Reports from Guinea-Bissau’s suggest that heavy gunfire in the capital city is due to an attempted coup, according to the country’s President Umaro Sissoco Embaló.
The president was away when the unrest occurred, attending the UN’s COP28 climate conference in Dubai, but he has since promised “serious consequences” for the perpetrators. This marks the second foiled coup against his leadership in under two years.
The attempt took place late on Thursday evening, carrying into Friday mid-morning – a group of soldiers tried to free a detained minister and a senior state official. Members of the National Guard ultimately took the officials, seeking refuge in barracks south of the city, before special forces intervened following failed negotiations, leading to an exchange of gunfire. Later, calm was restored.
The arrests of Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and António Monteiro were part of an investigation into the alleged irregular withdrawal of $10m (£8m) of state funds from 11 companies. Mr. Seidi defended the payments as legal, and the opposition party leader claimed company owners were close to leaders of the governing coalition.
Local media reported that after initial questioning, Mr. Seidi and Mr. Monteiro were arrested to ensure the investigations’ integrity. National guard soldiers later freed the officials and took them to an unknown location. The next morning, forces deployed by Ecowas patrolled the streets.
President Embaló previously said he survived a coup attempt after heavy gunfire for five hours in February of the previous year. The motives behind these attempts are still unclear. Talking to the BBC’s Newshour programme, journalist Alberto Dabo linked the recent events to what happened last year, connecting them to the army’s demand for the release of high-ranking officials involved in the earlier attempt.
Guinea-Bissau has seen numerous coups and attempted coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974 and continues to face internal turmoil, often linked to drug trafficking. These events highlight the tense political climate in the country.