‘Coup Contagion’ Doesn’t Explain the Guinea-Bissau Attack

‘Coup Contagion’ Doesn’t Explain the Guinea-Bissau Attack
Guinea-Bissau's president Umaro Sissoco Embalo addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Eduardo Munoz).

Guinea-Bissau has launched a commission of inquiry into an armed attack widely believed to be a failed attempt to overthrow President Umaro Sissoco Embalo. Heavily armed men wielding assault rifles and machine guns surrounded and attacked government buildings Tuesday in the capital, Bissau, where Embalo was attending a Cabinet meeting along with Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam. The assault was followed by an hours-long siege at the complex that houses the prime minister’s residence as well as national ministries. Eleven deaths have been reported by a government spokesperson, a figure that reportedly includes members of the presidential guard. 

Embalo later told journalists he was unharmed during the siege, which he described as a “cold-blooded attack” intended to kill and overthrow him, the prime minister and the government. The identity and motive of the assailants remain unclear, but despite insisting that he didn’t want to draw any conclusions ahead of the investigation’s outcome, Embalo pinned the shootings on drug-trafficking syndicates he pledged as a presidential candidate to crack down on. 

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, condemned what they described as an “attempted coup,” while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the “terrible multiplication of coups” in the region, which he described as “totally unacceptable.” Leaders and dignitaries from countries including Nigeria, France and Portugal have reportedly reached out to Embalo to denounce the attack and express messages of solidarity.

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