Guinea-Bissau: A time for change

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The government of Guinea-Bissau, including its military, civil society, political parties and diplomatic corps have been challenged to work together and build a stable nation, and save the continually plummeting reputation of its leadership.

Guinea-Bissau has been troubled by coups since independence from Portugal in 1974, and its leadership has been unable to build a stable and civil society. The country’s military and politicians have been in a constant struggle for power, undermining legal institutions so much so that the country has become an attractive transit point for drugs from Latin America destined for Europe.

But gathering for the opening of a six-month national reconciliation conference, Guinea-Bissau’s President Malam Bacai Sanha told public authorities that the time for evaluation, and making commitments to solve the country’s problems is now.

The perceived gross incompetence of Guinea-Bissau leadership has reportedly displeased President Sanha’s administration and he is bent on showing the world that the people of Guinea-Bissau can rule themselves and build their society.

“We are not animals but human beings who know what they want, men who know how to build a peaceful, stable nation. We are ashamed of being seen as people incapable of finding solutions to the problems in their country,” President Sanha was quoted as he addressed the opening of a six-month national reconciliation conference.

While President Sanha calls for change, Guinea-Bissau analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, Edward George identifies an endemic problem in the country’s governing system. According to him: In Guinea-Bissau like in many African countries, the military sees itself as the guarantor of safety, and does not believe politicians have the ability to control the country.

As a result of this interference of military and political leadership, the EU on June 2008, launched a mission to help Guinea-Bissau introduce laws to govern the armed forces, police and judiciary, so that they steered clear of politics and crime. However, mutiny, coup and a disregard of the rule of law in the poverty-stricken country forced the EU to end its mission to reform the country’s security forces.

With the EU mission ready to leave in October, top Guinea-Bissau’s army authorities backed a government plan to allow a foreign mission to help stabilize the country. But President Sanha’s administration demand that the country be stabilized by its leadership.

An ongoing six-month national reconciliation conference is expected to find ways to build peace and development in the country through dialogue amongst all forms of government.

“There is no fundamental contradiction between Bissau-Guineans, but rather a lack of dialogue. We cannot solve our problems if we do not talk,” Vice president of the national assembly and conference coordinator, Serifo Nhamadjo, told reporters.

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