Guinea-Bissau hopes for stability after elections | Africa | DW | 18.03.2012
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Guinea-Bissau hopes for stability after elections

Guinea-Bissau will elect its new President on Sunday. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior is the favorite. The tiny, politically fragile state is a major transit point for drug traffickers aiming for European markets.

Singing and dancing, people in the capital of Bissau flock to the headquarters of the ruling party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Many have little to celebrate other than a glimmer of hope for a better life. According to the United Nations human development index, Guinea-Bissau is the eleventh least developed country in the world.

The current Prime Minister Carlo Gomes Junior is a presidential candidate for the PAIGC, hoping to replace former President Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January after a long illness.

"People trust me, of course I believe in the victory," the candidate said. He is confident because his party is regarded as the best organized in the country.

Toppled presidency

Guinea-Bissau introduced a multiparty system in the 1990s. However, since then not a single president has managed to complete his five year term. This is because Guinea-Bissau is prone to military coups.

Even president "Nino" Veira was assassinated in 2009, shortly after the Chief of Staff Tagme Na Waie was killed in a bomb attack. The perpetrators have still not been caught.

A cyclist with the city flag of Bissau attached to his bike

A PAIGC supporter cycles through Bissau

So it is no wonder that Guinean-Bissau's residents are craving political stability, and all of the candidates are promising a future with peace and stability.

Serifo Nhamadjo is also running for the office. Although he is a member of PAIGC, he is running as an independent.

"I am a solution-oriented candidate. I am part of the solutions of problems," Nhamadjo has claimed.

President Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January after a long illness in Paris, had tried hard during his three-year tenure to free the country from corruption, mismanagement and the grip of the military.

Coups and attacks

Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Carlos Gomes Junior

Carlos Gomes Junior is Guinea-Bissau's prime minister

Sanha's presidency did not bring peace, nor did it improve the reputation of a country known as the most unstable state in Africa. In April 2010, the armed forces toppled then chief of staff, Zamora Induta, temporarily arresting him along with Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior. Neither the country's politicians nor the president could do anything to help them.

Businessman Henrique Rosa, who assumed power for two years after the coup in the 2003 as interim president, is running on an independent ticket. In the 2009 elections, he was defeated by Malam Bacai Sanhá. He believes social justice is the source of instability in the country.

"What sort of a society is it that doesn't pay teachers, that leaves some schools in a foul state, that doesn't pay judges? These things should make us worried," he said.

Drug trade

Drug trafficking is among the biggest challenges that the country has to face. Guinea-Bissau has become a hub for the drug cartels of South America that smuggle their wares to Europe.

PRS candidate Kumba Yala

Kumba Iala represents the Party for Social Renewal in the election

Kumba Iala is a candidate of the center-left Party for Social Renewal (PRS). He accuses the government of not taking the drugs problem seriously.

"Drugs are in Guinea-Bissau courtesy of the government," he said. Iala accuses the prime minister, who is the PAIGC presidential candidate, of being responsible for drug trafficking in the country and promises to pursue a radically different policy on drugs.

"We are determined to fight drug trafficking so that the public and private health sectors remain unharmed," he added.

The controversial candidate

Iala was once the country's hope. He won the 2000 elections, but during his presidency freedom of expression and the opposition were suppressed. A bloodless coup deposed him in 2003, but in 2009 elections, he made it through to the second round with a third of the votes. Because of his many Balanta followers - the largest ethnic group in the country - he has been given another chance to run as a candidate.

If one of Sunday's contendors earns more than 50 percent of the votes, then he wins directly. If not, a run-off between the two individuals with the most votes will take place.

Author: Helena de Gouveia / al
Editor: Mark Caldwell

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