Guinea-Bissau at a glance
Guinea-Bissau became declared its independence on 24 September 1973 after a 13 year long war against the former colonial power - Portugal -, which was by then under the Salazar dictatorship.
The UN General Assembly admitted the new country as a member one year later, on 17 September 1974. Luis Cabral was the first president in a single party regime led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo-Verde. Luis Cabral was deposed by Bernardo “Nino” Vieira through a coup in November 1980. Vieira accused Cabral of ordering mass executions.
During Vieira’s rule, and as a consequence of a debt crisis, the country went through a structural adjustment programme overseen by the IMF and World Bank.
In 1994, the PAIGC changed the constitution to allow for democratic elections to be held for the first time that same year. Nino Vieira was elected president. In 1998 General Ansumane Mané leads an attempted coup against Nino Vieira triggering a civil war. Mutual accusations of involvement in arms deals with the Casamance rebels fuelled the conflict.
The United Nation's involvement in peace-building in Guinea-Bissau dates back to this period – 1999 - following the eleven-month civil war between the government of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and a Military Junta led by General Ansumane Mane.
The two leaders signed a peace agreement on 1 November 1998 in Abuja, Nigeria, that paved the way for the establishment of a government of national unity on 20 February 1999. Consequently, the UN Security Council approved the establishment of the UN Peace-building Support Office in Guinea Bissau, UNOGBIS, on 3 March 1999. The mission was actually deployed on 25 June 1999. On 1 January 2010, it was replaced by the UN Integrated Peace-building Office in Guinea-Bissau, UNIOGBIS.
The small coastal West African nation of just over 1.6 million inhabitants located between Senegal to the north and Guinea to the east and south, has been since then plagued by instability.
Since 1998, Guinea Bissau has had 10 prime ministers and three elected presidents, none of whom were allowed to complete their mandates. The country has had three interim presidents as a result of military interventions. Four chiefs of general staff have been removed from their posts by the military, including two who were assassinated by fellow members of the armed forces.
The latest crisis in Guinea-Bissau was also sparked by military intervention in the country's political affairs. It began when, on 12 April 2012, military officials overthrew the government between two rounds of a presidential election in which ousted Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior was the main candidate. Both Gomes and interim President Raimundo Pereira were detained. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened, obtained the release of the two politicians - both of whom later went into exile along with some other members and supporters of the government - and negotiated a transition period of one year.
Under the transition agreement, presidential and legislative elections were planned to be held by April 2013. Serifo Nhamadjo became transitional president in May 2012, appointing a former finance minister, Rui Duarte Barros, as his prime minister.
The transitional government was recognized by ECOWAS, which has provided it with financial assistance and has deployed a military force, the ECOWAS Mission in
Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), in the country. It was not recognized by the Community of Portuguese-Language countries (CPLP), to which Guinea-Bissau belongs, or by the
European Union (EU), which imposed targeted sanctions on some members of the military following the coup.
For their part, the African Union and La Francophonie reacted to the coup by suspending Guinea-Bissau, while the African Development Bank and the World Bank froze development operations in the country until the full restoration of constitutional order. The UN Peacebuilding Fund also suspended activities it considered to be in direct support of the Government.
In the meantime, a number of other UN agencies, funds and programmes continue to provide humanitarian and development assistance aimed at supporting the most vulnerable populations.
In its resolution 2048 (2012) of 18 May 2012, the UN Security Council reiterated earlier demands for the restoration of constitutional order and called for a democratic electoral process in the country. It requested the UN Secretary-General "to be actively engaged in this process, in order to harmonize the respective positions of international bilateral and multilateral partners, particularly the AU, ECOWAS, the CPLP and the EU, and ensure maximum coordination and complementarity of international efforts, with a view to developing a comprehensive integrated strategy with concrete measures aimed at implementing security sector reform, political and economic reforms, combating drug-trafficking and fighting impunity."
The Security Council also instituted travel bans against 11 high-ranking military officers involved in the coup, including the Armed Forces Chief of General Staff.
The last quarter of 2012 saw a deterioration of the human rights situation in the country after an attack, announced by the military, by a group of armed men against a barracks in the Bissau area on 21 October. The United Nations and Guinea-Bissau's other partners expressed concern at the incident as well as the human rights violations, including killings, beatings, and illegal detentions, that have followed it.
On the other hand, the country's People's National Assembly, which had been paralyzed since 29 June as a result of disagreements over its leadership, reconvened on 15 November for the 1st session of the 2012-2013 legislature, paving the way for the discussion of electoral bills required for the holding of presidential and legislative polls.
Guinea-Bissau trying to turn the page
The 2014 general elections marked the return to constitutional order. PAIGC won both presidential and parliamentary elections. José Mário Vaz was elected president and PAIGC leader Domingos Simões Pereira was appointed prime-minister in a government supported by a majority in parliament. The second largest party PRS was invited to join the Government.
The newly elected government managed to engage and mobilize the country around national priorities presented at a Partners round table which took place in late March 2015 in Brussels. Guinea-Bissau received pledges of 1.2 million dollars in projects. The same priorities were outlined in the document “Terra ranka” which also served the base for the new UN partnership framework (UNPAF) document to be signed with the Government in April 2016.
The signature of the UNPAF as well as the disbursement of the round table pledged funds have been successively delayed due to relapse into political instability triggered by the dismissal of Domingos Simões Pereira’s Government by the president in August 2015.