Demonstrations averted

A coalition of Guinea-Bissau’s three leading political parties suspended demonstrations planned for the weekend after President João Bernardo ‘Nino’ Vieira undertook consultations with political leaders.

At least 1,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets on Friday to reinforce demands by the coalition that Vieira announce whether he had accepted the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Aristides Gomes, a long-time ally.

Many of the president’s supporters in parliament defected last month to a new coalition, which then passed a no-confidence motion against Gomes. Last Wednesday Gomes offered his resignation.

Analysts are keenly watching the latest political turmoil in Guinea-Bissau, a tiny, cashew-producing country that experienced a civil war between 1998 and 1999. Bissauans are especially wary about the possible reaction of the country’s divided military to the current crisis.

Further demonstrations were planned for Saturday. Instead, President Vieira met with representatives of the political coalition to discuss the choice of a new prime minister.

“We are very pleased with the initiative of President Vieira,” said Ibraima Sory Diallo, first vice president of the Social Renewal Party (PRS), after the meeting.

Before naming a new prime minister the president is obliged to meet with representatives of political parties, electoral officials and others in line with the Pact of National Political Stability.

Vieira first seized power in a coup in 1980, then went on to win the country's first multi-party elections in 1994, before being overthrown himself in a coup in 1999 after two years of civil war.

His re-election in 2005 was supposed to seal Guinea-Bissau's return to a stable constitutional democracy.

ab/cs