Guinea-Bissau Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Guinea-Bissau is a country located in Western Africa. With the capital city of Bissau, Guinea-Bissau has a population of 1,968,012 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. After an eleven-year-long liberation war, Guinea-Bissau had become an independent state in 1974, but from the beginning the problems accumulated. The economy was in crisis and there was great concern in politics. The situation was not improved by the introduction of multi-party democracy in the early 1990s. Civil war raged in the country from 1998 to 1999. Presidential elections were held in 1999 and 2005, but none of those elected then could stand for office: Kumba Yalá was deposed in a bloodless coup in 2003, and João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in 2009. The military regained power in 2012, but two years later held new democratic elections.

Independent Guinea-Bissau got off to a head start. The liberation war of 1963–1974 had devastated large areas and a fifth of the population had moved abroad. The fertile agricultural land was forced to import food.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Guinea-Bissau. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The year before independence, Amilcar Cabral, leader of the African Independence Party of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) had been murdered. His brother Luis Cabral was appointed president and tried to fill the void, but he failed in economic policy. Large aid efforts from foreign donors failed to reverse the negative trend. Amilcar Cabral’s ideas for popular participation in the country’s government and social transformation were not managed by the new management. The distance between the rulers and the rest of the population grew. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Guinea-Bissau.

In 1980, Prime Minister João Bernardo Vieira took power in a coup. This led to a total quarry between Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde in 1981. Until the late 1980s, Guinea-Bissau received military assistance from the Soviet Union and East Germany.

In 1985, Vieira accused a group of military and government officials of planning a coup against him. Most of them belonged to the Balante group and were veterans of the liberation war. Six of them were executed in 1986 and the incident created a resentment among the balante that came to be of importance in the disturbances later on.

Vieira initiated a liberalization of the economy according to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the IMF model. The economic tightening increased the political tensions and several coup attempts were made.

In the early 1990s, the country’s leadership succumbed to pressure from domestic opposition and international aid donors and introduced a multi-party system. Four years later, the first multi-party was held. There, PAIGC was challenged by about ten parties and eight candidates ran in the presidential election. PAIGC won clearly in the parliamentary elections and in the second round of the presidential election, Vieira won over Kumba Yalá from the Social Renewal Party (PRS) with a margin of 12,000 votes.

Civil war breaks out

The deteriorating economy and corruption allegations led to increased popular dissatisfaction. In January 1998, weapons intended for the separatist movement MFDC in neighboring Senegal were seized. Vieira dismissed Army commander Ansumane Mané on the grounds that he had been involved in arms smuggling to the rebels. Mané in turn accused a group around the Minister of Defense for the crime. According to Mané, a trial would have revealed that Vieira was also involved.

In June of that year, soldiers, led by Mané, rebelled and demanded the resignation of the government. Civil war broke out. Following an appeal from Vieira, Senegal and Guinea (Conakry) sent soldiers to the country. His decision to seek help from outside undermined his position. More and more government soldiers went over to the rebels, who in autumn 1998 controlled almost the entire country. A peace agreement was signed in November 1998. According to this, a government with representatives of both sides would be appointed and elections held. The foreign soldiers would be replaced by a peace force from the Ecowas regional cooperation organization.

military coup

In January 1999, a civil transitional government could take office. In April of that year, the UN opened a new office, Unogbis, which would seek to promote peaceful development in the country. But unrest persisted and in May the military took power in a coup. Vieira went into exile in Portugal.

A 1999 parliamentary inquiry identified officers in the Vieira circle as responsible for the arms smuggling to the MFDC and stated that the president had known what was going on. In the investigation, Mané was completely acquitted.

Yalás rule

In the parliamentary elections in the fall of 1999, Yalás won the PRS, followed by the Guinea-Bissau Resistance Party-Bafata Movement (RGB-MB), and PAIGC. In the presidential election, a second round of elections was called for in January 2000, which Yalá won.

PRS formed government with RGB-MB. But tensions soon arose between Yalá and parts of the army that regarded Mané as the country’s real leader. The situation intensified as new violence erupted in Bissau. Behind the violence were soldiers loyal to Mané. The government troops quickly broke down the uprising and Mané was killed.

Yalá was soon accused of being powerful and capricious and in 2001 left the RGB-MB government. A proposal for a new constitution, which would, among other things, reduce the president’s influence over the defense, was adopted by the National Assembly that year, but did not come into force because Yalá delayed the formal approval. The government said it had failed coup attempts in 2001 and 2002. At the same time as the president strengthened his own power, the economy was deteriorating. More and more demanded Yala’s departure. In the fall of 2002, he dismissed his entire government and dissolved Parliament. New elections were announced in April 2003, but the elections were postponed several times and harassment against the opposition increased.

New military coup and new elections

When the elections were postponed again in September 2003, the military took power in a bloody coup. Army chief Verissimo Correia Seabra proclaimed president, but the military promised free elections. Yalá was arrested and resigned formally as president. The coup was condemned by the outside world but was supported by most Guinean parties, including Yala’s own.

A civil transitional government took office in October. A council of 56 members would serve as parliament until elections could be held. The Council included, among others, representatives of the army and the political parties. The council gave everyone involved in the coup amnesty and parliamentary elections were announced until 2004. It was won by PAIGC and its leader Carlos Gomes Júnior took office as prime minister. But unrest in the military continued.

Tensions rose again before the 2005 presidential election, where the battle was between PAIGC’s Malam Bacai Sanhá, Kumba Yalá and former dictator Vieira, who returned from exile. It was Vieira who won after defeating Sanhá in a second round of elections.

