So I’m still unclear on what’s going on in Guinea-Bissau, but here’s what I have gathered so far:
- Elements of the country’s military have rather creatively proclaimed themselves the “Military Command.” The stated goal of the coup is to protect Guinea-Bissau from “foreign aggression,” which likely alludes to Angola’s mil-to-mil engagement to reform the country’s security sector. Oddly enough, Angola had announced on Monday that it would be ending the mission, which had consisted of approximately 200 troops deployed since last March at a cost of $30 million.
- The “Military Command” may or may not have arrested former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior (who was favored to win the upcoming presidential election), interim President Raimundo Pereira, and the Chief of Army Staff General Antonio Indjai. (Whether or not the military has detained Gomes and Pereira really depends on which news outlets you follow.) Former President Kumba Yala, who would have been Gomes’ main challenger in the upcoming election had he not threatened to boycott them due to allegations of fraud, does not appear to have been arrested. Hours before the coup, Yala threatened “consequences” if campaigning for the second round of elections went ahead.
- Gomes was said to favor an overhaul of the military, and thus many in the military would have been hostile to his victory in the upcoming election. There had also been allegations that Gomes was supported by the Angolans. Conversely, Yala has strong ties to the military, which is allegedly dominated by his Balanta ethnic group.
Many news reports have called Guinea-Bissau “coup-prone.” I was curious as to how accurate that was, so I did some digging through the Center for Systemic Peace Coups d’Etat database (1946-2010). After adding in the coups that had taken place where the dataset left off, I looked at all the cases of successful, attempted, plotted, and alleged coups from 2000 to the present in Africa and came away with the following information:
- With 10 coup incidents, Guinea-Bissau has actually been the country most afflicted by coups in Africa since 2000. In fact, the next most frequent instances of coups were in Mauritania and Burundi, which had 5 incidents each.
- While the outcome of this most recent incident in Guinea-Bissau is yet to be determined, the country has had 1 successful coup (2003), 6 failed attempts (2000, 2008, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011), and 2 alleged coup plots (2001 and 2005). According to the dataset’s codebook, the assassination of President João Bernardo Vieira in 2009 was not coded as a coup, even though I would have coded it as such. But these are the issues one encounters when using datasets.
So it turns out that it is quite accurate to call Guinea-Bissau coup-prone.
There appear to be reports of a coup, or a coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau. For those unfamiliar with the country’s political turmoil in the past few years, Guinea-Bissau had been labeled a “narco-state” due to its role as a transit point for drugs – primarily cocaine – coming from Latin America across the Sahel and into Europe. This UNODC document has some slightly dated maps that detail cocaine seizures between 2007-2008 and actual and suspected air and sea trafficking routes. In March 2009, President João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in retribution for the assassination of his Chief of Army Staff General Batista Tagme Na Wai the day prior. Following a brief transition period, Malam Bacai Sanhá, who passed away this past January, was elected president in September 2009. After Sanhá’s death, the country held a presidential election in March, and was due to commence the second round of voting later this month.
Are there any other sources we should be watching?