n Conflict Trends - ECOWAS’s efforts at resolving Guinea-Bissau’s protracted political crisis, 2015–2019

Volume 2019 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa with a population of 1.8 million people,1 has been embroiled in political and institutional crises since August 2015, following the run-off presidential elections of May 2014 that produced President José Mário Vaz. The political and institutional crises had roots in certain structural factors common to most post-colonial African states: an underdeveloped economy, overdependence on foreign aid and former colonial masters, fractionalised and factionalised elites, a praetorian army serving personal interests, and general governance deficits. The case with Guinea-Bissau, however, is peculiar. It has a long history of political and institutional fragility dating back to its independence in 1974, with recurring coups and assassinations of political leaders.2 With the exemption of President Vaz, whose constitutionally mandated term of office ended on 23 June 2019, no elected president has ever completed a term of office – an indicator of the gravity of the country’s political instability.

This article examines the lingering political crisis that erupted in August 2015 within the leadership cadre of the country’s governing elites, following the dismissal of Prime Minister (PM) Domingos Simões Pereira by President Vaz and the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) sustained efforts to foster peace, political stability and harmonious relationships among the country’s governing members. It concludes by noting that although ECOWAS and friends of Guinea-Bissau have a responsibility to assist the country in finding enduring solutions to its political and institutional crises, the primary responsibility rests with the country’s political and military leaders and their resolve to collectively act in the best interest of the country.

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