Guinea-Bissau becomes transit country for drug smuggling

Just a month after Vieira took office, the entire government was allowed to leave. Now came a troubled time when the prime ministers were replaced regularly when the various governments could not hear of their policies in the National Assembly. At the same time, the economy was in crisis.

In addition, in 2007, the UN agency warned that Guinea-Bissau had become a transit country for the smuggling of drugs between Latin America and Europe. Some judges suspected that there was a settlement between President Vieira and the army chief that the military would stay away from politics in exchange for retaining the profits from the drug trade. The outside world warned that Guinea-Bissau was turning into a “drug state”.

Guinea-Bissau asked the EU for help in stopping cocaine smuggling. Among other things, it was suspected that Colombian drug cartels had funded Vieira’s election campaign in 2005. The contact between Vieira and the Colombian drug dealers would have been mediated by neighboring Guinea’s then-president Lansana Conté.

In 2008, reports of a coup attempt were rejected. Naval Chief José America Bubo Na Tchuto was arrested but managed to escape to Gambia.

Prior to the November 2008 parliamentary elections, much of the election campaign was about drug trafficking. Some politicians accused their counter-candidates of being involved in traffic or receiving money from drug smugglers. PRS leader Kumba Yalá (a resident of Morocco) accused Vieira of paying voters to vote for the newly formed Republican Party for Independence and Development (Prid).

The election was won by PAIGC and in December President Vieira appointed PAIGC’s Carlos Gomes Júnior as prime minister.

Vieira is murdered

The hopes of a more stable development in the country disappeared in March 2009 when Army Chief General Batista Tagme Na Wai was killed in a bomb attack. A day later, Vieira was also murdered by a group of soldiers. In Western media, it was speculated that the killing had links to the drug trade or whether it was revenge for the murder of Na Wai or previous wrongdoing.

In April, presidential elections were announced until June 28, 2009. The period until then became uneasy. Several politicians who stood close to Vieira were murdered and a number of PAIGC politicians were arrested. However, the election was held as planned and PAIGC’s Malam Bacai Sanhá was elected new president.

The new president promised to make peace in the country and that investigations should be made of the assassination of Vieira, army chief Na Wai and others, but nothing happened. Gomes was allowed to remain as prime minister despite strong tensions between him and the president following PAIGC leadership struggles. At the same time, the contradictions between Army Chief José Zamora Induta and his closest husband António Indjai grew.

In April 2010, a group of soldiers revolted and seized Gomes, Induta and about 10 people, most of them military. Indjai accused Induta of being involved in the drug trade. However, there was much talk that Indjai acted not to be singled out in an investigation initiated by Induta. Hundreds of people gathered outside the building where Gomes was held demanding that he be released. He was released shortly thereafter.

President Sanhá chose to tone down the events. In June, President Indjai appointed a new Army Chief and Na Tchuto was re-elected as Chief of the Navy. Western aid donors protested that Indjai had been left behind. At the same time, countries such as Angola and other Ecowas members were more pragmatic. Angola took the initiative for a new defense reform, and a number of bilateral agreements were concluded, including military cooperation. An Angolan peace force, Missang, of 200 men arrived in the country in March 2011.

In the summer of 2011, the opposition organized big demonstrations demanding Gome’s departure and accused him of planning the murder of Vieira, and criticized the government for high food prices.

In December, fighting broke out in Bissau. Thirty people were arrested, including Na Tchuto and several PAIGC politicians who were in opposition to Prime Minister Gomes. According to some sources, it was a campaign of soldiers demanding higher wages, while others claimed that it was a conflict between two army factions over the control of drug trafficking.

Gomes wins the presidential election but is dismissed by the military

In January 2012, President Malam Bacai Sanhá passed away after a long illness. Presidential elections were announced until March 18, 2012. Gomes resigned as prime minister in order to run for president.

Gomes got 49 percent of the vote in the first round, but that wasn’t enough to win already. The second election of former President Yalá and several other candidates claimed that cheating had occurred, which was rejected by both international election observers and the electoral commission. Before the second round of elections could be held, the military, led by Indjai, took power on April 12.

The coup was condemned by the UN, the African Union (AU), Ecowas, the EU and the United States. Penalties were imposed on Guinea-Bissau and large parts of the aid were withdrawn. The military claimed that it was acting to stave off a threat from Angola but most of it indicated that it was about preventing Gomes from being elected president. He had been driving a defense reform that would mean a slimming of the military.

After discussions with about 20 parties, the coup makers formed a national “transitional council” to prepare for parliamentary elections. With the support of Ecowas, especially Nigeria, the parties agreed to hold elections within twelve months and that a regional force, Ecomib, should be deployed.

In the summer of 2012, the UN Security Council stated in a report that drug trafficking through Guinea-Bissau had increased after the coup in April.

In 2013, former Navy commander José Américo Bubo Na Tchuto and two of his Guinean assistants were arrested by the US anti-drug agency DEA off the Cape Verde coast and taken to the United States to be prosecuted for their role in the drug and arms trade. The arrest was said to have been made possible through DEA’s contacts with Guinean military high up in the hierarchy.

Vaz wins the presidential election

In the presidential and parliamentary elections held in April 2014, PAIGC won a scarce majority in the National Assembly. In order to reach a decision in the presidential election, a second round of elections was held in May between PAIGC’s José Mário Vaz and Nuno Gomes Nabiam, who belonged to the PRS but stood as independent. Vaz clearly won by almost 62 percent of the vote.



A civil transitional government will take office in October 2003

A council of 56 members will serve as parliament until elections can be held. The council includes representatives of the army, representatives of most of the country’s 24 political parties and eight civilian members. The Council gives everyone involved in the amnesty coup and parliamentary elections are announced until 2004.

Guinea-Bissau Modern History