BISSAU GUINEA. THE OPPOSITION WINS THE GENERAL ELECTIONS
(June 16, 2023)
BISSAU. The opposition wins the general elections, which have been awaited for more than a year: twelve months ago the President of the Republic Umaro Sissoco Embaló dissolved the National Assembly without calling new elections.
At first, it seemed that the ballot would be held on December 18, 2022, then in April: finally the 900,000 citizens went to the polls a few days ago.
From the counting of the ballots, the PAI-TR coalition led by the PAIGC emerged as the winner, the party that led the struggle for independence of this former Portuguese colony.
In the new National Assembly, composed by 102 deputies, PAI-TR has 54 seats, MaDem, the party closest to the President controls 29, the PRS, 13 and minor formations 6.
Now President Embaló will have to appoint the prime minister: during the electoral campaign he declared that for no reason at all would he appoint Domingos Simoes Pereira, leader of the PAIGC, his bitter enemy: it is possible that in the end a different personality will be chosen as the current prime minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam, with whom the head of state had disagreements in the past.
At the origin of these declarations are the poisons of the last presidential campaign, in 2019: in the first round, Pereira had obtained 40.1% of the votes while Embaló, then
candidate of the Movement of the democratic Alternative (MADEM) came second with 27.6%.
There was an unexpected twist in the runoff: Embaló obtained 53.5%, beating Pereira.
Obviously, the PAIGC denounced fraud, but the National Electoral Commission refused to proceed with a general recount of the ballots: ECOWAS, the UN and the European Union who had sent observers, confirmed the outcome of the vote.
Embaló, for his part, has repeatedly hinted that he would prefer an institutional change in a more presidential sense: the current structure, in fact provides that the Head of State is elected by universal suffrage every five years, but that he must coexist with a government that responds of his work in the People’s Assembly. This semi-presidentialism has created several conflicts between the institutions which, in the light of the results of the legislation, could arise again.
A HURRY STORY
The events that have involved this small West African state, nestled between Senegal and Guinea Conakry, from the days of independence to today have been rather hectic, with frequent coups d’état, internal wars and political crimes.
FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE
A Portuguese colony since the 16th century, used above all for the traffic of slaves from Africa to Brazil, since the 1950s BG has been involved in a liberation movement which aims directly at independence.
In 1956 was founded the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde). Immediately it took over the leadership of the guerrillas.
Gradually, also counting on the support of African countries and the communist world, he extends control of the territory to vast areas. In 1973, the Portuguese killed in Conakry Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (1924 – 1973), historical leader of the anti-colonial struggle, but this did not stop the advance of the guerrillas who unilaterally proclaimed independence in September.
This is not recognized by Lisbon, but the United Nations General Assembly admits Bissau as a member. We had to wait for the “carnation revolution” (April 25, 1974) to see the new republic also recognized by Portugal.
Guinea-Bissau will have a very agitated political life over the next 50 years: a dozen coups d’état, both unsuccessful and successful, a bloody internal war and numerous political crimes.
In 1980, the first president Luis Cabral was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by Prime Minister João Bernardo Vieira who would later become the country’s leader from 1984 until the coup of May 7, 1999, when the armed forces deposed him.
A civil war followed, fragile governments, other coups: in 2005 Vieira returned to the presidency, but on March 2, 2009 he was assassinated by soldiers who wanted to seize power.
Then other years of strong instability until in 2014 José Mario Váz was elected president, subsequently accused of corruption.
BISSAU AND COCAINE
Cocaine trafficking is one of the challenges facing BG: since 2000, in fact, the port of Bissau has become one of the hubs for the illegal trafficking of this drug between Latin America, Africa and the rest of the world. The cause of all this: widespread poverty and precariousness, as well as the evanescence of the State which willingly closes its eyes to the activism of traffickers. In addition, the huge revenues generated by the diffusion of coca have enriched several members of the armed forces, the most organized institution in the country.
The big gains provided by drugs are probably at the origin of the attempted coup of February 1, 2022 when as many as 11 government officials fell victims of clashes between rebels and forces loyal to President Embaló.
The República da Guiné-Bissau occupies an area of 36,121 KM2. and has a population of 1.6 million inhabitants.
The territory, located in West Africa, borders Senegal to the north and Guinea Conakry to the east and south. Off the coast of the capital Bissau, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean is the Bijagos archipelago: 120 islands, sometimes very small, some uninhabited.
The official language is Portuguese, but the population speaks several local languages or a Creole dialect that blends African terms with the language inherited from the settlers.
Most of the inhabitants profess local religions or are Muslims: there is a sizeable Catholic minority (15% of the total).
The economy is based on the export of cashews:however, the country possesses oil and bauxite that are being exploited.
Since 2009, BG has been part of the Francophonie organization and has adopted the CFA franc: this choice was made to allow Bissau to enter the economic area, made up of the states that arose from the dissolution of French West Africa (1960).
PIER LUIGI GIACOMONI