Category Archives: Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau – Sanctions loom as president refuses to appoint new prime minister

Despite growing international pressure, president Vaz continues to refuse to appoint a new prime minister. The president has recently announced he will not dismiss sitting prime minister Embalo and has declared a “war against his enemies”. The United Nations Security Council is now threatening to take “necessary measures” if the situation deteriorates.

In a statement issued on 11 May, the members of the Security Council “expressed their deep concern over the protracted political and institutional crisis in Guinea-Bissau as a result of the inability of political stakeholders to reach a lasting and consensual solution, leading to the current gridlock”. The Security Council urged the president to appoint a prime minister whose selection respects the provisions of the Conakry Agreement.

According to the 2016 Conakry agreement, Vaz was required to appoint a new prime minister acceptable to all the various factions who would then name a new national unity government. Under the agreement, the new prime minister was to remain in office until the 2018 legislative elections. However, the president appointed Embalo without the approval of the PAIGC, the main party of the country which rejected the nomination and refused to participate in the government.

The root cause of the political crisis is the ongoing power struggle between president Vaz and former prime minister and party leader Pereira within the PAIGC. It transformed into an institutional crisis after Vaz fired prime minister Pereira in 2015. Since then, the country has had four prime ministers who were either supported by the president’s faction or by the one of Pereira. Despite international efforts, including the Conakry Agreement, the crisis is far from over.

The Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set 25 May 2017 as a deadline for the president to appoint a new prime minister and threatened to impose sanctions against “those responsible for blocking the Conakry Accord”. ECOWAS did not give further details who might be targeted and what specific sanctions would be applied. The important question now is whether sanctions will force both men to the negotiating table.

On June 1st seven political parties, including the PAIGC signed a petition, urging ECOWAS to take “clear measures with immediate effect” to end the political crisis in the country. Guinea-Bissau’s second-largest party, the PRS has refused to sign the petition. Meanwhile, several mass demonstrations against the president have taken place in the capital Bissau. The protestors hold Vaz responsible for the ongoing crisis and demand his departure.

Vaz came to power in 2014 after winning a national election. Legislative and presidential elections are scheduled for 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Guinea-Bissau – PM Embalo’s unity government is unlikely to survive

President Vaz, a member of the dominant PAIGC party, fired PM Baciro Dja on 14 November. Four days later, Umaro Sissoco Embalo was appointed to head a new unity government. Dja’s dismissal was in accordance with the Conakry Accord, a peace agreement to quell the political crisis in the country. Yet, the peace agreement is on the brink of collapse now that the PAIGC has rejected Embalo’s appointment.

Embalo is Guinea-Bissau’s fifth prime minister since Vaz was elected president in May 2014. First, PM Pereira was appointed in July 2014 after the PAIGC won the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections. Barely one year later, in August 2015, President Vaz replaced Pereira by his political ally Baciro Dja who resigned after 48 hours following the Constitutional Court’s ruling that Dja’s appointment was unconstitutional. In September 2015 Carlos Correia was named PM but his premiership lasted until May 2016 and the same month Dja was again appointed PM. In accordance with the Conakry Accord, Dja resigned and Embalo was named PM.

The Conakry Accord was the outcome of an ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)-mediated mission, led by Alpha Conde, president of neighbouring country Guinea, which aimed at ending the institutional crisis in Guinea-Bissau. The Accord provided for, among others, “consensus on the choice of a Prime Minister who has the confidence of the President of the Republic” and stipulated that “the Prime Minister should be in office until the 2018 legislative elections.” Moreover, it called upon the parties “to form an inclusive government based on an organigram agreed upon by all political parties in the National Assembly, in line with the principle of proportional representation.” The principal tasks of the new inclusive government would be to reform the Constitution in order to “establishing stable relations between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary”, to revise the electoral law and reform Guinea-Bissau’s security sector. Key political actors, like Guinea-Bissau’s speaker of the National Assembly, Cipriano Cassama, PAIGC president Pereira, as well as the secretary-general of Guinea-Bissau’s largest opposition party (PRS), Florentino Mendes Pereira, and Braima Camara, a representative of 15 former PAIGC MPs, signed the agreement on 14 October 2016. It is important to note that the document does not include the name and signature of the President of Guinea-Bissau.

The Conakry Accord did not specify the name of the prime minister. Instead, the warring parties agreed on three names from which the President could pick a new prime minister: Embalo, a member of the PAIGC and one of the President’s principal advisors, Joao Mamadu Fadia, an independent and National Director of the ECOWAS bank, and Augusto Olivais, the former national secretary of the PAIGC. The PAIGC reportedly supported Olivais, while opposition party PRS wanted Embalo to head the new unity government. The President chose Embalo – brigadier general, his adviser and a minister in previous administrations.

