31 October 2005

Guinea Bissau: President Sacks Prime Minister But Feud Rumbles On

Bissau — It took less than a month for Guinea-Bissau's fragile political cohabitation to collapse.

The West African nation's new president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, announced the dissolution of the government headed by his rival Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior over the weekend.

"There are disputes between certain institutions, notably between the government and some basic services that have blocked the proper functioning of the state," Vieira said in a degree published late Friday night, accusing his political rival of being unable to pay salaries, reduce poverty and relaunch the economy.

The pair have been at loggerheads in public for months. Gomes Junior dubbed Vieira a "bandit and mercenary who betrayed his own people" during campaigning ahead of July's presidential election, and later refused to recognise the former military ruler as the new president. Vieira in turn failed to mention the prime minister in his inauguration speech.

And even after the weekend dismissal, there were signs that the feud would rumble on.

Gomes Junior, who has been prime minister since parliamentary polls last year, said he was not going anywhere. He cited the constitution which calls for the ruling party, in this case his African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), to nominate a new prime minister.

"I am the leader of the party and the rules state that I should be the prime minister," he said coming out of a meeting at the presidential palace on Monday. "I'm the one the party has chosen to lead this country's government."

Should the president and the ruling party fail to agree on a candidate for prime minister, the constitution states that the president must dissolve parliament and hold an election within 90 days, something Vieira has said he is reluctant to do.

This latest twist in the Vieira-Gomes Junior feud is not well-timed for Guinea-Bissau, which is intent on projecting an image of stability in order to secure the aid necessary to rebuild an economy and infrastructure ruined by years of fighting and neglect since its 1998-99 civil war.

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrived in Bissau, capital of the world's sixth-poorest country, on Saturday and a round table with international donors is set for Brussels in December.

Shortly after Friday night's announcement, soldiers were posted outside government ministries. Although the troops withdrew on Monday, government services remained closed.

Vieira met with representatives of both the ruling PAIGC and the opposition coalition Forum of Convergence for Development (FCD) on Monday ahead of an expected announcement about who will be the new prime minister.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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