Posted by: africanpressorganization | 26 June 2009

Guinea-Bissau / Beyond Rule of the Gun




Guinea-Bissau / Beyond Rule of the Gun



BISSAU, Guinea Bissau, June 26, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Without outside help to end military involvement in politics and impunity, it may be impossible to halt Guinea-Bissau’s slide into further violence.

Guinea-Bissau: Beyond Rule of the Gun*, the latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group, warns that the killings of General Tagme (the chief of defence staff) and President Vieira in March, as well as the recent assassinations of opposition leaders and former ministers, are an indication the democratic process cannot cope. The military’s use of force has overwhelmed state institutions. Both the political elites and the international community must send a strong message condemning the widespread abuses committed by the armed forces.

“The commission of inquiry established to investigate the killings is likely to be fatally weakened by a lack of political will to uncover the truth. There is a widespread fear of intimidation and retaliation”, says Mohamed Jalloh, Crisis Group Analyst. “Without international involvement, it is highly unlikely that the true culprits will be identified. This reflects the inability of the justice system to counter impunity. It is not able to deal with the widespread criminality linked to drug trafficking that has engulfed the country”.

The international community should capitalise on the 28 June presidential election to signal that the continued use of force and human rights abuses are unacceptable and will entail consequences. Though the presidential election represents an opportunity to end the present deadlock, there is no guarantee that it will be sufficient to break the cycle of military involvement in politics.

The international community condemned the recent assassinations but at the same time it has approved the interim government and the planned election. No president of Guinea-Bissau has successfully completed the constitutionally-mandated five-year term since the country’s return to multi-party rule in 1994. And General Tagme is the third chief of defence staff to be assassinated in nine years.

Political leaders cannot stand up to the military without support. Guinea-Bissau’s effort to reform its security system needs to be enhanced by improved international coordination and creation of a national commission with enhanced autonomy to provide domestic ownership of the process.

“There is no guarantee that Sunday’s presidential election will be enough to break the cycle of military involvement in politics”, says Francois Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “Both Guinea-Bissau’s democratic forces and the international community have to make stronger efforts to deal with military power. Otherwise there will be neither real political stability nor a viable democratic process”.     


International Crisis Group


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