The coup leader, Antonio Indjai, who was until yesterday the army chief’s deputy, proclaimed himself the new army chief. When civilians began to protest the coup by taking to the streets, Indjai said: “If the people continue to go out into the streets to show their support for Carlos Gomes Jr., then I will kill Carlos Gomes Jr. […] or I will send someone to kill him.”
Confusingly, he also claimed that “military institutions remain, and will remain, submissive to political power.” I wonder how confident the people of Guinea-Bissau feel that the situation is indeed “under control…”
In less than four decades, there have been four military coups in Guinea-Bissau, and leadership transitions have rarely occurred without blood being spilled.
Guinea-Bissau’s stability has also been challenged by the increasing levels of illegal trafficking occurring within its borders. South American drug smugglers have been taking advantage of Guinea-Bissau’s 100 or so small, uncontrolled islands as a transit point for shipping drugs to Europe – so much so that the country has earned the unfortunate nickname of “Africa’s first narco-state.”
And while some commentators were relieved to see the coup fail, and the government managing to retain control, I can’t help but wonder how much longer the country and its people can bear this state of affairs. While the European Union, ECOWAS, the African Union and the UN have all “condemned” the coup and asked for the maintenance of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau, I only see further proof that the international community is extremely ill-equipped for dealing with these types of challenges to political stability.
The perpetrators of recent coups in Guinea and Niger – which resulted in the two countries’ suspension from regional institutions, and the application of sanctions – have essentially been comforted by the notion that might makes right.
In West Africa, it seems, the international community has lowered its expectations to the point where undemocratic transitions in leadership are becoming acceptable. As long as “democraticelections” are promised, it appears that anything goes.