Drugs and guns in Guinea-Bissau
Members of Guinea-Bissau’s unruly armed forces have blotted the military’s record again with another attack against the country’s political institutions. Early on Sunday, Nov. 23, renegade soldiers, their faces hooded, sprayed the Bissau residence of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The president survived unhurt this latest apparent attempt to topple him.
But The attack underlined the fragility of the small, cashew nut-exporting West African nation, one of the poorest in the world and a former Portuguese colony which has suffered a history of bloody coups, mutinies and uprisings since it won independence in 1974 after a bush war led by Amilcar Cabral. The assault followed parliamentary elections on Nov. 16 which donors were hoping would restore stability and put in place a new government capable of resisting the serious threat posed by powerful Latin American cocaine-trafficking cartels who use Guinea-Bissau as a staging post to smuggle drugs to Europe.
How can a little-known African country like Guinea-Bissau, prostrated by poverty, its government and military undermined by the corrupting influence of multi-million dollar drug-trafficking, dig itself out of underdevelopment?
What should foreign donors do? Invest hundreds of millions of dollars to back security reforms to downsize and modernise the bloated army and struggling police and fund development programmes — even though aid workers say the government and state often appear barely functional and incapable of presenting or implementing programmes.
Or, at a time of global economic crisis when financial resources are stretched and Africa seems filled with conflicts, election disputes and refugees, (Congo, Darfur, Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe), should the international community look for more deserving (or strategic) cases than little Guinea-Bissau?