Guinea Bissau president names government in move to end deadlock
Jose Mario Vaz hands lion’s share of posts to members of his party
Bissau — Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz has named a new government under mediation, in a bid to end months of political turmoil.
In a presidential decree published on Wednesday, Vaz gave the lion’s share of posts in the 31-member government to members of his African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which has the most seats in parliament.
The reshuffle came under an initiative launched by the 16-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
Vaz’s elected five-year mandate ended on June 23 but he is temporarily staying on under an Ecowas mediation plan.
On Saturday, Ecowas declared Vaz should “leave the conduct of business to the government” until new presidential elections are staged on November 24.
Sitting between Senegal and Guinea on Africa’s west coast, Guinea-Bissau has struggled with volatility for years. It has seen multiple attempted and successful coup bids since independence from Portugal in 1974.
The latest crisis dates back to 2015, when Vaz fell out with then prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira, and fired him. It had been hoped that the row would be settled by legislative elections on March 10. But it deepened after PAIGC and its allies won a majority of seats in parliament and proposed Pereira, the party leader, as prime minister — a move Vaz opposed.
The incoming government will be led by the current caretaker prime minister, Aristide Gomez. He is a longstanding member of the PAIGC, a major party in the fight to end Portuguese colonial rule in 1974 and then set up a Marxist-Leninist state.
Multiparty democracy came in the 1990s, but Vaz is the first president to complete his elected term in a small, mostly agricultural country marked by military coups and drug trafficking.
By separate decree, Vaz named a new attorney-general, Ladislau Clemente Fernando Embassa, “until the swearing-in of a new president of the republic.” This appointment was also in response to an Ecowas demand. The previous attorney-general, Bacari Baia, resigned on Tuesday, three days after he called for parliament speaker Cipriano Cassama to be arrested for “attempting to subvert constitutional order”.
A majority of MPs pushed for Cassama to take over the interim presidency in place of Vaz. Baia had also been accused by the PAIGC of “acts of persecution” against party officials.