By John Ikani
Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo says he has survived an attempted coup after assailants armed with machine guns and AK-47s attacked the Government Palace for hours while the President and Prime Minister were inside.
The President told reporters that he faced “sustained fire from heavy arms for five hours” with a Military Advisor, Minister and two bodyguards in the capital Bissau during a plot to “kill the president of the republic and the entire cabinet”.
Appearing in a video posted on the presidency’s Facebook page hours after gunfire was heard near a compound where he was chairing a Cabinet meeting, Embalo said some of the people involved had been arrested.
“The attackers could have spoken to me before these bloody events that have seriously injured many and claimed lives,” he said, without clearly indicating who was behind the unrest.
He however noted that the failed coup was linked to decisions he had taken “notably to fight drug trafficking and corruption”.
Guinea-Bissau became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe in the 2000s as traffickers profited from corruption and weak law enforcement.
The foiled attack on Tuesday in the capital of the unstable West African country came only about two weeks after the military overthrew the democratically elected leader of Burkina Faso, underscoring fears that a recent spate of coups is inspiring others in the region.
The 15-nation West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, already grappling with three coups in member states over the last 18 months, called Tuesday’s violence a coup attempt and said it was following the situation in Bissau “with great concern”.