There has been a coup attempt in the unstable West African country of Guinea Bissau with reports of the military attacking the house of Carlos Gomes Jr, the out going Prime Minister.
Foreign media reported explosions and firing of heavy arms in Bissau, the nation’s capital, with soldiers taking over the city centre.
And in a prompt reaction, the Economic Community of West African State, – nation regional body in Abidjan, capital of Cote de Ivoire.
Soldiers in Bissau are also reported to have taken over the ruling party’s headquarters and the state television station which has been taken off air.
In a fashion similar to the recent coup in Mali, the Guinea Bissau coup attempt is coming only about two weeks to a runoff election in which Gomes Jr is a favoured presidential candidate.
Diplomats in the country’s capital are quoted as saying that the home of Gomes Jr came under attack Thursday night and his whereabouts and that of Raimundo Pereira, the country’s interim president, are unknown.
There have been fears in the country of possible coup attempt and political instability in the country since January when its president died from complications related to Diabetes and the installation of Pereira as interim president.
The Associated Press quoted a diplomat in Bissau saying, “I am at the office and I am prevented from leaving,” said the diplomat. “The downtown area has been sealed off by the military … I can also tell you that all Guinea-Bissau radio has been taken off the air since 8 p.m. local time and the whereabouts of the prime minister and interim president are unknown.”
Guinea Bissau has survived several coups and coup plots since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974.
Tensions have built up in the country since the non conclusion of elections held earlier in the year after the main opposition party led by Kumba Yala alleged that the poll was rigged.
The party called for a boycott of the runoff scheduled for April 29 and warned of violence at campaigns.
Daniel Kablan Duncan, Cote de Ivoire foreign minister, confirmed news of the coup plot after a meeting of the regional body in Abidjan.
“We have received some difficult information from Guinea-Bissau, and this information indicates to us that there is a coup underway,” he said.
Duncan condemned the coup plot saying “ECOWAS formally and rigorously condemns such an attempted coup d’état.”
At the Abidjan meeting, Mamadu Djalo Pires, Guinea-Bissau’s foreign affairs minister, appealed for international aid.
“The situation is serious. The soldiers are occupying the streets,” Pires told Reuters. “I spoke to the interim Prime Minister [Adiato Djalo Nandigna] and she said she was under fire”, he added.
Guinea Bissau has not only been politically unstable but has also recently gained notoriety as a major transit point for illicit drugs particularly cocaine, which has greatly destabilised the country.
Cocaine traffickers and their sponsors wield great influence in the country and are said to have succeeded in buying off government and military officials.