During a visit to the National Guard command in Bissau, Embalo said Victor Tchongo, the head of the National Guard, has been dismissed and “will pay dearly” for the attempt to depose the president.
“You are all betrayed by your commander … (and) this is why we advise you to distance yourself from politicians and do your service to the nation,” he told officers.
The attempted coup is the second in West and Central Africa in a week after last week’s failed coup in Sierra Leone. It further raises tensions in the region where coups have surged with eight military takeovers since 2020, including in Niger and Gabon this year.
West Africa’s regional economic bloc of Ecowas – to which Guinea-Bissau belongs – noted the incident with “deep concern” and expressed “full solidarity with the people and constitutional authority of Guinea-Bissau”.
After returning from the United Nations’ Cop28 climate summit on Saturday night, Embalo suggested to reporters that Tchongo of the National Guard was not acting alone.
“Tchongo was ordered by someone,” The Democrat, a local newspaper, quoted him as saying. “Tchongo is not crazy about blowing up the Judiciary Police cells and removing the minister of finance and the secretary of state. This is an attempted coup d’etat and there will be serious consequences for everyone involved.”
The small nation of Guinea-Bissau has endured multiple coups since gaining independence from Portugal nearly five decades ago.
However, unlike in other coups in West Africa which have been inspired by perceived bad governance, the shootout in Guinea-Bissau started as the members of the Presidential Palace Battalion tried to rearrest two government officials – Economy and Finance Minister Suleimane Seidi and Treasury Secretary Antonio Monteiro.
Both were being questioned over the use of government funds before the members of the National Guard secretly released them, local media reported.
Guinea-Bissau’s semi-presidential system limits the president’s powers by allowing the majority party in the parliament to appoint the Cabinet. As a result, the National Guard – which is under the Ministry of Interior – is largely controlled by the opposition-dominated parliament.
Tensions have also remained between Embalo and a coalition of opposition groups that won the majority in Guinea Bissau’s parliament in June, more than one year after the president dissolved the parliament.
Embalo, a former army general, was declared the winner of a December 2019 runoff presidential election which his opponent contested. He survived a February 2022 coup attempt that he asserted had “to do with our fight against narco-trafficking” and has since then cracked down on civic freedoms while government bodies have lost significant independence, according to analysts.