GUINEA-BISSAU; GLIMMERS OF STABILITY IN ONE OF AFRICA’S MOST IMPROVERISHED ECONOMY UNDER INCESSANTLY TURBULENT DEMOCRACY

Pre-Independence History

1446: Portuguese arrive and occupy the Present-day Territory of Guinea-Bissau as part of their Cape Verde Territory; they started using this New Coast Territory as a Key Slave Trade Joint to a point of making it a ‘Slave Coast’ where Locals and other Africans captured elsewhere were bundled in transit to Europe and America.

This Territory is later in 1879 separated from Cape Verde to become a separate Portuguese-Guinea Colony. In 1951 Portugal declared Guinea-Bissau as one of its Provinces just like Cape Verde as starts issuing Africans in the Two Colonies Portuguese Citizenship; this is the point at which the Agitation to Resist Portuguese Dominance and Assimilation began. The first African Nationalist Movement to emerge in Anti-Portuguese Colonization was the ‘African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde’ (PAIGC) founded on September 1956 by a Renown Pan-African Revolutionary and Agronomist one Amilcar Cabral born in Guinea-Bissau to a Guinea-Bissau Father and a Cape Verde Mother. He founded this alongside other like-minded Nationalists like his Brother Luis Cabral, Aristides Pereira, Fernando Fortes, Julio Almeida, Elisee Turpin among others.

They began their pursuit for Independence in a peaceful style but the repressive Portuguese Colonial Regime responded with brute quelling Force, Violence and arbitrary arrests. Of note is the ‘Pidjiguiti Massacre’ of August 1959 when Portuguese Forces opened Fire on Guineans employed at the Pidjiguiti Port in Bissau who were demonstrating because of Oppression and low Wages where over 50 were killed with many others left with serious injuries. This among other heinous Acts meted on Africans in both Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde made PAIGC to change tack to Armed Resistance marking the start of ‘Guinea-Bissau’s War and Struggle for Independence’ .

With support from Cuba, USSR and China who helped PAIGC Freedom Fighters with Arms and Training making their Resistance strong for the Portuguese Forces. With the coordination between their fellow armed Comrades in Resistance from Mozambique and Angola under the ‘Conference of Nationalist Organization of Portuguese Colonies’ their Resistance grew even stronger.

By 1967 PAIGC Freedom Fighters had managed to regain control in over Two-thirds of Guinea-Bissau with Portuguese Forces retreating to the Coastline. On October 1972 PAIGC held an indirect National Assembly Election that resulted to a ‘Guinea-Bissau People’s Assembly’ and a Government Structure in their Stronghold in readiness for a full Takeover and Independence. Unfortunately on January 20, 1973 at Conakry in their Neighbouring Guinea where PAIGC had one of its Offices their Leader Amilcar Cabral was finally Assassinated by a PAIGC Guerilla identified as ‘Inocencio Kani’ with Instructions and backing from the Portuguese Regime who had on several Occasions tried to Capture and Kill Amilcar Cabral in a bid to destabilize PAIGC and thereby stop their Push for Independence.

A Military Coup on April 1974 at Lisbon-Portugal overthrew the Autocratic Regime of Estado Novo and the New Government that took over started Negotiations to end the already weakened Portuguese Hold on African Colonies. This saw Portugal granting Independence to all its Colonies in Africa between September 1974 and November 1975 starting with Guinea-Bissau on September 24, 1974. A Year later on July 5, 1975 Cape Verde followed in Independence and the then leading PAIGC Members one Luis Cabral (Brother to the slain Amilcar Cabral) and Aristides Pereira became the first Presidents of Independent Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde respectively.

Post-Independence Guinea-Bissau

The Two immediately began Talks to merge their Newly Independent States that had a common History but unfortunately President Luis Cabral was overthrown in a November 1980 Military Coup led by a former PAIGC Guerilla and his Prime Minister one General Bernado Vieira. This killed the Unification Dream and marked the start of Guinea-Bissau’s Political Tribulations.

Bernado Vieira began his Reign via a Military Council until 1984 when a New Constitution was adopted amid growing Pressure for Multi-party Democracy led by Aristides Menezes via his ‘Democratic Front’  among other similar Movements. The ban on Political Parties was lifted in 1991 ahead of a General Election of August 1994. The Elections saw President Vieira get a Democratic People’s Mandate with 52% of the Votes casted against Mr. Kumba Yala of the Social Renewal Party-PRS who got 47%. This was the first Post-Independence Multi-Party Election that saw 8 Candidates contesting for the Top Job in Guinea-Bissau.

