Guinea-Bissau: Hundreds of protesters demand departure of President Jose Mario 0

Hundreds of protesters have marched through the capital of Guinea-Bissau, demanding the departure of embattled President Jose Mario Vaz. On Thursday, the crowd of angry demonstrators on the main avenues of the capital Bissau held anti-government placards and repeatedly chanted slogans such as “Jomav get out”, using the president’s local nickname.

They also called for fresh elections to end the political crisis gripping the African country. The demonstration came a day after parliament rejected a program submitted by Prime Minister Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo.

Vaz appointed Sissoco in November after months of regional talks seeking an end to an 18-month political turmoil in the country. The prime minister has already missed a 60-day deadline to present a government program and budget that have to be accepted by parliament.

“The party … voted against the program of the PM because his government is illegitimate,” said Seidy Ba Sane, a spokesman for the country’s ruling PAIGC party. Sissoco has stressed that he would continue ruling without the confidence of parliament.

People in the West African country say the failure to pass a budget has begun to affect their daily lives and caused delays in payment of salaries for civil servants.  In addition, the ongoing crisis has stoked fears that drug traffickers might profit from the power vacuum in the country. Earlier this month, the United Nations expressed concern “over challenges posed by transnational organized crime and emerging threats, including drug trafficking, in the country.”

The economy of Guinea Bissau, one of the world’s poorest countries, is heavily reliant on cashew nut production.  Violence has rocked Guinea-Bissau since 1974 when it gained independence from Portugal. Since its independence, the country has suffered from political turmoil, including a series of military coups largely due to the unprecedented expansion of the army.