10 April 2013

Guinea Bissau: Guinea-Bissau - Still Waiting for Elections

Photo: Marc-André Boisvert/IRIN
A polling station during the 2008 elections.

analysis

It has been a year now since the military staged a coup in Guinea-Bissau forcing the then Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior into exile in Lisbon, Portugal.

On the evening of April 12, as gunfire rocked the city of Bissau and soldiers took control of the main roads in the city, it was clear that another coup was imminent.

The Prime Minister's private residence was under attack and the soldiers forced their way inside with the help of a bazooka.

The military vandalised the prime minister's residence during the coup

Among the uninvited guests were military officers who arrested the former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior,

Several months later, in an exclusive interview with DW, Gomes Júnior recounted the events of that fateful evening. "They looted and destroyed my house. Using gun shots they forced open the pieces of furniture in the house. I would like to see these people brought to justice," he said.

Exiled in Lisbon while on the campaign trail

Prior to his exile, Carlos Gomes Júnior had planned to start his campaign for the second round of presidential elections. He was considered the favorite after polling 49 percent of the vote in the first round, narrowly missing an outright majority.

At the time he was acting prime minister and very popular because he had brought a degree of stability and economic growth to a country that had been plagued by a long series of coups since gaining independence in 1974.

Carlos Gomes Júnior wants those who attacked his house to be brought to justice

His main opponent, former president Kumba Yala, had garnered 23 percent of the vote and stood little chance of being re-elected.

Many Guineans regard Kumba Yala's reign as being characterised by chaos and incendiary speeches. But, Carlos Gomes Júnior, unknown to him, had a stronger opponent in the military. Without the military's backing, you cannot achieve much in Guinea.

Gomes Júnior had invoked the ire of the military by planning to reduce the number of officers and soldiers. The armed forces would also be subject to civilian command. These changes were to be enacted with the help of another Portuguese-speaking nation, Angola. The election of Gomes Júnior, as successor to the late President Malam Bacai Sanhá, would have threatened the power of the military and their deals with South American drug cartels.

So instead of hitting the campaign trail, instead Gomes Júnior found himself imprisoned and later in exile in Lisbon.

The military installed an interim civilian government which lacks legitimacy to this day. A promise to hold elections within a year was not kept.

Elections by end of 2013

The Special Envoy of the United Nations Mission in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), Nobel Prize winner and former President of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta has called for elections to be held by the end of the year.

Poverty stricken Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by coups since independence in 1974

"A government with a wider base and more legitimacy should be installed as soon as possible from April or May," says Jose Ramos.

"The mobilization of financial resources and material for the elections could be easier than the more sensitive political part." The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has also called for elections to be held by the end of 2013.The current government has been isolated by the international community because it is under the control of the military.

End of the transitional government in sight

Since last May the transitional government has been headed by Serifo Nhamadjo, a former parliamentary speaker..

Although he is from the same party as Carlos Gomes Júnior, the former liberation movement PAIGC, he campaigned against him for the presidency as an independent candidate.

Former speaker of parliament Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo was installed as president after the coup

Nhamadjo was eliminated from a planned run-off after garnering 15 percent in the first round.

He has, however, not stated when the next elections will be held or when the transitional government will be dissolved.

"Guineans are also responsible for presenting a realistic date for the elections. But it should not be too early and overwhelm us, and at the same time, it must not be pushed too far back," said Serifo Nhamadjo.

The director of the Portuguese Institute for International Politics in Lisbon, Paulo Gorjão believes that restoring constitutional order will not be enough and that elections on their own alone will not be a remedy for the country's problems.

"It is necessary to resolve, once and for all, all the problems besetting Guinea-Bissau," he said.

"Everyone whether outside or inside the country knows what those problems are. Firstly, the reform of the armed forces and secondly a more active policy against drug trafficking."

The West African country plays a key role in drug trafficking between Latin America and Europe. On April 2, US federal drug agents arrested a former chief of the navy from Guinea-Bissau, Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto. He was detained off the Cape Verde coast and sent to the United States.

Recession recovery since the coup

The economy is suffering from a standstill after the coup. Payments from international donors stopped. Investors will barely set foot in the country because of the prevailing instability.

Economic growth is seen as being key to Guinea-Bissau's development

The country's GDP grew by 5.3 percent in 2011, but the figure for 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund, was 2.8 percent. Before the coup economic growth of more than four percent had been expected.

Guinea-Bissau could use economic growth to fight poverty. On the UN Human Development Index, the country is eleventh from the bottom.

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