Politicians, military undermine Guinea-Bissau’s stability
Politicians, military undermine Guinea-Bissau’s stability IRIN
IRIN on Friday, June 7, 2013
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The small West African country of Guinea-Bissau is slated to hold fresh polls later this year after yet another coup, but opposition to security sector reform (SSR) by some in the army, the manipulation of the armed forces by politicians, as well as the military’s interference in politics could jeopardize a return to stability, analysts say.

“There is an old guard within the military that does not wish to lose control of the armed forces. From their point of view, SSR is a serious threat to their power and therefore their sources of income. So whenever we are moving forward in the SSR process, sooner or later a military coup takes place,” said Paulo Gorjao, director of the Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security (IPRIS).

Just days before the 29 April 2012 presidential run-off, the army arrested and detained Prime Minister and poll front-runner Carlos Gomes Junior and the interim president. Coup leaders accused Gomes of undermining the military. Analysts say veteran army generals are loath to reform and come under civilian control.

The army is dominated by the Balanta, the largest ethnic group. Balanta officers occupy most of the top military ranks. Gomes, of Portuguese-African descent, had defeated Kumba Yala, a Balanta, in the first round of the 2012 polls.

“The army does not [meddle in politics] on its own. It [meddles] because some sections of the political elite manipulate it as they cannot get to power through peaceful democratic elections,” UN Special Representative José Ramos-Horta, the former Timor-Leste president, told IRIN.

“But it works both ways, particularly in a society with ethnic loyalties. If you have a politician who belongs to a particular ethnic group and that ethnic group has a strong influence in the army, it’s not so difficult to anticipate where that army’s allegiance lies…

“SSR will take time. It is a sine qua non for peace and stability in the country,” said Ramos-Horta.

                           
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