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Guinea Bissau President Sacks Government


FILE - Guinea-Bissau's President Jose Mario Vaz speaks with journalists after a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Anibal Cavaco Silva (not pictured) at Belem presidential palace in Lisbon, June 19, 2014.

The president of Guinea Bissau, Jose Mario Vaz, has dismissed his government as a result of a rift with Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira.

Tensions, fed by overlapping duties in Guinea Bissau's semi-presidential system, have grown between the two men. State radio and television stations reported late Wednesday that in a speech announcing the move, Vaz said a government reshuffle was not enough to solve the problem.

There was no immediate reaction from the prime minister. But Pereira had previously said that PAIGC, the ruling party to which both Vaz and Pereira belong, was planning a convention this year to address the tensions, with a committee expected to study the constitution and clarify the two leaders' responsibilities.

The relationship between Vaz and Pereira has been strained since last June, when civilian rule was restored to the West African nation following a coup in 2012.

Lori-Ann Theroux-Benoni, director of the Institute of Security Studies' West Africa office, said the row between Vaz and Pereira was "clearly a power struggle, and unfortunately power struggles in Guinea Bissau have not ended well in the past. It may be time to look at constitutional reform."

Guinea Bissau, once colonized by Portugal, has undergone nine coups or attempted coups since 1980. In recent years, it has emerged as a major transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America to Europe, a trade in which U.S. authorities say senior military officials play a pivotal role.

Portugal has warned that aid to Guinea Bissau could be at risk if the country dips back into instability. Donors pledged more than 1 billion euros ($1.11 billion) in March to support the country after last June's elections.

In a statement Thursday, the European Union urged Guinea Bissau's political forces and state institutions to work together to overcome their differences.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.