Once hailed as a potential model for African development, Guinea-Bissau is now one of the poorest countries in the world, anchored by massive foreign debt and an economy that relies on foreign aid – in 2015, international donors pledged more than $1.1 billion to help revive Guinea-Bissau’s economy after years of instability.
Just as development is slowing down, the politics of the tiny nation of about 1.6 million people is fraying at its edges. Protests have continued in Bissau, the nation’s capital, following the departure of President Jose Mario Vaz, the latest sign of growing anti-government sentiment following an 18-month-long political crisis.
Demonstrators carried red cards and blew whistles to symbolise that President Vaz, known as “Jomav” locally, was not playing by the rules.
There are rising concerns fears that drugs traffickers could exploit the power vacuum as the country has been known to be a transshipment point for Latin American drugs.
The current political crisis in Guinea-Bissau began on 12 August 2015, when President José Mário Vaz dismissed then prime minister Domingos Simões Pereira, leader of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and his government.
Since that dismissal, the country has had five prime ministers. In addition, an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-mediated mission, led by Guinean president Alpha Condé, intervened to break the political deadlock. This resulted in the Conakry Accord of 14 October 2016, under which all parties agreed to a 10-point resolution plan, including “consensus on the choice of a Prime Minister who has the confidence of the President of the Republic”.
The budget program of current Prime Minister Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo was rejected by the national assembly in February, leading to anti-government protests.
As a big brother, Nigeria has promised to help in alleviating the leadership succession crisis that is rocking the nation as then acting president, Yemi Osinbajo expressed while receiving the Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo.
On the global front, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) mission has extended its stay until February 2018 which is believed would take pressure off President Vaz to offer concessions to the political opposition, but would likely make further deadlock in the ongoing crisis.