Police mistakenly tear gas army in Guinea-Bissau

Police mistakenly tear gas army in Guinea-Bissau

BISSAU - Agence France-Presse
Police mistakenly tear gas army in Guinea-Bissau

Soldiers escort the car carrying the coffin of Guinea Bissau president Malam Bacai Sanha during his funeral ceremony on January 15, 2012 in Bissau. AFP photo

Police officers in Guinea-Bissau were arrested by soldiers after they accidentally fired tear gas on senior military personnel while trying to break up a rally, officials told AFP Tuesday.

Young activists staged a demonstration on Monday outside the headquarters of the National Elections Commission (CNI) to demand their names be put on candidates list for the country's March 18 presidential vote.

A military source said the demonstrators set fire to tyres and started throwing projectiles at the CNI headquarters, prompting police to charge, armed with batons and firing teargas. "The charge was violent" and the fumes from the teargas affected "military chiefs" who were at the scene, the source explained. The army bosses then "gave the order to clear out the police from there," the source added.

Four police were beaten and taken to the army chief's headquarters, a government source said.

"Our comrades were violently charged by the soldiers," said an officer from the unit deployed to break up the rally.

The four officers were later released, he added.

Roughly 100 political activists took part in the rally which was "peaceful", according to Braima Alfa Djalo of African National Congress (CNI), a presidential candidate who helped organise the march.

The Human Rights League of Guinea-Bissau (LGDH) "strongly condemned" the incident in a statement on Tuesday. It said clashes between different security organs ignite fear in a country that has been plagued by repeated instances of army brutality since independence from Portugal in 1974.

Guinea-Bissau's March 18 elections follow death of former president Malam Bacai Sanha in Paris on January 9 at the age of 64 after a long illness.

Over the past 17 years, none of the presidents elected in Guinea-Bissau have been able to finish their five-year terms, as all three of Bacai Sanha's predecessors fell prey to coups or assassinations.