The European Union has given up on its mission to build a stable democracy in Guinea-Bissau just two years after it launched a mission in the West African country to help introduce laws to help administer the armed forces, police and judiciary; to create a civil society.
The EU’s decision comes after the US had announced it would suspend its reform mission until alleged drug kingpins in the high ranks of the military were flushed out.
Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by unrest for decades; civil wars, coups and assassinations, and it has become a center for Latin American drug cartels to move in with cocaine heading for Europe.
But it is the overthrow of army chief Gen Jose Zamora Induta and the arrest of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior in April, that prompted the European Union decision, reports have claimed.
EU mission’s spokesman in Guinea-Bissau, Miguel Souza, says the EU had to suspend its program when the mastermind of the mutiny, Gen Antonio Indjai, became army chief of staff.
“The EU mission thinks this is a breach in the constitutional order. We can’t work with him,” Souza was quoted as saying.
Last year’s election of President Malam Bacai Sanha’s had brought hope of a restoration of law and order in the country, but reports claim that President Sanha has little control over the army.
“The lack of respect for the rule of law makes the EU’s work with the security forces in Guinea-Bissau impossible. The small EU team will leave in October,” an EU statement read.
With this reality, The EU has opted to withdraw from the country. However, the withdrawal may further embolden powerful generals and drug traffickers analysts have said.
According to West African security expert, head of research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana, Kwesi Aning, the EU pull-out is disastrous for Guinea-Bissau.
“The signal it sends to criminals is: lie low, relax, bide your time. Our [Africa’s] partners are not in it for the long haul,” Aning was quoted. Aning believes the EU, which pledged to professionalize the Guinea-Bissau military, has even put lives in danger.
Those who came out to back the EU are now exposed. In the coming weeks, you will hear of assassinations,” he warned.
But the EU mission denies the EU has abandoned Guinea-Bissau. “We will still work with them if certain conditions are met. There must be legal proceedings against the people responsible for the mutiny,” Souza told reporters.
Observers agree that Guinea-Bissau has a weak government and alleged drug barons have infiltrated every level of government.
And like in many African countries, Guinea-Bissau military sees itself as the guarantor of safety, and often interfere in government because they do not believe politicians have the ability to control the country.
But with the drug trade proving to be the major cause of the instability in the country, experts have suggested that the EU should develop a broader policy with ECOWAS, the West African regional body to fight the illegal drugs trade.