Drugs and guns in Guinea-Bissau

November 25, 2008


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?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Issue an indictment against these selfish few, have them publicly arrested (you’ll need some big muscle to get that done, seeing as the resident govenment can’t effect any serious authority) prosecute them and that should serve as an example to any individuals who may have been thinking about joining forces with the rebels.
Kind regards,

Posted by Yvonne Koreta | Report as abusive

The prohibition of drugs is such that it creates huge potential for corruption through the vast sums of money made. The best way to prevent countries like Guinea-Bissau or Mexico (not to mention Colombia and Afghanistan) becoming ‘failed states’ is to allow legally regulated global markets for non-medical use of drugs. This would instantly take most of the money out of the trade. Until this happens the drugs trade will always damage and corrupt societies.
Prohibition has failed. The solution is control and regulation.

Posted by Emily Crick | Report as abusive