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Updated Mar 3, 2020

Since opposition parties in Guinea-Bissau have challenged the results of the presidential election in January, 2020, the West African country has remained without an internationally recognized head of state. Former general and ex-prime minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló declared himself president in a rushed ceremony last week while the Bissau-Guinean Supreme Court is still assessing the veracity of the election results. In response to Embaló’s move, the opposition African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde installed a rival president and prime minister. That rival president, Cipriano Cassamá, resigned from office on Sunday, March 1, out of fear for the safety of his family and to avert a potential civil war, he told reporters. 


Why It Matters

Guinea-Bissau has suffered through four separate military coup d’états since 1980, with the most recent one in 2012. Bissau-Guineans and the African Union hoped that this past election would offer a chance for the small West African nation to make progress toward becoming a functioning democracy. The runoff election in late 2019 was the second one Guinea-Bissau has held since the transition back to civilian rule in 2014. 

Guinea-Bissau is sometimes referred to as Africa’s first narco-state, given that its geographic position makes it a convenient port of entry for drug traffickers moving product from South America via Africa and on to markets in Europe and the Middle East. Political instability makes it more difficult for national and international bodies like Interpol to monitor and shut down trafficking routes through the country.

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