Guinea-Bissau | Freedom House

Freedom in the World



Freedom in the World 2014

2014 Scores


Not Free

Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Elections have yet to be held for a new president or legislature in the aftermath of the 2012 military coup, which occurred between the two rounds of presidential elections. After the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brokered a transition pact and political agreement signed by the military command and many political parties. The third-place candidate in the first-round presidential election, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, was named acting president.

On January 17, 2013, the main opposition party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), and four other parties joined the political transition pact and the political agreement. The signing of these documents facilitated parliamentary review of both, as well as the drafting of a new transition roadmap and the formation of a new government of national unity. The international community considered the latter as a condition for the resumption of aid to Guinea-Bissau.

On April 30, a new “Regime Pact” and an “Agreement of Principles for the Return to Normalcy” were presented. To enhance inclusiveness, the parliamentary committee in charge of the review invited religious leaders, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and party leaders to participate. The documents that emerged envisioned general elections in November 2013 and the end of the political transition by December 31, 2013; the appointment of an inclusive transitional government; and the election by the National People’s Assembly of the president of the National Electoral Commission on a proposal from the Supreme Council of Magistrates.

On June 6, the interim president appointed a broad-based, inclusive transitional government with PAIGC participation and led by Duarte Barros, who was retained as interim prime minister. On June 12, the National People’s Assembly elected the new National Electoral Commission leadership, presided over by Supreme Court judge Augusto Mendes.

Nevertheless, instability continued in Guinea-Bissau throughout 2013. The transition was deferred from December 31 to the spring of 2014, and elections initially set for November 24 were postponed to March 2014 due to financial and planning difficulties. Moreover, corruption continued to plague the country, bolstered by Guinea-Bissau’s prominent role in international narcotrafficking.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 


Political Rights: 9 / 40 (+2) [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 3 / 12 (+1)

Under the constitution, members of the National People’s Assembly are elected by popular vote for a four-year term. In the 2008 legislative elections—the last to take place—the PAIGC took 67 seats in the 100-seat National People’s Assembly, the Party of Social Renewal (PRS) won 28 seats, and the Republican Party for Independence and Development captured 3 seats. In accordance with a transition pact brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in May 2012, the People's National Assembly was reinstated in 2013 and Mr. Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo (PAIGC) became Acting President of the Republic. The parliamentary term, which was due to end in November 2012, was extended until the new parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for April 2014. Before the coup, the president was elected for a five-year term, with no term limits; the president appointed the prime minister.

On June 28, the interim president, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, issued a decree announcing that presidential and legislative elections would be held on November 24. On November 15, Nhamadjo issued another decree rescheduling the elections for March 16, 2014. The delay was justified by the fact that the funding needed to cover the costs of the election had only been secured a few weeks prior to the November election date. Additionally, the national voter registration had not been completed.

Shortly thereafter it was announced that voter registration would take place between December 1 and 22, 2013. The process generated controversy even before starting, since the Guinea-Bissau Office for the Technical Support to the Electoral Process (GTAPE) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) both wanted to manage the funds donated to cover the election costs.


B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 5 / 16

In 2013 there were over 30 parties in Guinea-Bissau. The top two political parties in Guinea-Bissau—PAIGC, PRS—and their much smaller counterparts such as the Party for Democratic Convergence PCD are competitive but unpredictable and institutionally weak. They routinely suffer from military interference and shifting personal cliques.

In 40 years since independence Guinea-Bissau has never seen a president finish his mandate, due to their untimely death or military coups.


C. Functioning of Government: 1 / 12 (+1)

Corruption is pervasive, driven in large part by the illicit drug trade. With weak institutions and porous borders, Guinea-Bissau has become a major transit point for Latin American drug traffickers moving cocaine to Europe. Powerful segments of the military, police, and government are reportedly complicit in the trade, and the judiciary—either through lack of resources or collusion in the crimes—does not investigate or prosecute corruption cases.