The President’s decision to appoint Embalo as the new PM was not well received by the PAIGC. The party has declared it would not join Embalo’s “unity” government and warned that PAIGC MPs would vote against the budget.

The Conakry Accord has failed to end the political impasse. PM Embalo is clearly not the right candidate to resolve the conflict between, principally, President Vaz and PAIGC leader Pereira. So, it is unlikely the Embalo government will survive until the general elections scheduled for 2018. Perhaps the best option to resolve the institutional crisis would be to hold snap elections.

The President is dancing on a volcano, and Guinea-Bissau may go up in flames

On 25 May President Vaz appointed one of his most trusted allies, Baciro Dja, to form a new government, a move that triggered protests from the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Outgoing PM Carlos Correia denounced his dismissal as a ‘constitutional coup d’état’ and members of his government are refusing to leave the government palace. According to an order issued by the attorney-general last Friday, the dismissed government members have 48 hours to leave the government building.

Dja had been named prime minister once before, in August 2015, but was forced to resign after Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court declared his appointment unconstitutional. His successor, former PM Correia, temporarily appeared to resolve the dispute — but in December, 15 PAIGC deputies refused to back Correia’s policies, depriving the PM of a parliamentary majority. Vaz sacked former PM Correia and his government on 12 May, saying they had proved incapable of managing a months-long political crisis.

In his speech to the nation carried out on national television and radio, the President said ‘I have taken a decision which makes the political parties aware of their responsibilities in giving them the chance to prove that they place greater importance on the nation and the people over their personal interests or their group or party.’ The President also rejected PAIGC’s recommendation to hold fresh elections because in his view ‘elections are not an adequate means of resolving the problems with discipline, cohesion and internal unity in the political parties.’ He added that the country lacked the financial means necessary to organize elections. For its part, the former government members refuse to resign, saying that the choice of a prime minister was up to the majority party in parliament. ‘We will not accept a prime minister chosen by the president’, said ex-PM Correia.

On 3 June, President Vaz swore in Guinea-Bissau’s fourth government since the 2014 general elections, which despite PAIGC’s majority in Guinea-Bissau’s national assembly is dominated by members of opposition party Party for Social Renewal (PRS). According to a presidential decree, the new government has 31 members: 19 ministers and 12 secretaries of state. Yet, members of the ousted Correia government have announced not to transfer their duties to ministers named by PM Dja and are refusing to leave the government palace. ‘We are not going to give an inch of our offices so they can be occupied by an illegal government,’ former communication minister Regala said. Last Friday, tensions rose sharply in Guinea-Bissau’s capital city Bissau after the country’s most senior Supreme Court judge gave government members only 48 hours to leave the government building.

Political instability will have a negative impact on the popularity of President Vaz who, almost certainly, wants to be re-elected for a second term. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2018.

Guinea-Bissau – President and prime minister at loggerheads again, political crisis deepens

A power struggle is raging within the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). The internal division has led to a dangerous political standoff between supporters and opponents of the current government, headed by PM Carlos Correia. Meanwhile, rumours are circulating in the country about an impending coup d’état.

The country has been in turmoil since President José Mário Vaz fired PM Domingos Simões Pereira in August 2015, placing the head of state at loggerheads with his own PAIGC. President Vaz replaced Pereira with his favourite candidate for the post of prime minister, Baciro Djá. However, PM Djá needed to hand in his resignation after the Supreme Court ruled his appointment violated the constitution. The judges said that PM Djá had been given the job without properly consulting the political parties in parliament. Correia was appointed prime minister on 17 September 2015.

The root cause of the growing political instability is a bitter friction between warring factions within the ruling PAIGC party. Supporters of President Vaz, like former PM Djá, want Pereira to resign as party leader. Their protest against Correia’s government in which Pereira serves as vice-prime minister led to the parliament’s rejection of the 2016 budget. Indeed, parliament failed to pass the 2016 budget because 15 PAIGC deputies abstained from voting. The PAIGC then decided to expel the 15 dissenters from parliament, replace them with disciplined members, and seek parliamentary approval for the 2016 budget once again. Meanwhile, rumours about an impending coup d’état were circulating in the capital city Bissau.

