Guinea Bissau. Although Guinea-Bissau on paper was ruled by a civilian transitional government that would conduct democratic elections, it was nevertheless clear that the militants behind the 2012 coup had still retained much of their influence. The country also had major financial difficulties, not least because several donors, including the EU, withheld their support.
A fall in cashew nuts, which usually accounts for 90% of export earnings, worsened the situation and made the UN warn of starvation. In July, almost half the population was said to suffer from food shortages. Both teachers and health care workers went on strike in protest that they had not received their salaries. Without financial support from the West African cooperation organization ECOWAS and Nigeria, the situation would have been even worse.
According to Countryaah, the smuggling of cocaine from Latin America to Europe via Guinea-Bissau was considered to contribute to power struggles between the military and high-ranking politicians. According to a report by the UN Drug and Law Enforcement Agency UNODC in February, people who tried to intervene in drug trafficking were murdered or kidnapped. However, there were those who believed that the drug cartels had moved on to other countries because of the precarious situation in Guinea-Bissau.
In April, the United States Drug Police (DEA) arrested former Navy commander José Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and several others on international waters off Cape Verde. They were brought to the United States where drug crime charges were pending (the United States had already in 2010 called him international for his involvement in the drug trade). Guinea-Bissau’s army chief António Indjai, who was widely believed to have been behind the 2012 coup, was also charged in his absence in the United States for selling weapons to the Colombian FARC guerrilla. Indjai denied there was anything in the charges.
- According to AbbreviationFinder.org, Bissau is the capital city of Guinea-Bissau. See acronyms and abbreviations related to this capital and other major cities within this country.
At the beginning of the year, President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo announced that it was technically impossible for the parliamentary elections to be held during the spring as planned. Later, the election day was set for November 24, but the election was rescheduled until March 16, 2014. It was also decided that the presidential election should be held on the same day.
Guinea-Bissau already had civilian rule. However, there were strong forces that counteracted this, especially in the military. An important reason for the 2012 coup was concern among many in the Army that they would lose their positions in a planned defense reform. A backlash for the coup makers came in September when the transitional parliament voted by a clear majority to a proposal that would have given them amnesty.
In July, the country’s new presidential palace was inaugurated in the capital Bissau, built with the help of Chinese money. The old had been destroyed during the civil war of 1998-99.
The fragile institutional balance that the country had achieved after the dismissal of JB Vieira (President of the Republic from 1980 to 1999) and after the end of the civil war that preceded it, was again compromised in the early 2000s by the re-explosion of social conflict and by the rekindling of the conflicts between government and military, against the backdrop of an unresolved economic crisis that made the living conditions of the population, one of the poorest on the planet, particularly dramatic.
The legislative elections called in November 1999 by the interim president MB Sanhá, of the African Partido da Indepêndencia da Guiné and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), sanctioned the victory of the progressive Partido para a Renovação Social (PRS), which won 38 seats, against 28 of the Resistência da Guiné-Bissau party – Movimento Bah-Fatah (RGB-MB) and the 24 of the PAIGC, until then a majority party. The new president K. Ialá, leader of the PRS, elected in 2000, placed national reconciliation and economic recovery among the priorities of his mandate, catalyzing the expectations of large sectors of internal and international public opinion, which had long hoped for a real process of democratization and modernization of the state. However, the new administration soon came up against the country’s basic contradictions, which made it extremely difficult to reconcile the needs of the budget, subjected to drastic spending cuts (as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, on which financial aid depended.), with the actual needs of a whole population and with the demands for wage improvements made by public administration workers and the armed forces, whose growing discontent thus continued to represent a powerful and difficult to control factor of institutional instability. Although Ialá managed to crush in November a new coup attempt by General A. Mane (who had already been the author of the dismissal of Vieira), in the following years the situation returned to be characterized both by strong instability and by a generalized recourse to violence.
The prolonged freeze on the payment of salaries, but above all the increasingly personalistic and authoritarian politics of the president, who proceeded to numerous government reshuffles between 2001 and 2003 and tried to bring the media and the judiciary back under his own power, brought once again the country on the brink of civil war. The interruption of funding by international organizations (2001), which accused Ialá of illicit use of funds allocated for development programs, also contributed to worsening the situation. In September 2003 a bloodless coup by the military, led by the head of the armed forces General V. Correia Seabra, welcomed by the population, finally dismissed the president and appointed in his place P. Rosas, who was joined by a government composed of military and representatives of civil society. Having obtained new credits from the IMF and the World Bank, Rosas attempted to initiate a policy of national reconciliation and consolidation of public security and, in March 2004, called new legislative elections; these marked the return to power of the PAIGC, which received the majority of the votes (45 seats, against 35 of the PRS). The unresolved problem of overdue payments to the army continued to constitute a serious reason for conflict in the following months, and in October 2004 an attempted mutiny took place, during which Correia Seabra was killed, accused by the rioters of having appropriated the funds intended for their salaries. The fluidity of the situation was confirmed by the results of the presidential elections of June-July 2005, in which, surprisingly, Vieira was elected in the second round, returned from exile in Portugal and supported by a part of the PAIGC.