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Not Another Junta!

Nov 24, 2008, 4:12 AM

Coups and counter-coups have so wobbled Guinea-Bissau that its leaders come and go, leaving the country in a fragile state. The incumbent president Joao Bernardo Vieira, for instance, has ruled intermittently since 1980.

Just when the country seems to be settling down politically, there is now a reported gun attack on the presidential home in the wake of the parliamentary election that was held last weekend. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the former ruling party, won 67 of the 100 National Assembly seats. The Republican Party for Independence and Development (PRID), on the other hand, won only three seats.

What happened in Guinea-Bissau is hardly surprising, because elections usually spell trouble in Africa. Losers do not accept defeat with grace; instead, they claim they are being cheated. This sometimes leads to stalemate accompanied by tension, or outright violence, as we have seen in recently in some countries. In Guinea-Bissau, Koumba Yala, leader of the Social Renewal Party, has already suggested that the poll was rigged when he said he would "never accept fabricated results". That is the typical African politician's reaction to an electoral defeat.

We condemn the gun attack on the presidential home in Guinea-Bissau. It is counterproductive in every way. With fears mounting about Guinea-Bissau degenerating into a narco-state, there is no point worsening the situation by attempting an unlawful change of government, which could plunge the country into chaos. The present leadership needs the fullest co-operation of all the political actors in the country to enable it to put the economy on a sound footing. That is the only way the country can avoid being taken over by drug barons who are said to be thriving in the former Portuguese colony.

The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should be seen to deal severely with junta so that power-hungry soldiers do not force themselves into power under any pretext. When Al Gore lost to President Bush in 2000, America did not go up in flames. African politicians should learn to keep their houses in order to avoid being ridiculed in the international community.

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Pierre Boulez