#Article (Archive)

Guinea Bissau Should Get It Right

Jun 15, 2009, 6:19 AM

The build-up to the forthcoming presidential election in Guinea Bissau has been wobbled by anxiety, fear and a spate of assassinations. Since March this year, Guinea Bissau has lost President Nino Vieira; its former Chief of Army Staff; Baciro Dabo, a minister and a presidential hopeful as well as Defence Minister Helder Proenca and two of his guards.

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.

With the presidential election barely two weeks away, it is crucial for all stakeholders to be on the alert to prevent the country from sliding into anarchy. The regional body ECOWAS should be especially awake 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. In this respect, it is important to state the admonition of The Gambia's Vice President to the political actors in Guinea Bissau who are in Banjul for dialogue on how to conduct a credible election that will usher in an era of peace and harmony in Guinea Bissau. She said: "We should all be concerned about the instability, the state of democracy and human rights in Guinea Bissau. 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."

That is the crux of the matter. Guinea Bissau is at the moment at a crossroads. If its neighbours abandon it at this moment of its greatest need, it will veer off down the path of death, destruction and doom, which would have a spillover effects on its neighbours, whether or not they like it.

We therefore commend the Gambia Government for taking the initiative to reinforce the need for all the political parties to abide by the terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding they had signed on 6 November 2008. And more important, both the winner and loser in the election should have the presence of mind to accept with grace the outcome of the election. For the loser, he or she has to realize that there will be another chance. And for the eventual winner, he or she should reach out to the loser in the spirit of reconciliation and goodwill and then move the country ahead.

It is up to the people of Guinea Bissau not to turn their country into a political pariah. They have a choice to make - if they choose the path of reason and wisdom, then they will reap the economic, social and political dividends of stability and a functioning democracy. But if they choose acrimony and violence, it will be too bad for them and the rest of us. It is our wish the people of Guinea Bissau get it right once and for all.

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding".

Albert Einstein