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Forecast Podcast: Failed coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau adds to concerns about West African stability

An aerial shot of Tropical Storm Ana.

Listen to the full episode here:

Show notes:

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Sophie Perryer discuss an apparent coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau, plus more on the cyclone headed for Madagascar, an election in Costa Rica, Libya’s parliament voting on a new prime minister and Russian military exercises in Belarus.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Irene Villora, Alex Moore, David Wyllie and Sophie Perryer.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe


This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is Feb. 3, 2022

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a cyclone headed for Madagascar, an election in Costa Rica, Libya’s parliament voting on a new prime minister, Russian military exercises in Belarus and a look at an apparent coup attempt in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau. 

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Cyclone Batsirai landfall in Madagascar

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: A powerful tropical cyclone is forecast to hit the island nation of Madagascar on Friday, just days after another storm left a trail of destruction.

Ana, the first named storm of the southwest Indian Ocean cyclone season, made landfall on Jan. 22. It ended up killing dozens of people across the region due to flooding and landslides. 

Now, Batsirai is forecast to be an even stronger storm than Ana, which puts the people who are still recovering from Ana at risk. In fact, according to the Red Cross, tens of thousands of people are still in temporary housing in the country’s capital region.

Costa Rica election

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Costa Ricans will head to the polls for a general election on Sunday. And when they do, they’ll be picking from a record 25 candidates running for president.

The run-up to the election has been marked by an aggressive campaign with more than 40 percent of voters undecided. 

What’s more, according to a poll from the University of Costa Rica, no candidate is likely to get enough votes to win the first round, making a runoff likely. 

Of course, indecisiveness among Costa Rican voters has become a trend since the 2014 elections amid a proliferation of corruption scandals and economic inequalities that’ve widened the gap between the nation’s social classes. 

Still, it is one of the most stable countries in Latin America.

Now, more than 3.5 million Costa Ricans are able to vote in the election. And in addition to the presidency, there are also 57 parliamentary seats to fill. 

The first results are expected to be announced Sunday evening with approximately 10 percent of the votes counted.

Libya prime minister vote

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Libya’s unity government parliament will vote to appoint a new prime minister on Tuesday.

It will mark the first big political development in Libya since December’s landmark presidential elections were delayed.

Members of the country’s eastern-based Government of National Unity will vote to replace Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. 

The vote has intensified political maneuvering among Libya’s fragmented political class in what Dbeibah said was “a desperate attempt to renew division.” 

Now, the new vote challenges calls from the United Nations to focus on the issues that led to the presidential election’s postponement as opposed to appointing a new administration. 

And while Libya has witnessed 18 months of relative calm after the creation of the unity government, some fear that renewed disputes among the country’s competing factions could derail the process to elect a president and agree on a constitution.

Russian military exercises in Belarus begin

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Russia is expected to kick off military exercises in neighboring Belarus on Thursday. They’ll come as tensions remain high over its deployment of some 100,000 troops to the border with Ukraine.

At a meeting of the UN Security Council, the United States accused Russia of being behind the largest troop mobilization in Europe in decades, claiming that, on top of its deployment on Ukraine’s borders, it was funneling some 30,000 troops into Belarus ahead of war games. 

The Russian presence in Belarus means Ukraine is enveloped on three sides by Russian forces, and, more crucially, puts Putin’s forces within striking distance of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

Now, analysts fear the increased movement and communications from the ten-day military exercise will serve as cover for a surprise Russian attack on Ukraine. 

Western leaders have urged Russia to refrain from any incursion into Ukraine, warning of severe sanctions if it’s attacked. 

Still, diplomacy to avert hostilities continues, with world leaders attempting to keep lines of dialogue open.

Guinea-Bissau attempted coup

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau. For more on that I spoke with Factal Senior Editor Sophie Perryer.

JIMMY: Hi Sophie.

SOPHIE: Hey Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Hey, can you catch us up to speed on what exactly happened in Guinea-Bissau this week?

SOPHIE: Sure. So,  Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embaló said he and his cabinet had survived an attempted coup on Tuesday following several hours of gunfire around the presidential palace in the country’s capital Bissau. Now, at least six people were killed, including four of the alleged attackers – that’s according to local media reports – and the unrest sent residents fleeing from the area, while schools and businesses closed their doors.    

JIMMY: You know, this is only our 40th episode, but somehow it’s the third time you and I have discussed a coup or at least a coup attempt in West or Central Africa. And Ahmed was just here a week ago talking about the coup in Burkina Faso. What in the world is going on?

SOPHIE: Absolutely, the region is certainly experiencing an uptick in military takeovers, and that’s fueled in part by frustration at failure by incumbent leaders to tackle an Islamist insurgency in the Sahel region of Africa. In Guinea-Bissau’s case specifically, discontent has reportedly been growing, particularly among the ranks of the military, over President Embaló’s failure to tackle corruption and drug-trafficking. And, in fact, in late 2021, the military chief accused several army members of planning to stage a coup.

JIMMY: How has the international community reacted to this latest coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau?

SOPHIE: Well, both the African Union and the regional trade bloc ECOWAS were quick to condemn the attempted coup – ECOWAS said it holds the military responsible for Embaló’s physical safety, while the African Union urged soldiers to return to their barracks without delay. Now, these responses would appear to suggest the international community holds the military responsible for this attempted coup – however, President Embaló suggested the perpetrators could be linked to the drug trade, so it’s not entirely clear who is behind the takeover at this time. 

JIMMY: Do you think this situation in Guinea-Bissau is settled? Or, is there any indication that this might lead to further unrest?

SOPHIE: While calm appears to have returned to Guinea-Bissau, with residents in the capital returning to their workplaces on Wednesday and schools reopening, but, further unrest is still possible, particularly given that the details of the coup attempt remain unclear at this time. 

JIMMY: Final question then: What should folks be watching for next?

SOPHIE: So, ECOWAS is meeting Thursday to discuss the recent coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso – and it’s pretty likely they’ll be adding Guinea-Bissau to the agenda too given Tuesday’s events. If there are signs of further unrest or a clear military takeover, it’s likely ECOWAS would suspend Guinea-Bissau’s membership, as was the case with other member nations in similar situations. Now, observers should also be keeping a close eye on other West African nations – the political climate is particularly febrile in the region, given we’ve seen two coups there in the past month alone, and such unrest could spread to other countries such as the Ivory Coast, for example, which is also grappling with the implications of the insurgency in the Sahel.

JIMMY: Certainly lots to watch for. But, I do thank you for getting us up to speed, Sophie. Always appreciate your updates.

SOPHIE: Of course, thanks for having me.

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Irene Villora, Alex Moore and David Wyllie. Our interview featured editor Sophie Perryer and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

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Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe