October 13, 2015 / 9:40 AM / 3 years ago

Guinea-Bissau president swears in new government in bid to end crisis

BISSAU (Reuters) - Guinea-Bissau’s president swore in a new cabinet on Tuesday in a move to end a two-month crisis that has raised fears of renewed turmoil in the coup-prone West African country.

President Jose Mario Vaz named a government by decree late on Monday after talks collapsed with Prime Minister Carlos Correia — the third person in the post since August — over the composition of the cabinet.

Guinea-Bissau has been without regular government since Vaz dismissed his political rival, Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, on Aug. 12, pitching the tiny former Portuguese colony into an institutional crisis.

Vaz and Pereira, a powerful figure in the ruling PAIGC party, had been locked in a long-running power struggle exacerbated by their overlapping duties under Bissau’s political system.

Guinea-Bissau became a major transit point for cocaine after its last military coup in 2012 and some analysts are concerned that the months without governmental authority could make it easier for traffickers.

“The challenges facing this government are enormous and complex. That is why they must be tackled immediately,” Vaz, who was elected last year, said at the swearing-in ceremony.

The president called for careful consideration of the structures of Bissau’s democracy but stopped short of calling for a move away from a parliamentary system towards a presidential-style government.

The new cabinet excludes Pereira, who was on the list of ministers submitted by Correia to the president, and former foreign minister Mario Lopes da Rosa.

Vaz will act as interim Minister of Internal Administration and Minister of Natural Resources until those posts are named, amid ongoing disputes over those key portfolios.

A previous attempt by Vaz to name a government by decree was overturned by the Supreme Court in September. However, the court appeared unlikely to repeat that step as the new cabinet was largely based on a list proposed by the prime minister, in line with the constitution.

Guinea-Bissau has not seen a democratically elected leader serve a full term since independence from Portugal in 1974. Vaz has pledged to reform the military, a participant in nine coups or attempted coups since 1980.

Reporting by Alberto Dabo and Alberto Coiate; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Mark Heinrich

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