Guinea Bissau: Political killings unmask a top narco-state

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Guinea-Bissau Military have killed presidential aspirant Mr. Baciro Dabo and former defense minister Helder Proenca, three weeks ahead of national polls. Ex-prime minister Faustino Embali and several other politicians – all members of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, have been arrested and detained by the military.

Presidential aspirant Mr. Baciro Dabo, was asleep with his wife at home when he was shot, — The Military insist that he resisted arrest and so was shot– while Mr. Helder Proenca, former defense minister was shot dead along with two of his guards — He is accused of being the mastermind of an alleged coup.

The Guinea-Bissau army continues to play a destabilising role in a country which has been plagued by coups since independence in 1975.

On March 2, 2009, Guinea-Bissau President Mr. Joao Bernardo Vieira was hacked to death with machetes by military personnel who blamed him for a bomb which had killed the army chief of staff hours earlier. The Military took over the country after the assasination of the president and scheduled elections for June 28, 2009.

Presidential aspirant Mr. Dabo, was a close ally of assasinated President, Mr. Vieira, and experts have suggested that the high-ranking members of the military might have feared that if Mr. Dabo won the elections, he could prosecute them for killing President Viera.

Three weeks to the proposed elections, the military have killed, arrested and detained several politicians, accusing them of plotting a coup against the current military head of state. According to them, they “have material proof that this coup attempt was aimed at physically eliminating the head of the armed forces, overthrowing the interim head of state and dissolving the national assembly.”

Guinea-Bissau is the only country in West Africa to have fought its way to independence. But since that war with colonial masters, Portugal, ended in 1974, the country has jumped from one crises to another.

Guinea-Bissau presidents have all relied on the army to stay in power, thus attracting a coup d’état n instances where military support has not been strong enough.

Reports have claimed that the source of this instability is caused by extremely weak institutions and a non-existent state.

Drugs and violent Politics

At the pinnacle of the political system there is a permanent war for the control of power which is now tied to drug trafficking; one of the main causes of political scuffles.

Once hailed as a potential model for African development, Guinea-Bissau is now one of the poorest countries in the world. Political instability and mismanagement have undermined the economy and the illegal drug trade is reported to have a central role in the struggle for leadership in Guinea-Bissau.

In recent drug related events, the disappearance of over 1 500g of cocaine caused the arrest and eventual release of officals who were suspected to be behind a murky drug deal. In the same month (September, 2008), about 700 kg of seized cocaine mysteriously disappeared. Prior to that, a plane from Venezuela was impounded with more than 500 kg of cocaine on board, however, months after the seizure nothing has been heard about the drugs.

Shortly before his death, President Nino Vieira in an address to the nation on the 34th anniversary of the country’s independence, had admitted that “drug trafficking is a cause for concern for the authorities in Guinea Bissau”.

Last year, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group in a report entitled: ’’Guinea-Bissau: In Need of a State’’, warned that “’Guinea-Bissau risks becoming a potentially violent narco-state without international support for urgently needed democratic reforms’’.

Experts have called for fundamental changes in the way the country is run, including a much-needed reform of the army and a political system free from military interference. According to Francois Grignon, “Only a serious institution-building process and a legal framework that can regulate political life and free it from the guerrilla mentality of pre-independence can allow Guinea-Bissau to escape its crisis once and for all.’’

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