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President Umaro Sissoco Embalo has dissolved Guinea-Bissau’s parliament and said early parliamentary elections would be held this year to resolve a long-running political crisis.

Tensions between parliament and the presidency have gripped the West African state for months.

Embalo cited “persistent and unresolvable differences” with parliament, which he described as “a space for guerrilla politics and plotting”, in a statement on Monday.

“This political crisis has exhausted the capital of trust between the sovereign institutions,” he said. “I have decided to give the floor back to Guineans so that this year they can freely choose the parliament they wish to have.”

A presidential decree said parliamentary elections would be held on December 18.

The former Portuguese colony of about two million people is notoriously unstable and has suffered four military coups since 1974, most recently in 2012.

In 2014, Guinea-Bissau decided to return to democracy, but it has enjoyed little stability since and the armed forces wield substantial clout.

Eleven people died in February in violence described as an attempted coup.

Heavily armed men attacked government buildings in Bissau while the president was chairing a cabinet meeting.

Embalo, in power since 2019, later told reporters he had escaped the five-hour gun battle and described the attack as a plot to wipe out the government.

On February 10, Embalo said a former head of the navy was among three men arrested over the attack – which he linked to the transatlantic drug trade.

Guinea-Bissau is a hub for the trafficking of cocaine from Latin America into Africa.

Last week, Embalo sacked his economy minister and temporarily handed over his portfolio to the prime minister, a decree said.

Victor Mandiga was replaced “to guarantee the regular functioning of institutions”, it said.

The removed minister had recently objected to what he described as the finance ministry’s involvement in some of his ministry’s affairs, and to the foreign ministry overseeing a new state secretariat for regional integration – one of his ministry’s responsibilities.

The disagreements between Embalo, 49, and parliament have centred on opposition leader Domingos Simoes Pereira, who lost to Embalo in a contested presidential election in 2019, and his parliamentary immunity.

Guinea-Bissau’s president and parliament have also clashed over the distribution of oil resources at the border with Senegal, a revision of the constitution and a peacekeeping force from West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS.

Monday’s presidential decree accused parliament of protecting legislators suspected of involvement in corruption and refusing to comply with checks of its accounts.

This content was originally published here.

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