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Attempted Coup in Guinea-Bissau Sends Jitters Across Africa

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There was apprehension in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau and across Africa yesterday over possible military take-over as sporadic gunshots were heard near a compound where the nation’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo was presiding over a cabinet meeting. According to agency reports, possible casualties were unclear.

 

The resurgence of military coups on the continent is forcing some analysts to call for the establishment of an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) military force in the form of ECOMOG, to protect democracy in the sub-region.

 

A security source told journalists in Bissau that at the government’s palace, an unknown number of people were hit by gunfire with two persons killed. But it was unclear who the casualties were.

 

It was also learnt that Sissoco Embalo held an extraordinary cabinet meeting at around 10 a.m., entering the building with a heavy security detail.

 

Immediately after the incident, the normally busy streets around the palace were deserted in the afternoon, with an unverified video shared on social media appeared to show a man standing outside the compound firing a rocket-propelled grenade.

 

The government has however been silent about the incident as no official statement has been made.

 

The West Africa region has been mired by military take-over in the last 18 months with military take over in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

 

Guinea-Bissau is not new to coup d’etat as for decades, there has been history of nine coups or attempted coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. This has severely affected her economy which relies heavily on the export of cashew nuts.

 

The ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which some analysts are calling for, was a West African multilateral armed force established by the sub-regional body. ECOMOG was a formal arrangement for separate armies to work together. It was largely supported by personnel and resources of the Nigerian Armed Forces, with sub-battalion strength units contributed by other ECOWAS members which included Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, among others.

 

While the protocol on Mutual Defence Assistance was signed in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on May 29, 1981, Anglophone ECOWAS members were established ECOMOG in 1990 to intervene in the civil war in Liberia (1989 to 1996). ECOMOG had been described as the first credible attempt at a regional security initiative in Africa.. Its establishment was spearheaded by Nigeria’s then military President, Ibrahim Babangida.

Culled from THISDAY

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