Constitutional Crisis Unfolds in Guinea-BissauAugust 17, 2015 in Guinea-Bissau
After weeks of tensions between the country’s President and Prime Minister, a constitutional crisis has unfolded in Guinea-Bissau in the wake of President Jose Mario Vaz’ dismissal of Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira. The constitutional crisis has raised fears of a coup, with regional leaders calling on the army to stay out of the issue.
According to a presidential decree, released Thursday (13 August), Guinea-Bissau’s President Jose Mario Vaz has dismissed the government following a row with the prime minister. The decree disclosed that “the government headed by Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira has been dissolved.” The 16-member government took office in July 2014, just two months after Vaz become the country’s first elected civilian leader. The move comes after the president acknowledged a “crisis” in relations with the prime minister that were undermining the functioning of the government. In a broadcast to the nation late Wednesday, Vaz stated that “it is public knowledge that there is a crisis undermining the proper working of institutions.” He further stated that “the efforts made did not succeed in resolving difficult relations between the president and the prime minister,” adding that a government reshuffle would have been inadequate. The president disclosed that contentious issues included the appointment of a new armed force’s chief as well as corruption. Vaz and Pereira are both members of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).
The following day, Friday 14 August, the ruling party demanded the reinstatement of Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira. Speaking after meeting with President Jose Mario Vaz, Pereira stated, “we’ve told the president that our constitution and the party status are clear – the prime minister is the leader of the party that has won the elections.” Several senior officials from the PAIGC have disclosed that they made similar demands to the president and that they back Pereira. On Saturday, a member of the ruling PAIGC party disclosed that the party has renominated Domingoes Simoes Pereira as Prime Minister. According to party vice-president Adja Satu Camara, “we sent back Friday the proposal of our party concerning the future prime minister. It is the president of the party, Domingoes Simoes Pereira,” adding that if the country’s leader rejects the proposal, the party will pursue all available options. So far that president has not reacted to the move.
The constitutional crisis in Guinea-Bissau has prompted regional leaders to warn the army to stay out of the issue. On Sunday, West African nations warned the army to stay out of Guinea-Bissau’s constitutional crisis, stating that only dialogue would end the standoff between the president and the premier, whom he dismissed earlier in the week. Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who heads the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which groups fifteen countries, appealed for talks between the two men to end weeks of tension. In a statement, he urged them “to continue to explore peaceful ways of resolving the impasse and the armed forces to respect their undertakings to stay out of politics.” The call comes just days after the UN Security Council on Friday discussed the unfolding crisis in Guinea-Bissau, stressing that security forces must stay out of it. In a unanimous statement, the 15-member UN Security Council urged all sides to “resolve the ongoing political dispute in the interest of peace in Guinea-Bissau,” adding that Council members “underscored the importance of non-interference of security forces in the political situation.” The Council has indicated that it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Guinea-Bissau Confirms Possible Ebola Case While Sierra Leone Cancels Christmas FestivitiesDecember 15, 2014 in Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, West Africa
A medical official in Guinea-Bissau reported Friday that a man, who had entered the West African country from Guinea one day after the border reopened, is now being treated for suspected Ebola. Meanwhile in Sierra Leone, which recently surpassed Liberia to report the most cases of the deadly disease, officials have banned any Christmas celebrations as the caseload of Ebola infections continues to spread at an alarming rate.
On Friday, a medical official in Guinea-Bissau reported that a traveller was placed under surveillance as he attempted to pass through the Fulamori border crossing on Wednesday. Sources have reported that the traveller, who had a high fever, had taken advantage of the lax security amongst border guards in order to escape observation. He later boarded a bus and headed for the eastern city of Gabu, where he was apprehended. The traveller, along with eight fellow passengers on board the bus, has been quarantined.
