The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has risen in condemnation of the conflict that erupted in Guinea Bissau on Friday, December 1, 2023.
Citizens of the West African nation reportedly woke up on Friday morning with heavy gunfire in the capital city.
According to reports, the violence erupted after soldiers freed a minister from the main opposition party detained for suspected misuse of public funds.
The country’s Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and António Monteiro, the secretary of state for the treasury, had been detained amid investigations into the alleged irregular withdrawal of $10 million of state funds, a BBC report said.
An anti-corruption investigation questioned them in the afternoon on Thursday to get more information about the payments made to 11 firms. Thereafter, they were detained. However, soldiers of the National Guard later in the evening invaded the police cells and took them to an unknown location, a local media outlet, O Democrata reported.
The gunfire was between soldiers in the National Guard and special forces.
The violence occurred as President Umaro Sissoco Embalo was out of the country attending the United Nation’s COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
Reacting to the incident, ECOWAS in a statement said any attempt to disrupt constitutional order in the country would be vehemently resisted.
“ECOWAS strongly condemns the violence and all attempts to disrupt the constitutional order and rule of law in Guinea Bissau,” the statement said.
The regional body further called for the “arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the incident in accordance with the law.”
The group also expressed its full solidarity with the people and the constitutional authority of Guinea Bissau.
Guinea Bissau had suffered a series of coups or attempted coups since its independence in 1974 from Portugal with only one democratically elected president having completed a full term.
There was an attempt to remove President Embalo through a coup in February last year. The incident led to the death of at least six persons. However, the president claimed that the incident had more to do with the government’s war on drug trafficking and not an army plot to take control of the government.
The Friday incident caused a scare raising concerns about the possibility of another military overthrow in the West African nation that borders Senegal to its north and Guinea to its Southeast.
There have been cases of military coups in parts of West Africa in at least the last three years, including Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger and Gabon. Last week, there was also a failed coup attempt in Sierra Leone where not less than 20 people were killed as gunmen in the capital, Freetown, attacked military barracks, a prison facility, and other locations, freeing about 2,200 inmates.