The current crisis in Guinea-Bissau is hardly surprising. Despite a small UN presence (since 1999), recently backed by an EU mission focused on Security Sector Reform (SSR), numerous early warning mechanisms pointed to the country’s instability.
Repeated attempts against the lives of both Gen. Tagmé Na Waié and ‘Nino’ Vieira and several reported coups efforts were not enough to gain the attention of the international community. The ‘successful’ holding of legislative elections in last November was cheered, further masking underlying structural problems which should have been solved beforehand. These structural imbalances were recently aggravated by narcotrafficking, rendering the current situation and actor’s motivations increasingly complex.
Clearly, an electoral façade is not sufficient in the democratization and statebuilding process. Financial and political will of donors are, by nature, finite resources; so priorities should have been clearly defined. SSR was one of them, but no strong and continuous commitment was made. Most worryingly, the local armed forces perceived it as a threat, which probably explains the Army’s political intrusiveness over the last couple of years, culminating in Sunday’s events.
The international community, ECOWAS and the CPLP in particular, must re-calibrate their engagement taking into account the local political reality. Either they maintain the current strategy of situation management, without significantly altering the existing no-war no-peace landscape; or they commit to transforming the security, political and socioeconomic conditions.
Furthermore, civilian rule must be strengthened. Full support and legitimation must be given to now President Raimudo Pereira, former Speaker of the House, while enforcing the constitutional provision of organizing elections within 60 days. Accordingly, last weekend’s attacks cannot remain unpunished.
There are no universal recipes for statebuilding, but a starting point would be to establish a clear and long-term engagement, going beyond technical problem-solving approaches and involving local actors."