Guinea-Bissau: How to Further Destabilize a Country in Two Days

Guinea-Bissau (GB) is a tiny little country on the western coast of Africa. It is a nation ravaged by grave health concernsdrug trafficking and an abundant access to weapons. It is racked by political instability. Elections originally scheduled for March 2008 were postponed. In August 2008, then-President Vieira dissolved Parliament and a new Prime Minister was appointed. Relatively peaceful elections occurred in mid-November, however, mutinous soldiers, apparently not happy with these governmental maneuvers, attempted to assassinate the former President in what is considered to be a coup attempt. This year started with a bang, literally, when General Tagme Ma Wai, army Chief of Staff, accused the President of attempting to assassinate him in January when his car was shot up. Making sure it was done right the next time, General Wai was killed when army headquarters were bombed on March 1st. And then because no deed of any kind goes unpunished in GB, President Vieira was promptly killed on March 2nd when his house was again attacked.

In case you think these were isolated incidents, or even new circumstances, let me hasten to disabuse you. GB is a highly volatile country, with a long history of coups and military rebellions. Since 2000, soldiers have killed three Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, as well as other high ranking military officers. Those responsible for the killings were not brought to justice. Not surprising then, that human rights are less than prioritized in GB. On April 1st, making for a highly unfunny April Fool’s Day, Francisco José Fadul, a Court President and former Prime Minister of GB, ended up in intensive care after he was beaten by military personnel at his home in the early hours of the morning. This followed an assault by the military of well-known lawyer Pedro Infanda, who was arrested, severely beaten and tortured for four days by military officials before being transferred to police custody. He also spent time in intensive care. Coincidently, both men held press conferences during which the military was criticized shortly before they were attacked by military officials. Subsequently, members of the Human Rights League received threats after condemning the violent attacks.

President of the National Assembly, Raimundo Pereira, sworn in as interim President on March 2nd, is currently running the show in GB and new Presidential elections are scheduled for June 28th. Here’s hoping GB has free and fair elections with no more 48 hour tit-for-tat assassinations.

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9 thoughts on “Guinea-Bissau: How to Further Destabilize a Country in Two Days

  1. Given the happenings of the last 24 hours in Bissau, it appears that the instability and inability to get beyond the insane desire for revenge and power among men will only continue in Guinea-Bissau.

    The second sentence of the original post is a glimpse into the recent history of Guinea-Bissau, a history which built itself upon the crumbling foundations of the end of the 20th century. When I lived there from 1995 – 1998, it was obvious that there were dire challenges, but I was still caught off-guard by the coup because while people complained of what was happening in their country, I never heard of plans to actually do anything about it. Drug trafficking and weapons have accelerated the deterioration since then.

    It is heartbreaking to see and hear it unfolding and, in the end, it is the child who doesn't get even a primary education, the woman who can't sell her vegetables in the market and the young person who gets an automatic weapon handed to him as drug money and guns begin to infiltrate a country, who suffer most. Those lusting for power fulfill their greediness without account of their people and those who attempt to find the right path are driven off the road.

    At this point, it is my hope that ordinary citizens – together with the Human Rights League (LIGA) and support from the international and regional communities – will rise up and discard "djitu ka ten" and demand that "dijitu ten ku ten." In other words, the mentality that nothing can be done needs to be flipped – something must be done and we must have the will to do it.

    My question is, how will the international and African community come together with Guineans to support a stable state, to create infrastructure for economic development and build a path to logical peace? The desire for power and money among men has tarnished anyone's belief that external support will be managed well or can have any plausible return on investment. This is the second half of the recent history of the country, one that when combined with the health, drug and weapons issues gives Guineans a near impossible mountain to climb.

    We need brave mountain climbers, not cowardly army officials or politicians.

  2. Given the happenings of the last 24 hours in Bissau, it appears that the instability and inability to get beyond the insane desire for revenge and power among men will only continue in Guinea-Bissau.

    The second sentence of the original post is a glimpse into the recent history of Guinea-Bissau, a history which built itself upon the crumbling foundations of the end of the 20th century. When I lived there from 1995 – 1998, it was obvious that there were dire challenges, but I was still caught off-guard by the coup because while people complained of what was happening in their country, I never heard of plans to actually do anything about it. Drug trafficking and weapons have accelerated the deterioration since then.

    It is heartbreaking to see and hear it unfolding and, in the end, it is the child who doesn’t get even a primary education, the woman who can’t sell her vegetables in the market and the young person who gets an automatic weapon handed to him as drug money and guns begin to infiltrate a country, who suffer most. Those lusting for power fulfill their greediness without account of their people and those who attempt to find the right path are driven off the road.

    At this point, it is my hope that ordinary citizens – together with the Human Rights League (LIGA) and support from the international and regional communities – will rise up and discard “djitu ka ten” and demand that “dijitu ten ku ten.” In other words, the mentality that nothing can be done needs to be flipped – something must be done and we must have the will to do it.

    My question is, how will the international and African community come together with Guineans to support a stable state, to create infrastructure for economic development and build a path to logical peace? The desire for power and money among men has tarnished anyone’s belief that external support will be managed well or can have any plausible return on investment. This is the second half of the recent history of the country, one that when combined with the health, drug and weapons issues gives Guineans a near impossible mountain to climb.

    We need brave mountain climbers, not cowardly army officials or politicians.

  3. Thanks, SNS, for alerting me to yesterday's events. It had thus far slipped under the radar. The chances that GB would see free and free elections on June 28th was always remote. Now it seems an even lesser likely reality.

  4. Pingback: Guinea-Bissau: Look Kids…Big Ben, Parliament | Human Rights Now - Amnesty International USA Blog

  5. Thanks, SNS, for alerting me to yesterday’s events. It had thus far slipped under the radar. The chances that GB would see free and free elections on June 28th was always remote. Now it seems an even lesser likely reality.

  6. Sarah and SMS thanks for keeping this in the limelight. Hopefully we can prevent what happened in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 90s from happening again.

  7. Sarah and SMS thanks for keeping this in the limelight. Hopefully we can prevent what happened in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 90s from happening again.