Press Review CW 49/2023: Change into the unknown?
Press Review 1 December 2023 to 8 December 2023

Guinea-Bissau’s president dissolves parliament

On Monday, the President of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, dissolved the opposition-dominated parliament by decree. This was announced by a spokesperson on state television in the evening, accompanied by the president’s promise to preserve the country’s democratic achievements and political stability. A date for the next parliamentary elections would also be set “in due course”. President Embaló made this decision following the armed clashes in the capital Bissau, which took place last Thursday night between members of the National Guard and the armed forces of the presidential palace. On Thursday morning, the armed forces of the presidential palace arrested the opposition politician and current Minister of Economy and Finance, Suleimane Seidi, and the Secretary of State for Public Finance, António Monteiro, on behalf of the public prosecutor who is under the authority of the president. Later, the National Guard intervened and freed the two politicians from police custody. The reason for the arrest was the allegation of attempted corruption and of the removal of 10 million dollars from the state coffers. Both government representatives were arrested again by the authorities in the course of the violent clashes. After his return from Dubai, where he attended the COP28 climate summit at the time of the events, President Embaló initially dismissed the head of the National Guard, Victor Tchongo, who is under the control of the opposition-led Ministry of the Interior, last Friday. He then announced further consequences in response to the “attempted coup” by the National Guard and its “political complicity” with members of the executive suspected of corruption. Domingos Simões Pereira, who has always been considered Embaló’s political opponent and is the current president of parliament and chairman of the opposition party African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which dominates both parliament and the cabinet, rejected the presidential decree issued in the wake of the incidents. Pereira, for his part, accused the president of carrying out a “constitutional coup d’état”, as Article 94 of the constitution states that parliament cannot be dissolved within the first twelve months after its establishment. The parliament was only elected a few months ago, in June 2023 (Press review CW 24/2023), after President Embaló had dissolved it for the first time in May 2022 against a similar backdrop, citing corruption (Press review CW 20/2022). Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned both the violence and the attempted disruption of the constitutional order in a statement published on Saturday and expressed its solidarity with the country’s constitutional authorities. The incident should also be investigated and those responsible prosecuted, according to ECOWAS. The Chairman of the African Union (AU), Moussa Faki Mahama, also issued a statement in which he condemned the violence. He expressed concern about the dissolution of parliament and called for dialogue, unity and stability. In the context of the increasing number of military coups in other West and Central African countries in recent months, the escalating political situation in Guinea-Bissau between the two factions of the army and between the president and parliament is causing further unrest in the region, adding to the country’s history of a series of successful and attempted coups since independence in 1974.

The EU has to leave Niger

The Nigerien military junta cancelled two agreements with the EU on Monday. The cancelled agreements concern the Civilian Capacity-building Mission (EUCAP Sahel Niger) and the European Military Partnership Mission in Niger (EUMPM Niger). The Nigerien Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now announced that it is withdrawing all privileges and immunities granted by the previous government in the course of the two missions. Members of both missions are therefore being urged to leave the country. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borell expressed his frustration at the decision and announced that the necessary operational consequences will be taken to withdraw both missions. The day before the announcement, a Russian delegation arrived in Niamey with Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and negotiated an intensification of military cooperation with representatives of the Nigerien government. This confirmed the experts’ predictions that Niger was not only turning away from the EU but also towards Russia, following the example of its neighbours Burkina Faso and Mali. EUCAP primarily served to establish various Nigerien security institutions in order to combat terrorism and organised crime more effectively and was established in 2012 as part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) at the request of the Nigerien government at the time. EUMPM Niger, on the other hand, is a military mission in which the Bundeswehr also participated with 60 soldiers in the areas of military command support and intelligence gathering, and which was established in December 2022, again upon request of the Nigerien government. This climate of Nigerien-European collaboration has changed significantly since the coup in Niamey in July of this year (press review CW 30/2023). When President Bazoum was deposed and imprisoned during the change of power, resentment against France and the EU, which was already widespread in many parts of the population, reached government level with the new ruler General Abdourahmane Tiani. Niger also joined Burkina Faso in announcing its withdrawal from the G5 defence pact last weekend, stating that the organisation had not fulfilled its purpose of fighting Islamist terror in the region. Last year, Mali had already initiated its withdrawal from the anti-jihadist military alliance, which has existed since 2014. In September, the three countries founded a new format, the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) (press review CW 38/2023). The remaining member states, Chad and Mauritania, announced the official dissolution of the G5 on Wednesday, whereby the alliance has not only been considered a failure since the recent events. The West African Economic Community ECOWAS had even repeatedly expressed doubts about the operational capability of the alliance, which was created with substantial support from the EU, from the very beginning.

In other News

On Saturday, after nine days, the Marrakesh International Film Festival ended with the awarding of the prestigious Etoile d’Or for the Moroccan documentary Kadib Abyad (engl.: The Mother of All Lies) by Asmae El Moudir. The documentary by the 32-year-old director, which won the festival’s highest honour for Morocco for the first time in the film award’s history, tells the moving past of El Moudir’s family living in Casablanca during the iron reign of King Hassan II. The jury, chaired by US actress Jessica Chastain, also honoured the drama Hounds by Moroccan director Kamal Lazraq and the Palestinian documentary Bye Bye Tiberias by Lina Soualem with the Jury Prize; the award for best director went to the Senegalese filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye Sy for her film Banel & Adama. The Marrakesh International Film Festival is an internationally recognized awards ceremony that has been presenting and honouring films from all over the world since 2001. At this year’s 20th edition of the festival, the audience was able to discover 75 films from a total of 36 countries.

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