When the 2016 budget was presented for approval again in January 2016, the 15 PAIGC deputies refused to leave parliament. Their protest action made speaker Cipriano Cassamá decide to adjourn the vote. In the absence of the speaker and most PAIGC deputies, the leader of Guinea-Bissau’s largest opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS) Alberto Nambea declared himself speaker and three resolutions were adopted: a censure motion against the government, the reinstatement of the 15 deputies in parliament, and the dismissal of Pereira and Cassamá from the PAIGC. To date, President Vaz has not ratified the resolutions.

Parliament passed the 2016 budget on 28 January. Yet, it is unclear if the budget law is valid. The court recently ruled that the dismissal of the PAIGC deputies was unconstitutional.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has led efforts by the 15-nation ECOWAS regional bloc to resolve the crisis. Yet, prominent members of the PAIGC refuse to talk with PRS and the 15 dissenters. This attitude may indicate that the PAIGC is trying to force new parliamentary elections, allowing the party to remove undisciplined members from the party list. To be sure, such a move would strengthen the PAIGC’s position vis-à-vis the president. For its part, PRS and the 15 dissenters are pressing for the prime minister’s resignation. Yet, Correia’s resignation would only prolong the prime ministerial merry-go-round. The political crisis may encourage the all-too-powerful military to restore decision-making authority. Since the first multiparty elections in 1994, Guinea-Bissau has experienced two coups d’état, an attempted coup, and a presidential assassination by the military.

Guinea-Bissau – The perils of president-parliamentarism

Large-n comparative studies found that democracies with a president-parliamentary constitution perform worse than those with a premier-presidential constitution.[1] Recent political developments in Guinea-Bissau, a presidential-parliamentary (electoral) democracy, neatly demonstrate the system’s inherent weakness in resolving conflict between the president and the national assembly. On 17 September President José Mário Vaz swore in Carlos Correia as the new prime minister. Correia is Guinea-Bissau’s third prime minister in a period of five weeks.

Under president-parliamentary democracies, the prime minister and cabinet are dually accountable to the president and assembly. So, both agents of the electorate (i.e. president and assembly) are constitutionally empowered to dismiss the prime minister and cabinet. Political instability is looming when the president does not share the prime minister’s policy agenda and intra-executive conflict delays or even halts decision making.

Obviously, intra-executive conflict is most likely under cohabitation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Yet, political developments in Guinea-Bissau illustrate that even under unified majority government where the president, prime minister and parliamentary majority belong to the same political party – semi-presidentialism’s best political situation for minimizing institutional conflict[2] – may cause a damaging power struggle between the president and the national assembly over the appointment of a prime minister.

In April 2014, PAIGC candidate Vaz was elected president. The PAIGC also won the legislative elections and the party’s president Domingos Simões Pereira was appointed prime minister in July 2014. As early as in November 2014, the ICG reported that ‘ongoing changes in distribution of power and resources generated tensions within ruling PAIGC’, in particular about the nomination of the Interior and Defence Minister.

Intra-executive tensions surged when in June this year the former Defence Minister (2011-2012) and Minister of Presidential Affairs Baciro Djá resigned. Following Djá’s resignation, Prime Minister Pereira, probably anticipating his dismissal, asked for a vote of confidence in his government. Even though lawmakers unanimously passed the confidence motion, the President sacked Prime Minister Pereira on 12 August 2015. Vaz said his dispute with Pereira arose from a number of issues, including the appointment of a new armed forces chief.

The dismissal of Pereira has led to a prime ministerial merry-go-round. Vaz appointed Baciro Djá as the new Prime Minister. The National Assembly, accusing the President of a ‘constitutional coup’ adopted a resolution to remove Djá, which the President simply ignored. Meanwhile, a new Government was sworn in on 8 September. In a last ditch attempt to remove the new Prime Minister, PAIGC deputies brought the case to Guinea-Bissau’s Supreme Court of Justice, arguing that the appointment of Djá was unconstitutional. According to them, Vaz had failed to comply with the Constitution, which states that the president needs to consult with the political parties represented in parliament before appointing a prime minister.

The Court backed the Parliament’s view and ruled that Prime Minister Djá’s appointment was indeed unconstitutional. Following the Court’s ruling, Djá tendered his resignation. His government had lasted only 2 days. On 17 September President Vaz accepted the ruling party’s candidate and swore in Correia as the new Prime Minister. Correia has already served as prime minister in the past (1991-1994, 1997-1998, 2008-2009). The question remains whether the Court’s ruling will encourage the President to cooperate with the new Prime Minister and parliamentary majority.

