Uneasy calm prevails ahead of new elections

After the assassination of his predecessor on Monday, Guinea Bissau’s interim president, Raimundo Pereira (pictured), must maintain order and plan new elections in one of Africa’s least stable nations. FRANCE 24 reports from Bissau.


Guinea Bissau’s interim president, Raimundo Pereira, has been tasked with organising new presidential elections within just two months as he tries to maintain order in one of Africa’s poorest and least stable nations.


The former parliamentary speaker was sworn in on Tuesday following the assassination of the country’s longtime president, Joao Bernardo Vieira. Vieira was killed by soldiers at his home the day before, apparently in retaliation for the murder of army chief General Tagme Na Waie on Sunday. 


Pereira told FRANCE 24 the army denies its actions amount to a military coup and that it has assured him it will respect the government’s authority. He said he received a “communiqué from the armed forces where they say this is not a coup, which means that that they pledge allegiance to our political institutions”.


But simmering discontent within the ranks could undermine this resolve. Late salaries and inadequate living conditions have become a deep-rooted problem that leave many soldiers open to corruption.


“Arrears in soldiers’ salaries, poor living conditions at the barracks … that’s what makes them vulnerable,” says Zamora Induta, an army spokesman.


Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior has called on the international community to help maintain constitutional order in the country. “Little by little, we’re trying to get organised so that the constitution is respected,” he says. “On that score, we’re counting on the help of the international community so we can get the necessary means to organise the elections on schedule.”


Pereira acknowledges that this is no mean feat in a nation known for its political unrest. “For the past decade, no president has ever finished his term,” Pereira said on Tuesday following his swearing-in ceremony. 


Guinea-Bissau, which gained independence from Portugal in 1974, has become a notorious stopover for Latin American cocaine as it makes its way to European markets. 


An army officer said on Thursday that the late army chief had discovered a large haul of cocaine the week before his assassination.


“The general found, one week before his death, a hideaway in an army hangar with 200 kilogrammes of cocaine packed into four travel bags,” the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity. “He made a lot of effort to find out who had hidden the drug.”


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