The situation in Guinea-Bissau is “under government control,” President Umaro Sissoco Embalo said on Tuesday amid reports of an attempted coup in the West African country.
In a tweet, Embalo said he was “fine” and thanked the people of Guinea-Bissau and the rest of the world for their concern.
“The situation is under government control … Long live the Republic and may God watch over Guinea-Bissau,” he said.
Heavy gunfire was heard near the presidential palace in the capital Bissau earlier in the day, leading to reports of a coup attempt in a country with a history of military takeovers.
Media reports did not clarify whether the attackers were members of the security forces, but said Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were holding a Cabinet meeting in the building at the time.
Several people were injured and the attackers wore civilian clothes, the local Ditadura newspaper reported.
Soldiers on military vehicles drove through the streets of the capital Bissau and some were deployed around government buildings, it added.
ECOWAS, a 15-nation West African regional bloc, called the violence a “coup attempt” and said it “holds the military responsible for the bodily integrity of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and the members of his government.”
Three countries in West Africa – Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso – have witnessed military coups over the last 18 months.
Tuesday’s violence came days after Embalo reshuffled his Cabinet, a decision initially challenged by Nabiam’s party.
Relations between the president and the Nabiam-led government have reportedly been tense in recent months.
Guinea-Bissau has had at least nine coups and attempted coups since its independence from Portugal in 1974.
For more than four decades, no elected head of state had finished a five-year term, until Jose Mario Vaz saw out his full tenure in June 2019.
In 2009, then-President Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in what was said to be an apparent revenge attack by soldiers for the killing of the country’s then-army chief, who was at odds with Vieira.
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