Gunfire erupted in the capital of Guinea-Bissau on Friday morning following an attempt by National Guard soldiers to free a detained minister and a senior state official. The National Guard members initially took the officials into custody before seeking refuge in barracks south of the capital.
Efforts to negotiate a resolution failed, leading to the intervention of special forces and an ensuing exchange of gunfire. Eventually, calm was restored later in the day.
The detained individuals, Finance Minister Souleiman Seidi and Secretary of State for the Treasury Antonio Monteiro were under investigation for the alleged irregular withdrawal of $10 million (£8 million) of state funds. An anti-corruption investigation had questioned them the day before regarding payments made to 11 companies.
During a parliamentary session earlier in the week, the leader of the main opposition party claimed that the companies’ owners had close ties to the country’s governing coalition leaders. Mr. Seidi defended the payments as legal.
After Thursday’s questioning, both Seidi and Monteiro were arrested and detained to avoid jeopardising the ongoing investigations, according to local media reports. Later that evening, National Guard soldiers reportedly stormed the police cells near Bandim market, armed with AK-47 weapons and bazookas, and freed the detained officials, taking them to an undisclosed location.
President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, who is currently attending the UN’s COP28 climate conference in Dubai, was not present during the incident. In response to the situation, regional stabilisation forces deployed by the West African bloc, Ecowas, were observed patrolling the streets on Friday morning, as reported by the AFP news agency.
Guinea-Bissau has a history of coups and attempted coups since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974. In February of the previous year, the president claimed to have survived a coup attempt linked to drug trafficking, although details remained unclear, leading to skepticism and unanswered questions about the events surrounding the incident.