Portugal Colonial - Calm returns to Guinea-Bissau capital after failed putsch

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Calm returns to Guinea-Bissau capital after failed putsch
Calm returns to Guinea-Bissau capital after failed putsch

Calm returns to Guinea-Bissau capital after failed putsch

Guinea-Bissau's capital appeared calm on Wednesday after an attempted coup the previous day, AFP journalists said, with soldiers patrolling the streets of the West African city.

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Heavily-armed men on Tuesday afternoon surrounded government buildings in the capital Bissau, where President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and his prime minister were believed to have been attending a cabinet meeting.

Sissoco, 49, later told reporters that he had been unharmed during a five-hour gun battle that he described as a plot to wipe out the government.

Several people were killed in the attack, the president said.

Guinea-Bissau is a notoriously unstable country, suffering four military coups since independence from Portugal in 1974.

On Wednesday, life was slowly returning to the streets of Bissau as shops and banks reopened, according to AFP correspondents.

Soldiers were patrolling the streets, however, and had also blocked access to the Palace of Government complex where the attack took place.

Souleymane Ndiaye, a 23-year-old Senegalese who sells clothes in Bissau's largest market, said he had returned to his stall on Wednesday morning but that customers were scarce.

Noelho Barboza, a carpenter, said that Tuesday's events risked throwing the country into reverse.

"We will no longer have the confidence of investors," the 27-year-old said.

- 'Kill the president' -

Guinea-Bissau is an impoverished coastal state of around two million people, south of Senegal, that saw its most recent military coup in 2012.

In 2014, the country vowed to return to democracy, but it has enjoyed little stability since and the armed forces wield substantial clout.

At a news conference on Tuesday, President Embalo said that assailants had tried to "kill the president of the republic and the entire cabinet."

"The attackers could have spoken to me before these bloody events that have seriously injured many and claimed lives," he added, appearing clam.

The exact death toll from the attack remains unclear. So do the identity and motives of the attackers.

But Embalo said that the attack was linked to decisions he has taken "to fight drug trafficking and corruption."

Guinea-Bissau suffers from endemic corruption, and is known as a hub for cocaine trafficking between Latin America and Europe.

- Wave of coups -

Both the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States on Tuesday condemned what they termed an "attempted coup."

The events sparked fear that the country would join the ranks of other West African governments that have fallen to military coups recently.

In Mali, the army seized power in 2020. Guinea's military followed suit in September last year, ousting elected president Alpha Conde.

Then on January 24, Burkina Faso's army also announced it had deposed President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and taken control of the country.