[1] ELGIE, R. 2011. Semi-Presidentialism: Sub-Types and Democratic Performance, Oxford, Oxford University Press, MOESTRUP, S. 2007. Semi-Presidentialism in Young Democracies: Help or Hindrance? In: ELGIE, R. & MOESTRUP, S. (eds.) Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe: A Comparative Study. London: Routledge.

[2] SKACH, C. 2005. Borrowing Constitutional Designs: Constitutional Law in Weimar Germany, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

Guinea-Bissau – Challenges for the New Government


On 4 July President José Mario Vaz of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) appointed a new government. Fellow PAIGC member, Prime Minister Domigos Simões Pereira, heads a new government which includes representatives of the opposition as well as independents.

With the election of Vaz as the President and the appointment of Prime Minister Pereira, Guinea-Bissau has entered a unified executive period where the head of state and the head of government belong to the same political party. In the 13 April parliamentary election the PAIGC secured an absolute majority in Guinea-Bissau’s unicameral National Assembly. As the PAIGC now “controls” both the presidency and the assembly the political-decision making process is likely to run smoothly.

Despite the PAIGC’s dominance, the government seems to be willing to cooperate with the opposition parties. Prime Minister Pereira’s new government includes members of Guinea-Bissau’s main opposition party, the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), the Union for Change (UM), the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD), the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD) and independents. The Prime Minister’s national unity approach improves the chances of a stable government.

An important challenge facing the new government is to get the economy back on track. The economy has suffered greatly since the April 2012 coup d’état. The annual GDP dropped from 5.3 per cent in 2011 to -1.5 per cent in 2012 but slightly recovered to 0.3 per cent in 2013.[1] Political instability not only scared away investors, the economy also suffered from economic and financial sanctions that were imposed on the country following the military coup. Yet, there are reasons for optimism. The election of Vaz as President may attract new investments. During his tenure as finance minister (2009-2012), Vaz built a reputation for paying salaries in the public sector on time. Meanwhile, international sanctions have been lifted after the elections were judged free and fair. Recently, Guinea-Bissau was readmitted as a member of the African Union.

However, until new investments start yielding revenues, the new government will depend on donor money to pay civil servants’ and army salaries. As salary arrears reached €6.1 million at the end of 2013, this will be crucial to stave off social and military unrest.

The new government needs to curb the putschist tendencies of the military. In particular, it needs to decide on how to deal with the perpetrators of the 2012 coup. In a joint statement signed by Prime Minister Pereira and the leader of the PRS, Alberto Nambeia, the two parties have agreed to work for a bill to grant amnesty to the instigators of the 2012 coup. This, however, may well trigger angry reactions as many believe it will help perpetuate the widespread impunity that has reigned in the country. The idea of an amnesty was previously put forward by the transitional government, but blocked in the National Assembly and heavily criticized by civil society and human rights groups.

  1. Minister for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers: Baciro Djá
  2. Minister of Foreign Affairs: Mário Lopes da Rosa
  3. Minister of Defence: Cadi Mane
  4. Minister of Internal Administration: Boctche Cande
  5. Minister of Media: Ângelo Regala
  6. Minister of Civil Service: Admir Nelson Belo
  7. Minister for Women’s Affairs: Blone Nhama Namtamba Nhasse
  8. Minister of Education: Odete Semedo
  9. Minister of Justice: Carmelita Pires
  10. Minister of Health: Valentina Mandes
  11. Minister of Agriculture: João Aníbal Pereira
  12. Minister of Public Works: José António Cruz Almeida
  13. Minister of Economy and Finance: Geraldo Martins
  14. Minister of Energy: Florentino Mendes Pereira
  15. Minister of Natural Resources: Daniel Gomes
  16. Minister of Commerce: António Serifo Embalo

[1] The World Bank “Guinea Bissau”, see:

Guinea-Bissau – José Mário Vaz wins Presidency

José Mário Vaz has won Sunday’s presidential run-off, according to preliminary results announced by the country’s electoral committee on Tuesday. Vaz, the candidate of Guinea-Bissau’s largest party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), won 61.9 per cent of the vote, defeating Nuno Nabiam, an independent, who garnered 38.1 per cent. Voter turnout was 78.1 per cent, indicating a drop in participation from the nearly 90 per cent recorded in the first round. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared the second round of the presidential elections free, fair and transparent.

Since the PAIGC won a majority of seats in the national assembly in the April parliamentary elections, the party now controls both the presidency and the assembly.

Political stability at last?

Since the introduction of a multiparty system in 1994, Guinea-Bissau has had four elected presidents, five transitional presidents and three military heads of state.[1] No elected president has completed a five-year term. In addition, the country has experienced 15 prime ministers during the same period.[2] According to Guinea-Bissau sociologist Miguel de Barros, the future president should not have the power to influence the formation of the government.

