Bissau-Guinean president appoints Aristides as prime minister to end years of political crisis

The president of Guinea-Bissau Jose Mario Vaz on Monday appointed veteran politician Aristides Gomes as the new prime minister in an attempt to end the political crisis facing the country. This was according to a decree read on state-owned media.

This decision comes after the weekend at a summit of ECOWAS leaders where it was agreed to honor a 2016 deal brokered by the West African bloc that sought to end more than two years of political turmoil in the country. Vaz told his fellow leaders that after consultations with political actors and civil society, Gomes, who served as PM of the former Portuguese colony from 2005 to 2007, was appointed “prime minister of consensus”. In February, ECOWAS also hit Vaz’s business and political allies with sanctions, which includes travel bans and asset freezes, for undermining the deal which requires the president to name a consensus prime minister.

“The success of my republican mission will depend first of all on the will… of the president and the entire political class,” Gomes said after he took the oath of office.

The appointment is also happening a few days ahead of the Tana High-Level Forum on security in Africa, which is set to take place between 21st and 22nd of April in Bahir Dar Ethiopia.

Gomes, 63, who succeeds Augusto Antonio Artur Da Silva who was named in late January, is tasked with leading Guinea-Bissau to fresh parliamentary elections set for November.

What really happened in Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau has been going through a power struggle since 2015 due to a crisis that started after the Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira (DSP) was dismissed by the President of the county,  Jose Mario Vaz. Since then, both men have been at loggerheads with each other.

According to reports, their relationship turned sour after international donors pledged more than €1 billion ($1.23 billion) to fund DSP’s programme to overhaul the country’s economy. When DSP returned from the Brussels fundraiser, Vaz allegedly asked him to hand over the money, believing his foe carried the cheque in his pocket. Insiders report that the president was keen to earmark cash for private agricultural projects in his home village of Calequisse, in the west of the country, but that DSP resisted the power grab. Spooked by the ensuing instability, donors withdrew their pledges.

Vaz has since nominated several prime ministers, but he failed to gain the support of political parties because he was left alone by his party and was surrounded by 15 dissident African Party of the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) MPs known as the grupo dos quinze. They were all against him and united with DSP.

Several attempts by ECOWAS to meditate on this issue weren’t fruitful. Vaz had also proposed fresh talks to find a way out of the crisis but opposition parties objected to the plan. There is now hope that the appointment of Gomes would bring an end to the political crisis that has been plaguing the country.