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Guinea-Bissau's new PM sworn in despite ruling party disapproval

Update: August, 21/2015 - 11:08

BISSAU — Guinea-Bissau's new Prime Minister Baciro Dja was sworn in Thursday despite angry protests from the ruling party, deepening a political crisis a week after the government was sacked.

President Jose Mario Vaz swore in Dja, 39, just hours after he was appointed to replace Domingos Simoes Pereira, who he fired over a series of disputes including the naming of a new army chief, sparking fresh crisis in the chronically unstable west African nation.

The move put Vaz at loggerheads with his ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which denounced it as a "constitutional coup."

"Ruling a country involves taking decisions which aren't always popular," said Vaz at the swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bissau.

"It is time to change the country and not just the government, to change behaviour. I urge all citizens to contribute to reviving their country," he said.

Vaz said he chose Dja because the former minister and government spokesman knew the country "perfectly" after criss-crossing it as campaign director for the PAIGC during 2014 legislative elections.

Dja urged citizens to work together to ensure the country's stability.

"I am going to open candid and sincere dialogue to find a lasting solution for Guinea-Bissau," he said.

'Constitutional coup'

After Pereira was dismissed the PAIGC, of which he is the leader, renominated him as their candidate, but to no avail.

The PAIGC "will never accept a constitutional coup d'etat. Neither the party nor the people of Guinea-Bissau will accept the nomination of Baciro Dja," said party official Fernando Saldhana.

Protests both for and against the nomination, planned for Thursday afternoon, were cancelled by police over "security concerns," said Bissau police chief Jose Antonio Marques.

Dja was defence minister in the government of Carlos Gomes Junior, who was overthrown in 2012 in the latest in long line of military coups to plunge Guinea-Bissau into chaos.

The country had barely begun to recover from the coup after elections in July last year.

Dja became a minister and government spokesman for Pereira, but resigned after a dispute between the two men came to blows in June.

The altercation led to Dja being suspended from the PAIGC last week.

Vaz said his fallout with Pereira stemmed partly from the appointment of a new armed forces chief, a key post in the small nation known as a hub in drug trafficking between South America and Europe.

In March 2009, political veteran Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, who had led the country on and off since 1980, was assassinated by soldiers in apparent revenge for the killing of the then army chief.

Vaz also raised the closure of the border with Guinea over an Ebola outbreak and cited problems of corruption and nepotism, a lack of transparency in public procurement and alleged obstruction of the judiciary.

The PAIGC party, which fought for independence from Portugal, has a slender majority in the national assembly with 57 out of 102 lawmakers.

A visit by a delegation of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) to help resolve the political crisis was suspended after Dja's appointment. — AFP


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