On Tuesday i.e., 2 February 2022, a coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau failed after heavy gunfire for five hours. The gunfire erupted in the capital, where the president was attending a cabinet meeting. The cabinet meeting was being held to prepare for a forthcoming ECOWAS summit in response to last week’s military takeover in Burkina Faso.
President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, accompanied by Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam and members of the government, held a press conference at the presidential palace after the failed coup attempt. He said the “attack on democracy” had come during a government meeting at the building. “Our republican defence and security forces were able to stop this evil,” Embalo said, adding that the gunfire went on for five hours and that many people had been killed or injured. “It wasn’t just a coup. It was an attempt to kill the president, the prime minister and all the cabinet,” he said. It was not immediately clear who was behind the assault, though the president said it “also has to do with our fight against narco-trafficking”. Embalo said that the situation had been brought under control, and that some of the people involved had been killed and arrested.
One of the poorest countries in the world, the former Portuguese colony has seen nine coups or attempted coups since 1980. Struggling with a massive foreign debt and an economy that relies heavily on foreign aid, the country has also become a transit point for Latin American drugs, leading it to be dubbed by some as Africa’s first narco-state.
The attempted coup gathered much condemnation. The 15-nation West African regional bloc ECOWAS condemned the coup attempt and said it was following the situation in Bissau “with great concern”. The African Union asked the military to “return to their barracks without delay” and to release detained members of government. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the “terrible multiplication of coups” in the region, which he called “totally unacceptable”. The African Union Commission said that president, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is following with grave concern the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
Tuesday’s coup attempt comes amid a wave of military takeovers in West Africa. Since August 2020, soldiers have grabbed power in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.