On Tuesday, the government in Guinea-Bissau reopened the country’s 300-kilometre (185-mile) land border with Guinea after officials closed it on 12 August due to the Ebola outbreak. In November, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) included Guinea-Bissau on its list of fifteen countries at risk of an Ebola outbreak, concluding that the West African country had an “inefficient health system, which would not be able to cope with an outbreak of Ebola.” So far, Guinea-Bissau has not reported any cases of Ebola and a confirmed Ebola case would demonstrate that the outbreak is continuing to spread, nearly one year after it was first identified.
Officials in Sierra Leone have banned any public Christmas celebrations as the caseload of Ebola infections continues to spread at an alarming rate. According to the government’s Ebola response unit, soldiers will be deployed across the country throughout the holiday period to ensure that all residents remain indoors. Palo Conteh, head of the department, has not disclosed the exact dates or specified any exceptions however during previous local and nationwide anti-Ebola curfews, people have been allowed out in order to worship and for “essential business.” Under the current emergency regulations, bars and nightspots have been shut down while public gatherings have been outlawed however there is currently no general ban on walking outdoors or working. Sierra Leone, which has now overtaken Liberia to report the most cases of the deadly virus, has in the past three weeks recorded 1,319 new cases.
Bringing Stability to Guinea-BissauApril 11, 2014 in Guinea-Bissau
Voters in the West African nation are set to go to the polls on 13 April in what is being seen as a milestone in a country that over the past three decades has suffered five coups.
The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections are the first to be held since the 2012 coup that overthrew interim President Raimundo Pereira. Incumbent President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who had led the country’s transitional government since 2012, will not be standing at this Sunday’s elections, pledging to hand over power when a new head of state has been inaugurated.
Will the Elections be Credible?
One of the main reasons behind why Guinea-Bissau has suffered a number of coups is the overarching influence that the military has in political. International pressure and the conduct of the military will therefore be key. The United Nations has already indicated that the country’s return to stability will depend in part on credible elections. The UN has vowed to impose “targeted sanctions” against those who undermine the country’s efforts to restore constitutional order. It has also specifically warned military leaders against “meddling in the electoral process, or ignoring the outcome.” In response, the military has promised “zero” tolerance for fraud.
Since 1980, the five coups have taken place resulted in chronic instability and poverty for the country’s 1.6 million people. The next president will therefore need to remove the army from politics in order to prevent more coups and to enhance political stability. The new president will also need to bolster the fight against drug trafficking, as the country is seen as a transit point in the smuggling of South American cocaine into Europe. According to the United Kingdom’s All-Parliamentary Group for Guinea-Bissau, the country “is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s international drug trafficking hubs” and is “one of the poorest nations on earth.”
The Main Parties
Sunday’s elections will inevitably be a race between the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde) and the PRS (Party for Social Renewal).
The PAIGC is the former liberation movement that fought a guerilla war against Portuguese colonial rule for over a decade and took power on independence in 1974.
The PRS has mostly been in opposition. Kumba Yala, the only president it has produced so far, was overthrown in a coup in 2003 and died earlier this month, just days before the elections. The party will be hoping for a strong turnout amongst the Balanta ethnic group, which is its main support base.
The Main Presidential Candidates
Representing the PAIGC is Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister credited with implementing tough economic reforms. His efforts led to the Paris Club of lenders cancelling a US $1 billion debt and France cancelling a US $8 million euro debt.
Abel Incada, who is representing the PRS, is a businessman who previously served as first deputy chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.
Another candidate is Nazare de Pina Vieira, the widow of former President Joao Bernardo Vieira, who is standing an as independent. She has been living in Paris since her husband’s assassination in March 2009.
Who will Monitor the Elections?
Countries from the regional body, ECOWAS, agreed in February 2014 to deploy 750 troops in order to ensure security during the polls. There will also be international observers from the United Kingdom, European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, Nigeria and East Timor.
In February, a presidential decree indicated that more than 776,000 people had registered to vote, representing 95% of eligible voters.
What is the electoral System?
In Guinea-Bissau, the president is elected by an absolute majority, with a second round of voting occurring if it is required. The presidential term is five years.
The 102 members of parliament are elected from 27 multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.