More than a thousand people filled the capital streets of Bissau this week despite a downpour in a march sparked by the unilateral dismissal by President Jose Mario Vaz of his entire government, including a popular prime minister.
The march was called the “Mega Protest Against the Presidential Decree,” and protestors carried signs reading “Respect the People” and in English “PAIGC Forever.” Deposed Premier Domingos Simoes Pereira was also part of the march.
“With such a huge mobilization … the institutions of the republic must respect the will of the people,” Pereira told the crowd. “You cannot arrest people who know where they are going,” he added, as supporters chanted his initials, DSP.
The 16-member government took office a year ago July, two months after Vaz became Guinea-Bissau’s first elected civilian leader since the army mutinied in 2012. Vaz and Pereira are both members of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which fought for independence from Portugal, won in 1974.
The two men are said to have disagreed on a number of issues, including the use of aid money and a replacement for the country’s former army chief of staff, Gen. Antonio Indjai. Indjai was behind an army mutiny in 2010 and led a coup in 2012. He was indicted in the U.S. for alleged conspiracy with Colombia’s rebel group FARC to swap missiles for cocaine and is considered a drug kingpin.
Jose Mario Vaz, popularly known as “Jomav,” has been president since June 2014. He is an economist and was formerly mayor of Bissau.
After his election in last year’s polls, Vaz was showered with monies from the European Union ($175 million in aid) to “bolster democracy and accelerate economic recovery. The IMF also declared that the country’s progress on economic reform enabled them to process a $23.9 million loan.
In an unrelated development, Guinea Bissau was named in the State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report.” Among those blacklisted for failing to even try to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking are Algeria, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.