Constitutional Crisis Unfolds in Guinea-BissauAugust 17, 2015 in Guinea-Bissau
After weeks of tensions between the country’s President and Prime Minister, a constitutional crisis has unfolded in Guinea-Bissau in the wake of President Jose Mario Vaz’ dismissal of Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira. The constitutional crisis has raised fears of a coup, with regional leaders calling on the army to stay out of the issue.
According to a presidential decree, released Thursday (13 August), Guinea-Bissau’s President Jose Mario Vaz has dismissed the government following a row with the prime minister. The decree disclosed that “the government headed by Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira has been dissolved.” The 16-member government took office in July 2014, just two months after Vaz become the country’s first elected civilian leader. The move comes after the president acknowledged a “crisis” in relations with the prime minister that were undermining the functioning of the government. In a broadcast to the nation late Wednesday, Vaz stated that “it is public knowledge that there is a crisis undermining the proper working of institutions.” He further stated that “the efforts made did not succeed in resolving difficult relations between the president and the prime minister,” adding that a government reshuffle would have been inadequate. The president disclosed that contentious issues included the appointment of a new armed force’s chief as well as corruption. Vaz and Pereira are both members of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).
The following day, Friday 14 August, the ruling party demanded the reinstatement of Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira. Speaking after meeting with President Jose Mario Vaz, Pereira stated, “we’ve told the president that our constitution and the party status are clear – the prime minister is the leader of the party that has won the elections.” Several senior officials from the PAIGC have disclosed that they made similar demands to the president and that they back Pereira. On Saturday, a member of the ruling PAIGC party disclosed that the party has renominated Domingoes Simoes Pereira as Prime Minister. According to party vice-president Adja Satu Camara, “we sent back Friday the proposal of our party concerning the future prime minister. It is the president of the party, Domingoes Simoes Pereira,” adding that if the country’s leader rejects the proposal, the party will pursue all available options. So far that president has not reacted to the move.
The constitutional crisis in Guinea-Bissau has prompted regional leaders to warn the army to stay out of the issue. On Sunday, West African nations warned the army to stay out of Guinea-Bissau’s constitutional crisis, stating that only dialogue would end the standoff between the president and the premier, whom he dismissed earlier in the week. Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who heads the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which groups fifteen countries, appealed for talks between the two men to end weeks of tension. In a statement, he urged them “to continue to explore peaceful ways of resolving the impasse and the armed forces to respect their undertakings to stay out of politics.” The call comes just days after the UN Security Council on Friday discussed the unfolding crisis in Guinea-Bissau, stressing that security forces must stay out of it. In a unanimous statement, the 15-member UN Security Council urged all sides to “resolve the ongoing political dispute in the interest of peace in Guinea-Bissau,” adding that Council members “underscored the importance of non-interference of security forces in the political situation.” The Council has indicated that it will continue to monitor the situation closely.