Hundreds gather to demand Guinea Bissau government resign


President of Guinea-Bissau Jose Mario Vaz gives a speech on the final sitting of 23th African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on 27 June, 2014.

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Around 1,000 opposition protesters gathered Friday to call for the resignation of Guinea-Bissau&39;s government, a year on from a failed mediation process aimed at ending the country&39;s grinding political crisis.

The tiny west African state has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked then premier Domingos Simoes Pereira, leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

Talks mediated by Guinean President Alpha Conde in October 2016 had envisaged naming a new prime minister, putting together an "inclusive" government and reintegrating the lawmakers into the PAIGC.

A heavy security presence in the capital Bissau prevented an even larger protest, organisers told AFP, where a journalist at the scene counted around 1,000 protesters drawn from 18 different parties, who aimed angry chants at the president.

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"This meeting is just the beginning of a series of actions that we are undertaking. We are just warming up," said Pereira, expressing hope that the military, civil society and religious groups would join future protests.

More rallies are expected across Bissau until November 5, the organisers said.

A new prime minister, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, was sworn in last December but the majority of the PAIGC rejected him, accusing Vaz of breaching an agreement calling for a consensual choice of prime minister.

The Interior Ministry warned in a statement that "any action endangering peace, stability and public order will not be tolerated."

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by military coups and instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974.