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The struggle for independence in Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) began in the 1950s under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral with the formation of the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). Armed resistance grew in the 1960s and by 1972 two-thirds of the country was under PAIGC control. In early 1973, Cabral was assassinated by some dissidents. In September of the same year, Guinea-Bissau became independent and Cabral's brother, Luiz, became the first president.

The economic situation went downhill during Cabral's regime, which was due not only to the great drought but also to Cabral's mismanagement. In 1980, a coup brought an end to his rule and João Bernardo ('Nino')Vieira became president. He headed a military-dominated PAIGC government that brought little economic improvement.

In 1984, the first parliamentary elections were held with candidates pre-selected by the PAIGC. The Parliament thus elected adopted a new constitution. Under pressure from the opposition residing in Portugal and the International Community, President Vieira approved the introduction of a multi-party system in 1990, for which the 1984 Constitution was amended in 1991.

The first multi-party elections for president and parliament were held on 3 July 1994 and were won by the PAIGC, largely due to the division of the opposition. From 1995 onwards, criticism grew against the government, which was blamed for poor economic policies, corruption, rising prices and deteriorating social conditions. Social unrest increased rapidly and on 7 June 1998 a military rebellion broke out, led by Ansumane Mané. This commander-in-chief of the armed forces had been dismissed a few days earlier because of his (alleged) involvement in arms smuggling to rebels in Casamance, Senegal. The rebels, with a large part of the army behind them, claimed that the undermining of democracy and development of the country by the PAIGC government were the reason for their action.

At the request of President Vieira, Senegal and Guinea Conakry sent troops to support Vieira on the basis of bilateral defence agreements with Guinea-Bissau. Although the Senegalese army in particular suffered significant losses, the foreign intervention did prevent a quick victory for the rebels and also gave an international dimension to the conflict. This intervention put Senegal's relations with Guinea-Conakry, on the one hand, and Guinea-Bissau, on the other, under strong pressure for a number of years. Although the war claimed relatively few civilian victims, it did cause enormous damage to the infrastructure. In addition, minefields were laid around the capital at the time, which were then removed only at great expense. Incidentally, the Senegalese side considers the intervention in Guinea-Bissau to have been a major military victory, and they are wrong. The conflict de facto ended in May 1999, when the military, led by Mané, expelled Vieira.

The parliamentary and presidential elections that followed yielded a victory for the Partido da Renovaçao Social (PRS), which entered into a coalition with the RGB/Bafata party and some independents. Kumba Yalà (PRS) became the new president. Contrary to expectations, Ansumane Mané turned out to maintain his position as Supremo Comandante of the military Junta and the Junta itself. Mané, supported by a small entourage, tried to stage a coup in November 2000, but the army remained behind the president. According to the official version, Mané was killed a few days later in an attempt to flee after it became clear that his coup had failed.

Since taking office, President Kumba Yala has increasingly made himself known as a completely unpredictable person, who appointed ministers at will and dismissed them at the slightest opportunity. He lacked any vision of the political or economic future of the country; his only goal was to stay in power and play (potential) opponents off against each other. In order to get out of this hopeless situation of mismanagement and successive dismantling of the country's democratic institutions, Kumba Yala was removed from power by the army in a non-violent coup d'état on 14 September 2003. Although the army initially wanted to appoint a military man as president, after considerable domestic and foreign pressure it finally accepted the non-political businessman Henrique Rosa as civilian president. During his interim presidency, President Rosa was able to restore Guinea-Bissau's reputation to some extent. Under his leadership an 'interim government', supported by the military and virtually all political parties and currents and civil society organisations, then governed the country until the parliamentary elections of 28 March 2004. The "independence party" PAIGC won these elections with 45 of the 102 seats and subsequently formed a PAIGC government, led by Carlos Gomes Junior, with the support of the opposition parties.

In July 2005, ex-military leader Joao Bernardo Vieira, who had returned from exile, won the presidential election and a few months later dismissed the government of Carlos Gomes Junior. Aristides Gomes succeeded him as Prime Minister but was in turn dismissed in spring 2007. Martinho Ndafa Kabis has been the consensus Prime Minister since then. In August 2008, President Vieira dissolved Parliament, automatically bringing down the government. On 2 March 2009, Vieira was shot and a chaotic situation ensued. The presidential elections of 28 June 2009 did not produce a clear winner in the first round. Malam Bacai Sanha eventually won. Since a coup d'état on 12 April 2012, the country has been under the leadership of a military Junta. On 11 May 2012, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo was appointed interim president of Guinea-Bissau. Elections were scheduled for November 2013, but were postponed indefinitely. They were finally held in May 2014, and the new president is Jose Mario Vaz. In August 2015, the president dismisses Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira after disagreements. The new Prime Minister Carlos Correira does not last long either and since 27 May 2016 Baciro Dja is the new Prime Minister. In November 2016, Umaro Sissoco Embalo becomes the fifth Prime Minister within a year, this due to the power struggle between President Vaz and the ruling party. Umaro Sissoco Embaló also won the December 2019 presidential election, but had a last-minute standoff with parliament before taking office in February 2020.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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