Bissau police fire tear gas to disperse defiant opposition MPs

BISSAU (Reuters) – Police in Guinea-Bissau fired tear gas on Wednesday to disperse opposition members of parliament who had tried to convene in defiance of a decision by President Umaro Sissoco Embalo to dissolve the house.

Embalo dissolved the opposition-controlled parliament last week, accusing it of passivity in response to gunfire and clashes in the capital on Dec. 1 which he later described as an attempted coup.

The opposition coalition led by the PAIGC party, which won a majority in legislative elections in June, has rejected the president’s decision saying it was unconstitutional.

It has cited an article of the constitution which says that parliament cannot be dissolved less than a year after it is voted in.

Under the current Bissau political system, the majority party or coalition appoints the government – but the president has the power to dismiss it in certain circumstances, often leading to political deadlock.

The members of parliament, accompanied by the president of the assembly Domingos Simoes Pereira, were dispersed by the police who fired tear gas in front of the parliament building.

“This morning we went national assembly. Access was prohibited by the law enforcement. They dispersed us using tear gas, but we will never back down,” said Armando Mango, a member of parliament of the PAIGC coalition.

The West African nation has had several coups and bouts of unrest since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974. At least six people were killed during a failed attempt to overthrow Embalo in February 2022.

(Reporting by Alberto Dabo, Writing by Bate Felix, Editing by Angus MacSwan)