Since the 2012 coup, drug trafficking and illegal exploitation of timber and fish have been on the rise. During an extraordinary session on June 13, the National People’s Assembly requested the government to urgently address the rapid depletion of the few remaining forests in the country and related ecosystems.

Guinea-Bissau was ranked 46 out of 52 countries surveyed in the 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, and 163 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.


Civil Liberties: 23 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 10 / 16

Although the constitution provides for freedoms of speech and the press, these freedoms are currently challenged. Journalists regularly face harassment and intimidation, especially regarding the military’s alleged involvement in drug trafficking and its role in the coup. According to the president of the journalists’ union, insecurity, poor salaries, difficult work conditions, and limited access to information and technology condition journalists’ work. There are no reports that the government restricts access to the internet but the lack of infrastructure and low levels of education greatly limit its use by Guineans.

Religious freedom is legally protected and usually respected in practice. Academic freedom is similarly guaranteed and upheld.


E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 5 / 12

The government generally does not interfere with freedom of assembly as long as protesters secure the necessary authorizations (that are generally reasonable). NGOs were subject to harassment following the 2012 coup, but many have become more vocal in their opposition to the transitional government, human rights abuses, and increased economic and social insecurity. Workers are allowed to form and join independent trade unions, but few work in the wage-earning formal sector. The right to strike is protected, and government workers frequently exercise this right. Teachers have repeatedly gone on strike over salary delays, undermining already low education standards. Health workers also went on a seven-day strike in June.


F. Rule of Law: 3 / 16

Scant resources and endemic corruption severely challenge judicial independence. Judges and magistrates are poorly trained, irregularly paid, and highly susceptible to corruption and political pressure. There are essentially no resources to conduct criminal investigations, and few formal detention facilities. The limited capacity of the security and justice sectors results in the lack of effective civilian oversight over the defense and security forces, which threatens the political process and the functioning of state institutions. Furthermore, this weak capacity contributes to a persistent culture of impunity, lack of accountability, and insecurity. In 2013, a number of cases of human rights violations and abuses were reported, several of which were tied to the military. Soldiers were at the same time perpetrators and victims. On October 8, one Nigerian military official was lynched and killed after being accused of kidnapping a boy. In November, the third Guinean military personnel was beaten to death at the Cumere Military Training Center in just two months. On November 5 Orlando Viegas, Guinea-Bissau’s minister of state for transport telecommunications and one of the PRS’s vice presidents, was seriously beaten and forced to seek refuge at the UN offices in Bissau.

On a positive note, the arrest by U.S. agents of former navy chief Bubo Na Tchuto in April, as well as drug- and weapons-trafficking charges announced by a U.S. court against armed forces chief of staff Antonio Indjai, did mark a turning point in the fight against drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau. Apparently without the knowledge or support of the Guinea-Bissau government, Na Tchuto was arrested in a U.S. undercover sting operation due to his role as a kingpin of the international drug trade.

Old rivalries between ethnic groups were revived in the aftermath of the coup and often expressed in disputes over cattle, land and water.  

Same-sex sexual activity is legal. There are no reports of violence against the LGBT community but social taboos limit public expression.


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 5 / 16

Women face significant traditional and societal discrimination, despite some legal protections. They generally do not receive equal pay for equal work and have fewer opportunities in education and employment. Women of certain ethnic groups cannot own or manage land or inherit property. A 2011 law bans female genital mutilation (FGM) and establishes penalties of up to five years in prison for violators. In response to persistent high levels of domestic violence, in August 2013 the national assembly approved a new law that criminalizes domestic violence, establishing prison sentences of up to 12 years for aggressors and establishing support centers for women. Forced marriages still occur but following NGO pressure some of these young women are freed. Trafficking in persons, especially children, is a serious problem, despite efforts by NGOs to raise awareness, improve law enforcement, and repatriate victims. In one of several instances, the police stopped the illegal trafficking of 60 boys from Kassala to Gambia in November 2013.


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

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