On June 1998 President Vieira fired his Military Chief of Staff one Ansumane Mane a move that triggered a Violent Rebellion between Rival Forces in the Army. The Parliament on November 1998 passed a Motion demanding Vieira’s Resignation which further worsened the Situation to Civil War. President Vieira’s Forces were subdued by those of his Rival General Ansumane and Vieira fled to Portugal on June 1999.  The Supreme Military Council named his former Prime Minister Satumino Da Costa was named the acting President of PAIGC and Parliament’s Leader Malam Sanha as the acting President ahead of the November 1999 Election to replace Vieira.

The then Leader of Opposition Kumba Lala of the PRS Party Won this Election and was sworn in as the new President on February 2000. General Ansumane Mane was on November 2000 Killed by Forces Loyal to President Kumba after bitter differences between the Two. Kumba’s Reign was still troubled by his strained relations with his Ministers, Political Instability, Stagnant Economy and Civil Unrest. He would later on September 2003 get Ousted in a Military Coup over what the Junta said was general Incapacity.

The Junta appointed a Civilian transitional Government led by Henrique Rosa as the Interim President and Artur Sanha as his Prime Minister in a bid to return the Country to Stability and Constitutional Order. The Two oversaw the March 2004 Legislative Elections and July 2005 Presidential Elections.

The July 2005 Presidential Elections saw two dramatic Appearances; Ousted President Kumba Lala returned to the Scene despite his ban from Politics and was cleared to run. Ousted President Bernado Vieira returned from Exile and was also cleared to run by the Supreme Court despite Charges levelled against him during the 1998/1999 Civil War that saw his Ouster. His former Party PAIGC that had already expelled him backed former Interim President Malam Sanha in this Election. Malam Sanha Won this Election with 35%, followed by Vieira with 28%, Kumba Lala came third with 25% meaning a Second Round for the Two Top Contenders. Kumba Lala backed Vieira in the Second Round and Vieira Won with 52% with his Rival Malam Sanha coming close Second with 47%.

Vieira got back to Power as President but this time round it would end disastrously for him. Attempts on his Life began on November 2008; suspecting Mutiny from his then Military Chief of Staff and his long-time bitter Rival General Batista Tagme, Forces loyal to him Killed General Batista on March 1, 2009. In Retaliation, disgruntled Forces loyal to General Batista killed him the following Morning on March 2, 2009 while trying to flee a Coup.

Raimundo Pereira the then Leader of Parliament immediately assumed the Office of the President as an Interim President according to the Constitution ahead of a Presidential Election in 90-days. A Presidential Election was held on June 2009 and former Interim President Malam Sanha under PAIGC defeated former Ousted President Kumba Lala with 63% to 36% in a Second-Round Vote.

President Sanha was Diabetic and his Health started deteriorating soon after ascending to Power. On January 9, 2012 while in Hospital at Paris President Sanha died. The then Leader of National Assembly and immediate-former Interim President Raimundo Pereira returned to Presidency again in Interim Capacity ahead of another Presidential Election in 90-days.

A Presidential Election was held on March 2012 and Carlos Gomes Junior Won with 48% followed by former Ousted President Kumba Lala with 23%. A Second-round Vote was set for late April but before this repeat  Presidential Election, Interim President Pereira was Ousted by the Military and Mamadu Kuruma the Chair of the Junta took over alongside Manuel Nhamadjo as the designate Interim President. The Junta also arrested Gomes Junior and Kumba Lala and cancelled the scheduled repeat Election between them. The Junta promised a Presidential Election in Two Years. On April-May 2014 a Presidential Election was held and Jose Mario Vaz under PAIGC was declared Winner with 62% against Junta-backed Nuno Gomes Nabiam who got 38% in a Second-round Vote. A few days to this Election, former Ousted President and PRS Party Founder/Leader Kumba Lala died of a Heart Disease.

An Economist and former Finace Minister in Jose Mario Vaz locally known as ‘Jomav’ was sworn in as the New President on June 2014 promising reforms in the troubled Democracy/Economy.

November 24, 2019 Presidential Elections

A Presidential Election is set to be held on Sunday November 24, 2019 8 Months after the March Legislative/Parliamentary Elections that were Won by the Independence Party PAIGC. 62-Years old President Mario Vaz who is the first President to finish a Presidential Term since Guinea-Bissau’s Independence is in this Election seeking a Second Term as an Independent Candidate after falling out with PAIGC the Party that brought him to Power. The Party expelled him on August 2015 when he fired his then Prime Minister over what he called ‘breach of Trust’ throwing the Parliament and the Government Systems into Chaos. He recently on October 29th again fired his Prime Minister Aristides Gomes  and Appointed a New one Faustino Fudut; Gomes refused to step down amid escalating Political and Electoral Unrest in the Country until ECOWAS intervened to stop President Vaz from effecting this Change. President Mario has been sacking his Prime Ministers from time to time since the day he took Office in 2014;He has so far worked with 7 Prime Ministers.

