Strikes and protests continued in run-up to legislative elections in March. Journalists working for public media went on strike 1-4 Feb to denounce censorship and demand payment of salaries. Teachers’ union 5 Feb said authorities had failed to keep commitments made in Jan, threatened to resume strike. Angry at paralysis of schools, students protested in capital Bissau 8 Feb; protests turned violent, protestors looted shops, ruling party headquarters and minister’s house, security forces arrested eight. Govt 8 Feb said funds needed to pay teachers’ Dec and Jan salaries were available, but teachers resumed strike 14 Feb. Campaigning for 10 March legislative elections started 16 Feb. UN Security Council representatives visited country 15-16 Feb, urged President Vaz, PM Gomes, political party leaders and electoral commission officials to work for free, fair and peaceful legislative and subsequent presidential elections.
A legitimate civilian government, economic improvement and an army that has lost credibility are an opportunity for Guinea-Bissau. Regional and international partners meeting in Brussels on 25 March should commit to finance security sector reform to help the small state move beyond its history of military coups.
Guinea-Bissau’s elections are an important first step, but to address its economic and political fragility, the country needs strong international help, as well as political and military will for reform.
International actors need to commit to a common strategy to help coup-plagued Guinea-Bissau implement the security, justice and electoral reforms it needs to escape its status as a link in drug trafficking to Europe.
The ability of the Bissau-Guinean authorities to withstand the 26 December 2011 coup attempt bears witness to the improvements since the previous military turmoil of 1 April 2010, but crucial political, military and judicial developments still lie ahead as the country prepares for presidential elections in March and parliamentary polls later this year.
The killing of at least 160 participants in a peaceful demonstration, the rape of many women protestors, and the arrest of political leaders by security forces in Conakry on 28 September 2009 showed starkly the dangers that continued military rule poses to Guinea’s stability and to a region where three fragile countries are only just recovering from civil wars.
The assassinations of the chief of defence staff, General Batista Tagme Na Wai, on 1 March 2009 and President Joao Bernardo Nino Vieira early the next day have plunged Guinea-Bissau into deep uncertainty. National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira was quickly sworn in as interim president pending the election the constitution requires.
On 12 April 2012 a military uprising ousted former prime minister Carlos Gomes Júnior just as he was about to compete in a run-off presidential election that he was poised to win. Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos, Crisis Group's Senior Communications Officer, and Vincent Foucher, West Africa Senior Analyst, were in Bissau to examine the current situation in the country, the reasons for the overthrow and the priorities of the new transitional government.
On 12 April 2012, a military uprising ousted former prime minister Carlos Gomes Júnior just as he was about to compete in a run-off presidential election that he was poised to win. Crisis Group's Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos, Senior Communications Officer, and Vincent Foucher, West Africa Senior Analyst, were in Bissau to examine the current situation in the country.