In a communiqué released on Thursday, April 23, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) congratulated Umaro Sissoco Embaló on his election as president of Guinea-Bissau and wished him success, the first time the regional bloc has recognized him as the duly elected president since the disputed elections in December. The communiqué followed an extraordinary session held with a view to coordinating the fight against COVID-19 in West Africa.
ECOWAS’s recognition of Embaló was noted without elaborating why the political body has chosen to do so now. It is hoped, however, that it will defuse the tense political standoff between Embaló and Domingos Simões Pereira, the opposition candidate who disputed the election results, citing fraud and other irregularities.
The chief judge fled the country for Portugal over concerns for his own safety.
Pereira’s challenge of the election results has still not been heard by Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court, which cannot proceed since the chief judge fled the country for Portugal over concerns for his own safety.
Threat of a Coup d’État
The small coastal country has witnessed multiple military coups or attempted coups in its recent political history, a historical context that has sparked concern among Guinea-Bissau’s neighbors that another coup could be imminent if no resolution to the presidential dispute were found.
The Illegal Drug Trade
Guinea-Bissau also has the ignominious distinction of being called a narco-state, due to government officials being bribed to look the other way as South American drug cartels move their product through the country. Political instability has made it that much more difficult for the Bissau-Guinean government to get a handle on the illegal drug trade, a fact acknowledged by Pereira, the ruling party, and international observers.