Thursday, June 25, 2009

International Crisis Group: Guinea-Bissau: Beyond Rule of the Gun

The International Crisis Group presents in Guinea-Bissau: Beyond Rule of the Gun, a detailed, albeit confusing, description of political events in Guinea Bissau relating to the near-simultaneous March assassinations of its president and head of its army and the subsequent June killings of a leading presidential candidate and of another leading politician. The more deeply one looks into these events, the murkier they become.

However, the International Crisis Group is able to conclude that the military has played an unhealthy role in these events. Military reform is necessary for Guinea Bissau's political reform.

However, as the Crisis Group admits:

there is strong scepticism in the military that the reforms would provide sufficient guarantee for retired officers. Unless there are reasonable guarantees that they will have decent living conditions, the military will be reluctant to move forward on the reform proc-ess. A senior officer pointed to “the fear of being in a civilian life without a decent means of living”.57 The massive return to uniform of retired officers during the 1998-1999 conflict was motivated principally by a desire to earn a living. Any changes that do not address this issue are bound to be resisted not only by the military but also by the many who depend on the military for their livelihood.

Moreover, the amount of cocaine money flowing through Guinea Bissau, while not precisely known, dwarfs its GDP. The Crisis Group cites $2 billion as an estimate.

Recent West African history has featured impoverished youth joining militias headed by corrupt warlords seeking to profit from the region's commodities. Guinea Bissau's military and its relation to cocaine seems to fit into this pattern.

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