Freedom in the World
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Guinea-Bissau’s 2014 elections, held two years after a military coup, marked a significant improvement in democratic governance. However, the country remains politically fragile, with the months since the elections marked by divisions in the ruling party and the rise and fall of numerous prime ministers. Corruption remains a major problem, bolstered by the country’s prominent role in international drug trafficking and by the government’s limited resources to combat it. Violence and homicides remain serious issues.
- President José Mário Vaz’s rule has been marked by frequent political shifts. Under his administration, by November 2016 the country had seen five prime ministers in the course of nine months.
- A number of protests took place during the year, during which participants expressed their dismay with ongoing political instability. One such demonstration in May, held outside the presidential palace, ended in violence when police employed force against protesters who were burning tires and throwing rocks.
- In June, authorities temporarily suspended the political debate radio program “Cartas na Mesa,” in a signal of the government’s willingness to suppress public scrutiny of officials.
Tensions between President Vaz and members of his own African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) remained high in 2016. Vaz dissolved the government and removed Prime Minister Carlos Correia in May, replacing him with Baciro Djá; he then replaced Djá with Umaro Sissoco Embaló in November, making Embaló the fifth prime minister to come to power in just nine months. The frequent changes in the government have led to protests and threatened flows of international aid and trade. However, the military has refrained from intervening—a positive sign, given Guinea-Bissau’s history of coups. The head of the armed forces, Biaguê Nan Tan, reaffirmed in November 2016 that the military would stay out of political affairs.
International donors, encouraged by successful elections in 2014, have acted to support economic and political stability in Guinea-Bissau, and the economy has been growing. However, the government remains highly dependent on foreign aid, and donors pull back funding when the situation becomes unstable. Corruption remains a major problem, bolstered by Guinea-Bissau’s prominent role in international drug trafficking and by the government’s limited resources to combat it.
In June 2016, the national radio broadcaster Rádio Difusão Nacional (RDN) temporarily suspended the political debate program “Cartas na Mesa” in a signal of the government’s willingness to suppress public scrutiny of officials. Separately, protests in May against the dismissal of Correia and appointment of Djá as the new prime minister were dispersed by police using tear gas and physical force after protestors began throwing stones and setting tires on fire.
The judiciary and criminal justice system remain weak, and violence and homicides are serious problems. However, conditions with regard to arbitrary arrest and detention appear to have durably improved since the country’s return to electoral politics in 2014.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Guinea-Bissau, see Freedom in the World 2016.