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 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.
The November 2008 legislative elections were an important test for Guinea-Bissau, whose transition to democratic rule badly needed impetus. It was uncertain whether they would take place until the last minute, but they were praised by both citizens and international observers.
Guinea-Bissau needs a state. Its political and administrative structures are insufficient to guarantee control of its territory, assure minimum public services or counter-balance the army’s dominance. This core weakness has been at the root of recurrent political crises, coups d’etat and the proliferation of criminal networks.