Guinea Bissau.
President-elect of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissico Embalo, on Sunday paid a thank you visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
He praised President Buhari for his support leading to his emergence as winner in the elections and expressed his appreciation for the warm and friendly disposition of Nigeria towards him and the people of his country.
He informed President Buhari of his invitation and selection as the Guest of Honour at the Presidential inauguration coming up next month.
Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo has won presidential elections in the volatile West African state of Guinea-Bissau, picking up 53.55 percent of votes, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) announced Wednesday.
His rival Domingos Simoes Pereira, head of the country’s historic ruling party PAIGC, took 46.45 percent in Sunday’s runoff.
“I declare Umaro Sissoco Embalo to be the winner of this second round,” CNE President Jose Pedro Sambu said.
Embalo takes over from Jose Mario Vaz, who came to power in 2014 on hopes of stabilising a country notorious for coups and assassinations since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974.
But his tenure was hampered by a paralysing faceoff with parliament under the country’s semi-presidential political system.
The CNE put turnout at 72.67 percent, virtually identical to the first round of voting on November 24, which Pereira won with 40.1 percent against 28 percent for Embalo.
Embalo, 47, is a reserve brigadier general who favours wearing a red-and-white Arab keffiyeh headress.
Like Pereira, he is also a former prime minister, serving under Vaz between 2016 and 2018, before representing Madem, a party formed by PAIGC rebels.
He fought to overcome his first-round vote deficit by portraying himself as a unifier of the country and by gaining the backing of eliminated candidates, including Vaz.
Guinea-Bissau’s electoral authority on Monday rejected accusations of ballot fraud in the country’s presidential elections and promised that the vote count would be transparent.
Incumbent Jose Mario Vaz’s campaign team accused rivals of buying votes and stuffing ballot boxes in Sunday’s elections.
Vaz has repeatedly clashed with parliament over who should lead the government, causing severe political deadlock.
The impoverished and coup-ridden West African nation went to the polls in the hope of ending the impasse.
Felisberta Vaz Moura, a spokeswoman for the National Electoral Commission, denied that there had been irregularities on Sunday.
“There was no ballot stuffing” she said, adding that the election “went well” across most of the country.
“We are determined to do everything transparently,” the spokeswoman said.
Fraud was impossible because the count would take place in the presence of candidates’ representatives, she argued.
The mood was tense on voting day, which was marked by sporadic scuffles among supporters of rival political camps
Twelve candidates in total, including Vaz, are running.
Provisional election results are due by Wednesday.
A second round of voting — planned for December 29 — is considered highly likely given the number of candidates.
Guinea-Bissau has a long history of military coups and political assassinations since winning independence from Portugal in 1974. Vaz is the first president in 25 years to finish his term without being ousted or killed.
Guinea-Bissau’s presidential election ended in confusion on Sunday after the incumbent’s team accused opponents of ballot stuffing, and street scuffles erupted in the coup-prone West African state.
The vote capped four years of political chaos under President Jose Mario Vaz, who repeatedly sacked prime ministers and clashed with the parliament.
Despite earlier promising to accept the results, Vaz’s team accused his long-time rivals of electoral fraud and appeared to reject the poll.
Botche Cande, his campaign manager, told reporters that fraud had occurred “with the complicity of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde” (PAIGC).
Vaz and the PAIGC, which is the largest party in parliament, have been at loggerheads since 2015 over who should lead the government. The dispute has mired the country in political deadlock.
Cande said a member of the PAIGC’s youth wing was caught handing out rice and money in exchange for votes and was surprised “with an envelope full of ballots”.
“Under such conditions, president Vaz will not accept tainted results,” he added.
The PAIGC has yet to respond to the allegations.
Guinea-Bissau has known little but military coups and political assassinations since independence from Portugal in 1974. Vaz is the first president in 25 years to have been neither ousted nor killed.
Domingos Simoes Pereira, who heads the PAIGC and is also a presidential candidate, has promised to respect the election results. As has the country’s all-powerful military.
While voting on Sunday morning began calmly, security officials who declined to be named told AFP that fights between rival political camps had broken out in several places around the country.
Polls closed 1700 GMT and provisional results are expected in the next 72 hours.
