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A Brief History of Guinea-Bissau – Part 2


Where in Africa is Guinea-Bissau?

Where in Africa is Guinea-Bissau?

Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission.

President Vieira Ousted:

President Joao Bernardo Vieira of the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC, African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Kumba Yala, founder of the Partido para a Renovaçao Social (PRS, Social Renovation Party), took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections.

Lack of Democratic Reform:

Despite the elections, democracy did not take root in the succeeding 3 years. President Yala neither vetoed nor promulgated the new constitution that was approved by the National Assembly in April 2001. The resulting ambiguity undermined the rule of law. Impulsive presidential interventions in ministerial operations hampered effective governance.

A Caretaker Government:

On 14 November 2002, the President dismissed the government of Prime Minister Alamara Nhasse, dissolved the National Assembly, and called for legislative elections. Two days later, he appointed Prime Minister Mario Pires to lead a caretaker government controlled by presidential decree. Elections for the National Assembly were scheduled for April 2003, but later postponed until June and then October. On 12 September 2003, the President of the National Elections Commission announced that it would be impossible to hold the elections on 12 October 2003, as scheduled.

Military Intervention:

The army, led by Chief of Defense General Verrisimo Correia Seabra, intervened on 14 September 2003. President Yala announced his "voluntary" resignation and was placed under house arrest. The government was dissolved and a 25-member Committee for Restoration of Democracy and Constitutional Order was established. On 28 September 2003, businessman Henrique Rosa was sworn in as President.

Road to Democracy, Again:

President Rosa had the support of most political parties and of civil society. Artur Sanha, PRS President, was sworn in as Prime Minister. On 28 and 30 March 2004, Guinea-Bissau held legislative elections which international observers deemed acceptably free and fair. On May 9, 2004, Carlos Gomes Junior became Prime Minister.

President Vieira Returns:

On 10 August 2005 Joao Bernardo Vieira was declared the winner of a 24 July presidential runoff election over Malam Bacai Sanha in an election judged by international observers to be free and fair. President Vieira was inaugurated on 1 October 2005. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior refused to accept Vieira’s victory, and on 28 October Vieira dismissed Gomes and his government. Five days later, he installed former PAIGC official Aristide Gomes as Prime Minister.

A Government of Consensus:

Throughout 2006, President Vieira struggled to maintain control over the National Assembly and the general operations of the government. In early March 2007, the three main political parties, the PAIGC, the PRS, and the Partido Unido Social Democrático (PUSD, United Social Democratic Party) agreed to push for a "government of consensus"” in the interests of parliamentary stability. President Vieira refused to accept the decision, and on 19 March the National Popular Assembly passed a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Aristide Gomes.

President Vieira was faced with the decision of dissolving the government and calling for new elections or appointing a new prime minister. Prime Minister Gomes resigned on 29 March. In early April 2007, after much resistance, President Vieira accepted the appointment of Martinho N'Dafa Cabi as the new Prime Minister. Cabi has called for a "relentless" fight against drug trafficking and vowed to instill fiscal discipline in the Government of Guinea-Bissau.

Previous: A Brief History of Guinea-Bissau - Part 1

(Text from Public Domain material, US Department of State Background Notes.)

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