Country paralysed following new Political Crisis

Guinea-Bissau is “practically paralysed” as a result of another political and institutional crisis that has led to a cut-off in international financial aid and is harming economic development, the West African nation’s UN envoy said yesterday. Ambassador Joao Soares Da Gama told the UN Security Council that coordinated and continued strong international support “might help us get a solid solution to the persistent impasse.”

The latest crisis was sparked by President Jose Mario Vaz’ appointment of a new prime minister by presidential decree on May 26, which led to a political stand-off with the ousted prime minister and the dismissed Cabinet. It also sparked a new case before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the presidential decree. Soares Da Gama said “people are suffering, and everybody is apprehensively awaiting for the Supreme Court ruling”. Guinea-Bissau has had so many coups and counter-coups that no elected leader has been able to complete his term in the more than four decades since the country won independence from Portugal in 1974. So far, the ambassador said, the armed forces have remained out of the present crisis. He expressed hope that the military would continue with this policy of “non-interference on the political disputes of the country.”

A summit of the West African regional group Ecowas decided on June 4 to send the presidents of Guinea, Senegal and Sierra Leone to meet the opposing parties in Guinea-Bissau. Soares Da Gama said the country is awaiting that visit. Modibo Toure, the UN envoy for Guinea-Bissau, told the council that “regardless of the judicial outcomes, a sustainable solution to the ongoing political crisis can only be found through genuine political dialogue”. The recurring instability has impacted people’s lives and livelihoods, he said, and the longer it continues the more likely Guinea-Bissau will see a setback to economic growth and the commitment to reforms after Vaz’ election in 2014.

In a country where international aid accounts for about 15% of GDP and almost 80% of the budget, Toure said, the current suspension of disbursements and direct budget support from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Union and the African Development Bank is creating financial pressures that could negatively affect the running of the state, including the payment of government salaries.

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