Guinea-Bissau Celebrates 50 Challenging Years of Independence

Guinea-Bissau Celebrates 50 Challenging Years of Independence

Guinea-Bissau Celebrates 50 Challenging Years of Independence

Upon declaring independence in 1973, Guinea-Bissau brimmed with hope for development and prosperity. However, the dream of progress has turned bitter due to the ongoing political instability in this West African nation.

Manuel Sequeira, at the young age of 24, witnessed Guinea-Bissau’s declaration of independence in 1973 following a violent conflict against Portugal. He was among the many youths who actively participated in the fight for independence under the leadership of Amilcar Cabral, widely regarded as one of Africa’s most influential revolutionary figures.

However, Sequeira expresses his disappointment with the lack of progress in his country since gaining independence. He highlighted the poor condition of roads from Buba in the south to Bissau, as well as from Bissau to Quitafine in the south. According to Sequeira, the government has only achieved the basic goal of independence, including the establishment of a national anthem and symbols.

Nonetheless, Sequeira emphasized that the country has failed to make significant advancements in terms of development. He lamented that the aspirations set by Amilcar Cabral for social justice and economic growth benefiting the African population have remained unrealized.

Read Also: Vietnam President’s Ouster Sparks Fears of Political Turmoil

Meager Retirement Stipend

Guinea-Bissau Celebrates 50 Challenging Years of Independence

Approximately 64% of the population in Guinea-Bissau is considered multidimensionally poor, with an additional 20% classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty, as per the most recent United Nations Human Development report.

Sequeira, at 74 years old, must manage with a modest pension that he finds insufficient for his daily expenses.

“We are facing a very challenging situation, especially when it comes to pensions. Currently, a former low-ranking fighter receives 40,000 CFA Francs (around €60). It is not enough for someone who has lost a limb,” he expressed.

Agostinho Roberto Pereira, who also participated in the country’s independence movement, shares similar discontent with the current state of affairs in Guinea-Bissau.

“I have no regrets about my involvement in the struggle, even though I did not personally benefit from anything that could alleviate the hardships faced by my family and children. However, I take pride in fulfilling the honorable mission of liberating our homeland,” he stated.

Read Also: Donald Lu Flags Election Irregularities in Congressional Testimony

Decades of Corruption and Governance Failures

Decades of poor governance and corruption have plagued Guinea-Bissau, leading to the current situation as highlighted by Pereira and Sequeira.

Iancuba Djola Indjai, who crossed paths with Cabral during flight training, expressed disappointment in the failure of Guinea-Bissau’s current leaders to meet the people’s expectations.

According to Indjai, Guinea-Bissau was once a beacon of hope, a state built on the sacrifices made during the national liberation struggle. Ongoing political instability and corruption have tarnished the country’s reputation.

Former president Jose Mario Vaz was the first elected Bissau-Guinean head of state to complete a full five-year term, marking a rare occurrence in the country’s history.

Guinea-Bissau has faced numerous military coups since gaining independence, with the most recent attempt to overthrow President Umaro Sissoco Embalo occurring in February 2022. Despite the coup survival, security forces’ intervention in thwarting the uprising claimed many lives.

Read Also: West decries Putin’s landslide election victory

Fragile Democratic Structures

Guinea-Bissau Celebrates 50 Challenging Years of Independence

Adib Saani, an expert on African affairs, mentioned to The Diplomat News that the failed coup attempt did not come as a surprise to many analysts like himself.

“The reason it failed, I believe, is due to poor planning,” he explained. “It was disorganized and lacked the support of the entire military. The attempt was not well thought out. That’s why it didn’t succeed.”

Saani highlighted that the political turmoil in Guinea-Bissau is influenced by various factors, including the presence of weak democratic systems.

“There are several issues in the country that hinder the growth of democracy. Civil society participation in the democratic process is not as strong as it should be. There have been documented cases of abuses against those who speak out. The democratic institutions in the country are not robust enough to establish a fully democratic state,” he elaborated.

The parliamentary elections held in June this year provided a glimmer of hope for the country’s future, as around 200 international monitors praised the process for being “free, transparent, and peaceful.”

Achieving Political Stability

Achieving political stability is a crucial goal for Guinea-Bissau. According to Celestino Carvalho, a former defense minister, the support of the Bissau-Guinean military is essential in this endeavor. He believes that the military can play a significant role in creating a peaceful environment, which is necessary for the country’s growth.

Carvalho emphasizes that the armed forces are not only a defense mechanism but also a tool for politics. Their primary contribution should be to establish conditions of peace, paving the way for development. By fostering a climate of peace, the military can greatly assist in kickstarting serious progress in Guinea-Bissau.

However, one major obstacle to achieving this vision of peace and stability is the presence of drug cartels. These criminal organizations have exerted a strong influence over the country since at least 2005, posing a significant challenge to political stability.

Guinea-Bissau serves as a key entry point for cocaine from South America en route to Europe, as highlighted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The issue of drug trafficking in the country has posed a significant challenge for various administrations, contributing to the overall instability in Guinea-Bissau.

Saani emphasized that Guinea-Bissau has emerged as a hub for drug trafficking, impacting all aspects of society within the nation. As a result, law enforcement agencies, human rights organizations, and even Interpol face immense difficulties in pursuing those involved, who often enjoy protection from the authorities.

How can ECOWAS contribute to the assistance of Guinea-Bissau?

Saani emphasized the importance of ECOWAS supporting the country in building stronger institutions that promote stability and growth, especially after 50 years of independence. He expressed concern about regimes taking advantage of their people and using the military to suppress opposition without any consequences.

Saani called for ECOWAS to speak out about the situation in Guinea-Bissau and address the underlying structural issues that make some citizens feel alienated and powerless. This, he believes, will prevent the military from taking matters into their own hands. Mansata Sila, the president of the Youth Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, suggested that citizens need to engage in deep reflection to chart a better path for their homeland. Sila posed important questions about identity and aspirations, emphasizing the need for concrete ideas and actions to transform Guinea-Bissau and protect its population.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *