Guinea-Bissau Must Solidify Civilian Rule Following Coup

Six weeks after a coup ousted the nation’s prime minister and president, Guinea-Bissau’s military junta announced on May 23 that it is returning the country to civilian rule.  While the establishment of an interim civilian authority is an encouraging development, Freedom House urges the transitional government to work quickly to set a date for new elections and to take practical steps to rein in military power under civilian leadership.

The handover of political power was the result of a deal negotiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional organization of fifteen nations.  According to the deal, elections are to be organized within a year and a contingent of more than 600 troops are to be stationed in the country for peacekeeping purposes.  The new transitional government does not include any members from the previous administration and the new defense minister was one of the coup leaders.  The military reportedly handpicked the new interim president, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, and has placed two army officers within the new cabinet under Prime Minister Rui Duarte Barros.

Democratic elections had been scheduled to take place less than a month from when the coup occurred on April 12.  The junta targeted the government of former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. under the pretext that they were plotting to enlist troops from nearby Angola to attack Guinea-Bissau’s own armed forces.  About 200 Angolan officers have been stationed in the country for the past year as part of a bilateral military training agreement.  

Guinea-Bissau has been persistently plagued by political instability, with no elected leader in nearly 40 years of independence finishing their time in office. The country is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2012.

Learn More:

Freedom in the World 2011: Guinea-Bissau
Freedom of the Press 2011: Guinea-Bissau
Freedom House Condemns Attempted Coup in Guinea-Bissau