Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guinea-Bissau Leader Survives Attempted Coup

Guinea-Bissau president survives post-poll attack
11/24/2008 12:04 AM | Reuters

BISSAU-- Guinea-Bissau's President Joao Bernardo 'Nino' Vieira survived an attack by renegade soldiers on his home early on Sunday, one week after parliamentary elections were held in the poor, volatile West African state.

The machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade attack against Vieira's residence betrayed persisting political and military tensions in the former Portuguese colony, which has suffered a string of coups and uprisings since independence in 1974.

Foreign donors say the small cashew nut-exporting nation urgently needs political stability to be able to resist the threat of powerful Latin American cocaine cartels which have been using its territory to smuggle tonnes of drugs to Europe.

"There was a military attack on the president"s residence," Shola Omoregie, the UN Secretary-General's representative in Guinea-Bissau, said.

"The president and his family are OK," he added, after visiting Vieira at his damaged home. "The situation is very serious," Omoregie added. Interior Minister Cipriano Cassama said one presidential bodyguard was killed in the assault and another wounded.

Armed troops sealed off the presidential residence on Sunday, but the rest of the dilapidated seaside capital was otherwise quiet.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai said the attackers were soldiers. "Five have been arrested and the situation is under control," he told reporters.

Coup attempted in Guinea-Bissau

Monday, 24 November, 2008
World News Australia

Mutinous soldiers fought their way into the fortified residence of Guinea-Bissau's president in a three-hour gunbattle on Sunday but did not hurt the head of state, a top official says.

The soldiers attacked President Joao Bernardo Vieira's home shortly after midnight, killing at least one guard and injuring several others before security forces were able to push them back, Interior Minister Cipriano Cassama said.

The attackers did not reach the room where Vieira was hiding and neither he nor his wife was hurt, Cassama said.

"It's unacceptable that we should have another coup in this country," he declared.

Guinea-Bissau has had three coups since 1980, when Vieira himself first took power that way.

Dozens of security forces surrounded the president's home in a residential area of the capital after hours of artillery and rocket-propelled-grenade fire. Inside, a reporter saw spent shell casings littering the floors, including in the president's bedroom.

The UN says impoverished Guinea-Bissau, on the Atlantic coast, is a key transit point for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe. In parliamentary elections held a week ago, opposition leader and former president Kumba Yala accused Vieira of being the country's top drug trafficker. The president did not comment on the accusation.

Local TV broadcast images of Vieira on Sunday morning meeting with foreign diplomats and government officials in his recently attacked home.

President Abdoulaye Wade of neighbouring Senegal ordered troops to the border with Guinea-Bissau after receiving a panicked phone call from Vieira in the night, and offered to send a plane, Wade's spokesman said. He said Vieira declined the offer.

"The troops will stay at the border until we are sure the situation has stabilised," Senegalese presidential spokesman El Hadj Amadou Sall said.

Wade also called African Union commission chairman Jean Ping, Sall said.

Ping said early on Sunday the AU rejects "any unconstitutional change of government and condemns in advance any attempt to seize power by force".

Yala's party lost seven seats in the 100-seat legislature last week, while the governing party went from 45 seats to 67.

Carlos Gomes Jr, a former prime minister who now heads the ruling party, visited Vieira's house and said, "It's unacceptable in the 21st century to resolve our problems with violence."

No comments: