The president of Guinea-Bissau, João Bernardo ‘Nino’ Vieira, has named a new prime minister after three weeks of political uncertainty stemming from the national assembly’s passage of a no-confidence motion against the former premier, a long-time ally of Vieira.
The president named Martinho N’Dafa Cabi, a vice president of the former ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde. He replaces Aristides Gomes.
“Our society is completely divided and fragile,” N’Dafa Cabi told reporters on Tuesday. “For this reason our mission will also be national reconciliation. To obtain reconciliation it is necessary to promote permanent dialogue among all the factions of society.”
Analysts are keenly watching political events in Guinea-Bissau, a tiny, cashew-producing country that experienced a civil war between 1998 and 1999 and the United Nations Security Council recently expressed concern about “continuing political and social tensions”.
Guinea-Bissau’s three leading political parties had nominated N’Dafa Cabi for the position in accordance with a national pact of political stability they had signed last month. The parties had threatened to hold demonstrations to pressure Vieira to name a new prime minister, but cancelled those plans after the president engaged in consultations with political leaders.
Many of the president’s supporters in parliament defected last month to a new coalition, which then passed the no-confidence motion against Gomes.
N’Dafa Cabi said he would work to hold legislative elections next year “in a calm, responsible manner and with justice”. He also vowed to improve the country’s economy.
“The population must eat and the state workers as well,” he said. “For this reason one of our jobs will be to resolve the problems of the cashew sector and pay the delayed salaries of the public workers.”
The salaries of state workers are several months in arrears and this is a common occurrence in Guinea-Bissau. The country’s cashew industry has been in crisis since the government told farmers they could raise prices for the commodity in 2006. Foreign merchants, however, declined to buy them and tens of thousands of tonnes rotted.