Guinea-Bissau governance crisis


Guinea-Bissau had two presidents and two prime ministers as of Saturday, after Umaro Cissoko Embalo, inaugurated winner of December’s election, swore in a new premier with parliament appointing a rival interim president.

The clashing appointments adds to the confusion since the December 29 presidential run-off in the small West African country.

It is unclear how the situation could develop. The appointments suggest a continuation of the institutional chaos of the past five years, when then-president Jose Mario Vaz cycled through seven prime ministers during a series of political disputes.

Further instability will weigh on the economy, which despite annual growth of around 5% is hostage to the volatile price of cashew nuts, the main income source for over 60% of households.

Embalo, who the electoral commission repeatedly confirmed as the winner, was sworn in last Thursday.

Runner-up Domingos Simoes Pereira, whose PAIGC party holds most seats in parliament, says the inauguration was illegitimate as the Supreme Court was still considering his party’s request to annul the vote over alleged irregularities.

On Friday, lawmakers voted to appoint parliament leader Cipriano Cassama as interim president with those in favour arguing Embalo’s presidency was unlawful.

“As long as the Supreme Court has not made its decision, the PAIGC does not recognise Cissoko as a legitimate president,” deputy leader of parliament Armando Mango said during the session.

The same evening Embalo issued a decree sacking prime minister and PAIGC veteran Aristides Gomes and his government. On Saturday, he swore in former presidential opponent Nuno Nabiam as new prime minister.

“The country passed recent years in a state of ungovernability, bad governance and general corruption,” Embalo said during the ceremony in a speech that did not reference his stand-off with parliament.

“Today’s ceremony marks the start of a new era.”

The population is weary of the crisis, but have different views on who is to blame. In central Bissau, student Isidro Teixeira (30) said Embalo was rightful president and the electoral commission position should be accepted.

Carpenter Romulo Santos said Embalo was inaugurated too soon: “We are witnessing a coup because the Supreme Court has not yet ruled,” Santos said.