Umaro Sissoco Embaló, whom electoral commission declared winner of late 2019 presidential election, consolidated power amid COVID-19 pandemic and despite persisting controversy about election results. Supreme Court’s de facto president 2 April rejected some judges’ call to examine leading party in Parliament African Party for the Independence of Guinea (PAIGC)’s latest appeal against results of Dec 2019 presidential runoff vote, saying court would sit only when COVID-19 related state of emergency is lifted. Embaló’s govt stepped up pressure on some members of previous PAIGC-dominated govt. Notably, former Minister of Justice and Human Rights Ruth Monteiro 1-2 April said authorities prevented her twice from leaving country in March and distributed list with names of former ministers to airport and border posts to prevent them from leaving country; authorities 3 April denied existence of travel ban. Public Prosecutor’s office 8 April summoned Monteiro to hearing on charge of refusing to return vehicles to authorities, compelled her to appear regularly before authorities to confirm identity and continued residence in country. Bissau Regional Court 2 April sentenced twelve individuals to fourteen to sixteen years in prison for having smuggled nearly two tons of cocaine into country in Sept 2019. Embaló’s govt 6 April apologised for “excessive police actions” after human rights groups condemned alleged abuses by security forces while enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, including beatings and extortions; Embaló 12 April extended state of emergency for another fourteen days. Regional body ECOWAS 22 April recognised Embaló as president. Embaló and two PAIGC officials reportedly met 29 April in Bissau in bid to resolve crisis.
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.