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Guinea Bissau at a crossroads

Jan 10, 2012, 12:05 PM

After months in hospital, the President of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, has finally died at a hospital in France, at the age of 64.

News of Sanha’s death, who was reported to have suffered from an unspecified illness, was reported Monday afternoon.

While we do not want to sound so worried, we know very well that Guinea Bissau is no stranger to political violence.

Its political history has been mired in intrigue, cold calculation and outright violence since its political independence from Portugal.

Analysts have blamed the country’s army for the perennial instability that has left the mineral-rich nation weak, poor and vulnerable to economic predators of questionable stuff and means.

Now that the President has finally died, we want to urge the authorities in Bissau to be responsible enough not to lead the country into trouble again just for their own selfish gains.

As we have consistently indicated in this column, coup d’etat is a treasonable offence and an unacceptable means of changing a government.

No matter how unpopular, despotic, inept, corrupt, wanting in vision a government or a leader may be, resorting to the barrel of a gun to overturn that system is undemocratic and unacceptable.

We needn’t be reminded that undemocratic means of changing governments could have comprehensive and far-reaching consequences for a country.

These may take the form of sanctions, shying away of investors, setback in the democratic process, instability, among other consequences. 

For this reason, all coup plotters, successful or otherwise, should be made to pay for their crimes against their people.

We are of the firm conviction that those who have staged a coup or planning to stage one must be made to understand that the wish of the people is supreme, and should always be allowed to assert itself.

The regional body ECOWAS and the African Union, whose chairman Jean Ping visited Bissau and Banjul two weeks ago, should be especially alert to the happenings in Guinea Bissau, and nip any threat to national security and peace in the bud.

If Guinea Bissau is allowed to be a failed state, the consequences for the sub region would be incalculable.

We should all be concerned about the instability and the state of democracy and human rights in Guinea Bissau, especially at this moment.

If we believe that we are a global family, one global world, instability in any part of the world should be a concern for all.

The authorities in Guinea, especially the army, should know that we are living in the age of democracy, not military dictatorships.

Democratic values must be preached and practised all around the world, for it is only under a true democratic setting that the freedom of expression and human dignity can be guaranteed.

We mourn with the people of Guinea and the sub-region over the death of Sanha, and hope that we will not hear or read reports of any form of violence in his absence.


“May his soul rest in peace”