GUINEA-Bissau’s prime minister announced his resignation on Wednesday, just two days after his government was sworn in, plunging the chronically unstable nation deeper into a simmering political crisis.
Baciro Dja’s decision came after the country’s Supreme Court declared that his unpopular appointment by President Jose Mario Vaz by presidential decree just 20 days earlier had violated the constitution.
“The president of the republic has just informed me the Supreme Court has declared my appointment as prime minister unconstitutional,” Dja told journalists after meeting the head of state.
“Consequently, I resign the office. I’m going to my office to formalise my decision.”
In a 15-page ruling backed by eight of a 12-judge panel, the country’s most powerful legal institution said Dja’s nomination on August 20 had not met certain legal criteria.
These included not properly consulting the ruling party and listening to the opinions of other parties in parliament, it said.
Vaz appointed former minister Dja, 39, a week after firing Domingos Simoes Pereira over a series of disputes, including the naming of a new army chief.
The move put the head of state at loggerheads with his ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which denounced it as a “constitutional coup”.
While all three men belong to the PAIGC, the bloc quickly fell in line behind Pereira, their leader, and renominated him as their candidate, to no avail.
Referring the decision to the Supreme Court, the PAIGC said in a statement it “would never accept a constitutional coup d’etat”.
Drug trafficking hub
“Neither the party nor the people of Guinea-Bissau will accept the nomination of Baciro Dja,” it vowed.
The presidential decree promised constitutional formalities such as consultation with political parties in parliament would be honoured, although it announced that Dja would in any case replace Pereira.
Among Dja’s first actions was to sack the chiefs of the state-owned radio and television services for what he described as their “biased treatment of the political crisis”.
He also condemned state media outlets for broadcasting parliamentary debates live during the crisis, saying they “had not respected the guidance given regarding the maintenance of a climate of peace”.
Dja was defence minister in the government of Carlos Gomes Junior, who was overthrown in 2012 in the latest in a long line of military coups to plunge Guinea-Bissau into chaos.
The country had barely begun to recover from the mutiny after the 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 in August.
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 of 102 lawmakers.
Vaz had only just issued a decree on Monday announcing key cabinet jobs in a new government led by Dja, to be sworn in at the presidency later that day..