President of crisis-hit Guinea-Bissau names new PM, triggering protests

2016-05-27 07:48
Baciro Dja. (Sia Kambou, AFP)

Baciro Dja. (Sia Kambou, AFP)

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Bissau – Two weeks after sacking his entire government, the president of Guinea-Bissau on Thursday named Baciro Dja as the west African country's new prime minister, in a move that triggered immediate protests from the ruling party.

Dja's appointment, announced by presidential decree, was swiftly condemned by the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), whose supporters set fire to tyres near the presidential palace, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Riot police deployed to provide extra security dispersed dozens of stone-throwing protestors with tear gas, and threaten, in the words of one of their commanders, "to shoot anyone who crosses the palace gates".

The AFP reporter saw two protestors with minor injuries, while witnesses said they had counted 10.

Calm returned to the area late on Thursday night and no similar incidents were reported elsewhere in the city, where there was a visible police presence but no troops.

The PAIGC said it refused to recognise a head of government appointed by the president, saying the choice of prime minister was up to the majority party in parliament according to the constitution.

"We will not accept a prime minister chosen by the president," said ex-premier Carlos Correia, who along with a number of former cabinet ministers gathered at the gates of the palace late on Thursday.

"The government refuses to resign," he said, referring to his administration which the president dismissed on May 12.

Political unrest

Guinea-Bissau's crisis erupted in August when President Jose Mario Vaz fired prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira of the PAIGC, putting the president on a collision course with the party he himself belongs to.

Both factions say the two men had disagreed over how to run the country, especially on how to tackle corruption.

Pereira was replaced as premier by party veteran Correia but the political turmoil flared up again in December when rebel MPs cost Correia his parliamentary majority.

Vaz then dissolved the government on May 12, demanding that the ruling party piece together a new cabinet able to pull the country out of crisis.

Dja had been named prime minister once before, in August 2015, but was forced to resign within weeks after his appointment was declared unconstitutional.

Alarmed by the ongoing political unrest, the UN Security Council earlier this month called for dialogue in Guinea-Bissau and urged the military not to intervene.

"We are really concerned about the impasse that continues in Guinea-Bissau and which creates a difficult situation for the population because with the deadlock, today it is difficult even for Guinea-Bissau's partners to work with the government," UN West Africa special envoy Mohamed Ibn Chambas said on May 20 in Dakar.

Guinea-Bissau has suffered multiple military coups since independence in 1974 and the army continues to play a heavy role in politics.

The chronic volatility has fanned poverty in this country of 1.6 million, which has few resources other than cashew nuts and fish and has attracted the attention of South American drug cartels who have turned it into a cocaine-trafficking hub.

Read more on:    jose mario vaz  |  guinea-bissau  |  west africa

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