In this Election he will be competing with 11 other Candidates (all Male) led by his main challenger and former Prime Minister one 56-Years old Domingos Pereira who has the blessing of the Ruling Party PAIGC and two-times former Prime Minister 70-Years old Carlos Gomes Junior locally known as ‘Cadogo’ who recently returned from Exile in Portugal where he fled after the 2012 Military Coup. Carlos had won the first-round of March 2012 Presidential Election that was cancelled with a Military Coup thereafter. Other Candidates are another former Prime Minister to President Jose Mario who is also an Army General one 47-Years old Umaro Sissoco and 53-Years old Nuno Nabiam who came Second in the April 2014 Election.

There are slightly over 760,000 Registered Voters out of Guinea Bissau’s Total Population of 1.8 Million People who are expected to Vote in this Election across the 8 Regions of Guinea-Bissau.

November 24th Presidential Election Results

Two former Guinea-Bissau Prime Ministers managed to beat their former Boss President Jose Mario Vaz in the November 24th Presidential Election securing their place in a decisive Run-off Election between them scheduled for December 29th,2019.This is because none of the 12 Presidential Candidates managed to garner 50% of the Votes for a Clear-cut Victory in this first Round.56-yrs old Domingos Pereira under the Country’s Independence/Largest/Ruling Party #PAIGC led with 40% followed by 47-yrs old General Umaro Sissoco who got 28%.Incumbent President Jose MarioVaz who was seeking his Second Term in Office came a distant Fourth with 12% according to Electoral Commission CNE Chair Pedro Sambu. This first round was quite peaceful with a significantly high Voter turnout with Voters/Citizens expressing high hopes for a Rebirth of their Politically and Economically troubled Country.

Some Major Issues and Facts In Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau continues to battle with Challenges of deep-seated Poverty, Corruption, Poor Governance, Incessant Political Instability and Turmoils and Drug Trade and Trafficking. Since Independence 45-Years ago Guinea-Bissau has seen 6 successful Military Coups and at least 15 thwarted Military Coups. Guinea-Bissau has also been made a Den of Drug Trafficking and Trade where well-connected Drug Lords from South and Latin America in Collusion with Corrupt Guinea-Bissau Authorities and Political Class who take advantage of Guinea-Bissau’s weak Security Apparatus, Porous Borders and Poor Law Enforcement Institutions to make the Country a Narcos-Transit Den for Drugs and Narcotics destined for Europe and other Parts of the World including Africa. Guinea-Bissau was in fact named as Africa’s Narcos-State by the United Nations in 2008.

In terms of Gross National Income which currently stands at $750, Gross Domestic Product currently at $1,429 Million and the number of People living below the Poverty line currently close to 70% of the Total Population; Guinea-Bissau is still among some of the Poorest Nations in Africa and Globally. Over 80% of the Population is dependent on Subsistence Agriculture with Food Insecurity and Malnutrition still a major Challenge according to the World Food Program.

Guinea-Bissau main Export is Nuts in form of Cashew Nuts, Coconuts, Peanuts, Brazil Nuts with Cashew Nuts being the Top Export and Foreign Exchange Earner. Fishing is also a significant Industry in this Country. There is also plenty of Timber in this Country. The Minerals Potential of this Country remains largely unexplored.

One Key Tourist attraction Site in Guinea-Bissau is the ‘Bijagos Archipellago’ which is a group of 88 breath-taking tranquil Islands, Islets and Beaches off its Coast with Magical Ancient and Unadulterated Culture, People and Traditions, a rich Flora and Fauna Biodiversity that remained intact even in the face of Portuguese Colonization. The UNESCO in 2013 named ‘Bijagos Archpelago’ as a World Heritage Site, a Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve.

The Official Language here is Portuguese inherited from their Colonizer although ‘Guinensi’ which is Portuguese Creole is widely used as the Country’s Lingua-Franca. About 45% of the Population are Muslims with 22% being Christians; the rest are Traditionalists. West African CFA Franc is their Currency. Bissau the Country’s Capital City is the biggest City in this Country; Its Name was added to the Country’s official Name ‘Guinea-Bissau’ to differentiate it from its Neighbor Guinea-Conakry (former French Colony) which is also identified with its Capital City Conakry.

(Photos Courtesy)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.