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Guinea Bissau – From the coup d’état to elections

Presidential elections will be held on 13 April. The difficult path from political turmoil to stability.
On 12 April 2012, the people of Guinea-Bissau were surprised by another coup d’Ètat, when the country was a few weeks away from the second round of the presidential elections set for 29 April. Some elements of the armed forces overthrew the then President of the Republic Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior. It was the umpteenth coup in the history of the countryís troubled existence since independence.

After the coup, some political forces together with civil society organizations started a transition process heading toward new legislative and presidential elections. Scheduled for May 2013, the elections, because of several problems, were postponed, at first to 24 November 2013, and then delayed until 16 March 2014. On 22 February 2014 the scheduling of the elections was again postponed to 13 April.

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The political split
On 1 January 2014, former Bissau Guinean President and leader of the Party for Social Renewal (PRS) Kumba Yala, announced his intention to quit active politics. His unexpected decision raised concerns. Yala found consensus mainly within the Balanta ethnic group, which makes up 40% of the population (30%, according to other sources) and constitutes the majority of members in the Armed Forces. Yala was therefore believed to have great influence among military people. According to some, his resignation is allegedly due to lack of support by his party.

Some PRS members thought Yala, who was defeated in the 2005, 2009 and 2012 elections, would not be the winning candidate in the coming elections. For this reason the PRS has chosen Abel Incada as its presidential candidate. Yala’s resignation was not without consequences. The two PRS leaders and vice-presidents, Braima Sori Djalo, whose aspiration was to become president, and Jorge Malu, quit too. After his resignation Yala announced he would support the independent presidential candidate Nuno Gomes Nabian. It is still uncertain however, whether PRS votes will flow to Gomes Nabian. Belonging to a certain ethnic group or clan instead of another made a difference in all previous polls.

The PAIGC is also facing several problems. In 2012, Gomes Junior, a member of the PAIGC, was expected to win the presidential election run-off before it was pre-empted by the coup. The party seems not to have fully recovered yet from the coup’s effects, because of both the armed forcesí opposition to the return of Gomez Junior from exile and internal party divisions. The election of Domingos Simıes Pereira as chairman of the party (on February 10) could open a new phase. Meanwhile, at beginning of March, Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister, has been chosen as presidential candidate for the PAIGC. Along with the main parties’ candidates, independents such as Nuno Gomes and Quade o Paulo Domingos Gomes, are running for election. They hope to win by focusing on the population’s need for renewal and stability.

Drug trafficking and cashews
In April 2013, newspapers reported about the operation launched by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency that led to the arrest of the Navy’s former Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto, and the announcement of the indictment of the Chief of General Staff of Guinea-Bissauís armed forces, General Antonio Indjai, who led the 12 April 2012 coup. Top elements in the armed forces of the country were apparently directly involved in illicit trafficking.

As a matter of fact, drug trafficking does not have relevant impact on Guinea Bissauís economy, which relies mainly on the cultivation and selling (mostly to India) of cashew nuts. About 80% of the population is involved in the cashew nut production and export business. According to a 14 February FAO report, a slump in cashew nut prices and the increase in prices of agricultural products, such as rice, has left nearly half of the population in Guinea Bissau eking out food.

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According to Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Prize winner and nominated last February as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General to Guinea-Bissau, ‘Guinea-Bissau leaders have to accept in their minds that there will be no winners or losers, but that all have to work together in the next 5 years towards the development of their country. The country needs 3 essential things: good political leadership, political stability and good governance’.

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All parties must reach an agreement on shared rules and implementing a reform agenda for the country. The international community and the other African countries, such as Senegal and Nigeria, particularly concerned about the chaos reigning in Guinea Bissau, must support reconciliation in this troubled nation. (A.C.)

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