Guinea-Bissau: Portugal behind coup bid in attack on air base

New interim President of Guinea Bissau Manual Serifo Nhamadjo speaks to the media during a visit to the presidential palace in Abidjan September 18, 2012. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Guinea-Bissau’s interim government accused Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries of being behind an assault on an air force base, saying it was part of a strategy to install its exiled former prime minister back in power.


The military of the tiny coup-prone West African nation, which is a former Portuguese colony, repelled the attack near the capital Bissau early on Sunday during a two-hour gunbattle that killed six people.

“The attack … is part of the strategy to bring (ex-prime minister) Carlos Gomes Junior back to Guinea-Bissau, even at the cost of human lives,” government spokesman Fernando Vaz said in a statement read on state radio on Sunday night.

“The tone of the speeches given by Portugal, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) and Carlos Gomes Junior was the precursor to the attack,” he said.

Guinea-Bissau is in the throes of a ragged recovery after the army overthrew the government in April just weeks before a second round presidential vote Gomes Junior was favoured to win.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS brokered a deal that allowed a handover of power to a civilian interim government charged with setting up elections.

Interim president Manuel Sherifo Nhamadjo lacks the full support of the United Nations, the European Union and the CPLP, however. They say his government remains under army influence.

Portugal’s foreign ministry said on Monday it would not react to the accusations it was involved in Sunday’s events. It said earlier that it viewed the situation in the country “with concern after another case of military movements.

“There is no military solution to problems faced by Guinea Bissau. Only via a political process will it be possible to overcome the current crisis situation in this friendly country,” the statement read.

The governments of other members of the CPLP bloc, which includes Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe and East Timor, had no immediate comment.

Military sources said “rebels” had attacked the air force base in Bra, seven km (five miles) from the capital Bissau at about 3 a.m and were driven back after two hours of fighting.

They said that some of the attackers appeared to be from an ethnic group, Djolla, common in neighbouring Senegal’s southern Casamance region.

Decades of turmoil in Guinea-Bissau since it won independence in 1974 have made its maze of mangrove-lined islands a hub for Latin American drugs cartels smuggling cocaine to Europe.


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