‘Corruption In Every Ministry’
Twelve candidates — all men — sought to convince voters that they could restore stability, improve scant public services and tackle the dire economy.
Guinea-Bissau ranks 177th out of 189 in the United Nations Human Development Index, and two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 (1.8 euros) a day.
Experts argue the 1.8 million populations also have to contend with a political elite that has systematically looted the country’s wealth.
Latin American drug runners have capitalised on chronic instability to implant themselves, using Guinea-Bissau as a transit point to Europe. Senior military and government figures have been implicated in the trade.
“There is corruption in every ministry,” student Wazu Sambu, 24, told AFP before the vote, calling graft the “first cause” of the country’s problems.
Electoral frontrunners such as Vaz and Pereira promised to tackle corruption during the election campaign.
Vaz came to power in 2014 on hopes that he would restore normality after a coup two years prior.
But his presidency has been overshadowed by the paralysing conflict with the PAIGC, which has its roots in the fight to end Portuguese rule.
The crisis began in 2015 when Vaz sacked then prime minister Pereira after a falling-out, triggering a stand-off that has lasted ever since.
The PAIGC won parliamentary elections in March.
In October Vaz sacked another prime minister, which sparked fears of a return to violence when he refused to step down.
The Economic Community of West African States, which has a small peacekeeping force in Guinea-Bissau, condemned the sacking and warned of “risks of civil war”.
Vaz is now running as an independent after being expelled from the PAIGC.
Neighbouring countries fear the political deadlock could continue after the election if a non-PAIGC candidate wins, which would set him on a collision course with parliament.
An opposition supporter died Saturday as thousands clashed with police in an unauthorised rally in Guinée-Bissau, hospital sources and the victim’s family said.
Protesters staged the rally to demand a delay to a November 24 presidential election in order to allow an overhaul of the electoral register to limit potential voter fraud.
Demba Balde, 48, was in the offices of the opposition Party for Social Renovation (PRS), when “a cordon of police armed with clubs and grenade launchers prevented us from going out to join our friends in the street,” the victim’s brother Alimo Balde told AFP.
“There were scuffles and Demba was arrested by four police officers who beat him and sprayed him with (tear) gas. He fell, bloodied, and was struggling to breathe. We tried to bring him round but sadly he passed away before arrival at the hospital,” Alimo Balde said.
Several other people were injured when police fired tear gas to disperse marchers, an AFP correspondent reported.
The impoverished West African state’s Supreme Court said two weeks ago it had approved 12 candidates to contest the poll, including incumbent Jose Mario Vaz, who intends to stand again as an independent candidate.
Several candidates saw the court reject their bid to stand rejected but the international community has stated the electoral calendar should be respected.
Vaz, 62, became president in 2014 after elections billed as a new start for a country that had known only coups and turmoil since the end of Portuguese rule in 1974.
Barcelona’s 16-year-old starlet Ansu Fati was granted Spanish citizenship on Friday, a government spokeswoman said, meaning he will be able to represent Spain at international level.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s cabinet approved a request made by the justice minister to give the Guinea-Bissau-born forward Spanish citizenship during its weekly meeting, the spokeswoman said.
Fati was just seven years old when he moved in 2009 to Spain from the impoverished west African nation with his family and his startling talent meant he was invited to join Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy La Masia aged 10.
The player qualified for citizenship because he had completed the required 10 years of residency in Spain.
In August, Fati became the youngest player to score for Barcelona in La Liga and on Tuesday, the club’s youngest player to play in the Champions League.
Spain’s national coach Robert Moreno described Fati’s full debut for Barcelona last weekend as “mind-blowing” after he scored one goal and set up another in a 5-2 win over Valencia.
His first major tournament for Spain could come at the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil, which begins on October 26 and ends on November 17.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said Friday it would be a “setback” for Barca if Fati goes to the tournament, when he could miss seven games for his club.
“We will wait for him to be called up first,” said Valverde. “But it would be a setback because he is a player that is contributing a lot to us at the moment.”
Asked if he would try to persuade Fati to remain with Barcelona, Valverde said: “I don’t think he will ask me for advice about it and I don’t like giving advice very much because in football the things you know are learned by experience. Everyone has to make their own decisions.”