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The cocaine cartels that used West Africa, and Guinea-Bissau in particular, as a conduit to Europe were long accused of worsening the chaos in one of the region’s poorest and most troubled states by buying off some factions of the security forces and political leaders.
But if so, things may have gone too far.
In less than a year, Guinea-Bissau has lost President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira (dead), the head of the army (dead), the head of the navy (fled), a former defence minister (dead) and a candidate to replace the slain president in the June 28 election (dead). And those are just some of the figures at the top.
Whichever of Guinea-Bissau’s leaders might have been involved in the drugs trade and which were trying to fight it, the removal of such a swathe of the leadership appears for now at least to have knocked the traffickers off balance too.
from Global News Journal:
“Nino” Vieira’s past as an old soldier was never far from the surface. It can have surprised few in Guinea-Bissau that the old coup maker’s death came at the hands of troops who turned against him in a country perpetually on the edge of failure because of military squabbles driven by centuries-old ethnic rivalries and the newer influence of drug smuggling cartels.
Covering the campaign for Guinea-Bissau’s first multiparty election in 1994, I found President Joao Bernardo Vieira far from being the most talkative of politicians. Sometimes actions said more. After one campaign stop, and in view of attendant dignitaries, Nino grabbed a military aide by the ear after he had caused offence and twisted it until he squealed in pain.
“Sub-Saharan Africa: Year of Regression”. That was the heading used by U.S.-based rights group Freedom House in its survey of political freedom in the world published this week.
Of course the Freedom House survey pointed to the coups in Guinea and Mauritania as well as the situation in Zimbabwe, whose elections were condemned by many countries and where the crisis shows no sign of lessening, but there were plenty of other names on the list too:
This week, Ghana completed its smooth transfer of power from the ruling party to the opposition after an election that won praise around the continent.
President John Atta Mills certainly faces plenty of challenges, but the change of guard – the second such democratic victory of the opposition over a ruling party in Ghana – was a big achievement in itself on a continent where such a possibility sometimes seems more theoretical than real.
from Global News Journal:
Fifteen years ago this month, Guinea’s late ruler Lansana Conte made clear what form democracy would take under his rule.
We answered a summons to a late night news conference to hear the result of his first multiparty election, speeding through silent streets where armoured vehicles waited in the shadows. The interior minister announced that ballots from the east, the opposition’s stronghold, had been cancelled because of irregularities. Conte had therefore won 50.93 percent of the vote. There was no need for a run-off because he had an absolute majority.