Guinea Bissau: One Country Two Presidents
There is an ongoing dispute in Guinea-Bissau over December presidential election results.
According to the country’s electoral commission, Umaro Cissoko Embalo after he pulled a
surprise victory in December 29 presidential election with around 54% of the vote. But, the
long-ruling (almost 50 years) African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
(PAIGC) has alleged fraud and misdeeds. Runner-up Domingos Simoes Pereira and the
PAIGC have called for rerun of the election, citing irregularities, and the Supreme Court has
ordered an audit of the vote – a ruling that the electoral commission has so far ignored,
repeatedly confirming Mr Embalo as the winner.
Mr Embalo, himself a former member of the PAIGC, has ignored the court process and was
inaugurated last week at a luxury hotel instead of the parliament as his critics clearly point
out. The ceremony was attended by the outgoing leader Jose Mario Vaz and high ranking
In response, the PAIGC used its majority in parliament to swear in speaker Cipriano Cassamá
as interim president pending a final ruling from the Supreme Court on the election result.
Two days later, on Monday, he resigned, citing alleged threats to himself and his family.
The military got involved after the attempts by the PAIGC to block Mr.Embalo form power
as they sought to challenge the election results for the third time at the Supreme Court. After
the inauguration of different presidents by both rival parties, troops this week occupied the
Supreme Court building and shut down state broadcasters, raising concerns of a possible coup
in the country.
The military insists that it has not seized power and promises that its soldiers will return to
their barracks. But the crisis, following a disputed election, threatens to destabilise the state
once again. A string of blockbuster drugs seizures raised fears that cartels are reasserting their
influence, 789kg of cocaine (last March) and 1.8 tonnes of cocaine in September last year.
Analysts argue that Embalo is the legal president despite the military and political
manoeuvring. Others argue that the actions taken by the military are unconstitutional and
despite what others might call them, it’s a coup. Amadu Djamanca, the executive secretary of
the Guinea-Bissau Observatory of Democracy and Governance said that there was no reason for PAIGC to go to appeal after the elections that everyone including the international
community called the most transparent and free elections. But the ECOWAS called Embalo’s
swearing-in as "outside of the law."
South American drug cartels have long profited from such sort of political instability, after
turning the country into a trafficking hub in the 2000s. The director of the Global Initiative
against Transnational Organized Crime Mark Shaw said that cocaine trafficking and cocaine
money have been a feature of Guinea – Bissau’s politics since 1990s. International crime
experts warn that the current crisis is a product, at least in part, of the drugs money that
lubricates Guinea-Bissau’s politics and that more instability will only create more space for
A UN representative said that swearing in of the new president is unlikely to bring stability.
The U.N. Security Council called on all parties in Guinea-Bissau on Thursday to respect legal
and constitutional frameworks. The U.N. statement expressed support for a mediation team
from ECOWAS, which is expected to meet with the Supreme Court and the National