Guinea-Bissau’s president-parliamentary constitution[3] authorizes the president to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve parliament (Art. 68). In the literature, president-parliamentary systems are often associated with political instability.[4] Conflict between the president and assembly, it is argued, would prompt the head of state to dismiss the prime minister or to dissolve parliament. Guinea-Bissau constitutes a textbook example of the dangers of president-parliamentarism for political instability. For instance, late President Kumba Ialá dismissed no fewer than three prime ministers and dissolved parliament in the period 2000-2003. Equally, his successor, late President João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira of the PAIGC party, fired three prime ministers in the period 2005-2009. It is important to note that the three prime ministers belonged to President Vieira’s party. So the fact that President-elect José Mário Vaz and Prime Minister-designate Domingos Simões Pereira are party members does not imply the end of institutional conflict and political instability per se.

Another potential source of political instability is Guinea-Bissau’s powerful military. The military has exercised substantial power and interfered repeatedly in civilian leadership since 1994. In the past 20 years, the country has experienced two coups d’état, a civil war, an attempted coup, and a presidential assassination by the military. On 18 May 2014 the Chief of the Armed Forces, António Indjai, pledged his support for a return to constitutional order. Indjai is accused of being involved in the April 2012 coup against presidential candidate and PAIGC member Charles Gomes Junior. Like Gomes Junior, Vaz does not have a good rapport with the soldiers. Despite the fact that the PAIGC has full control over the presidency and the assembly, it still faces the army whose prominent members may fear lawsuits and reforms that could undermine its interests. The army could therefore interfere in political affairs and disrupt government action.

[1]See (assessed May 21, 2014)


[3]In president-parliamentary systems the government is dually accountable to both the president and the assembly majority.

[4]Moestrup, S. (2007) ‘Semi-Presidentialism in Young Democracies: Help or Hindrance?’, in Elgie, R. and Moestrup, S. (eds) Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe: A Comparative Study, London: Routledge, 30-55; Elgie, R. (2011) Semi-Presidentialism: Sub-Types and Democratic Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Guinea-Bissau – Presidential and Parliamentary elections

In Guinea-Bissau presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 13 April. It has been almost two years since the country last tried to hold elections.  In April 2012, a military coup disrupted the presidential election as it headed to a run-off. Several logistical problems and delays caused the elections to be repeatedly postponed, having initially been scheduled for 24 November 2013 and then 16 March 2014.

This time, no major incidents or problems or incidents were reported and observers certified the presidential and parliamentary elections as ‘peaceful, free, fair and transparent’. The turnout was nearly 90 per cent.

The president is elected by absolute majority vote through a two-round system to serve a five-year term. The 102 members of parliament are elected from 27 multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.

Here are the results of the presidential elections:

Candidate Party[1] Votes %
José Mário Vaz PAIGC 252,269 40.98
Nuno Nabiam Independent 154,784 25.14
Paulo Gomes Independent 60,783 9.87
Abel Incada PRS 43,293 7.03
Iaia Djaló PND 28,068 4.56
Ibraima Sori Djaló PRN 19,209 3.12
Afonso Té PRID 18,398 2.99
Hélder Vaz RGB 8,516 1.38
Domingos Quadé Independent 8,432 1.37
Aregado Mantenque PT 7,105 1.15
Luís Nancassa Independent 6,815 1.11
Jorge Malú Independent 5,946 0.97
Cirilo Oliveira PS-GB 2,036 0.33
Total 615,654 100.00

Source: CNE:

The second round of the presidential election is scheduled for 18 May. José Mário Vaz (alias “Jomav”) was finance minister from the PAIGC party until the 2012 coup. He also served as the mayor of the capital, Bissau. Nuno Nabiam is a military-backed[2] bureaucrat who had the support of the late President Kumba Iala. Nabiam broke off from the country’s second largest party, the PRS, to run as an independent candidate. Most members of the armed forces come from the Balanta ethnic group, which makes up about one third of the population. Traditionally, they vote for the PRS.

In the parliamentary election the PAIGC won 55 seats and secured an absolute majority in the 102-member unicameral National Assembly. The second largest party, PRS, won 41 seats, the PCD 2 seats, the PND 1 seat and the UM 1 seat. The PAIGC majority in parliament means the leader of that party’s parliamentary list, Domingos Simões Pereira, will become the next prime minister. Yet, according to the constitution of Guinea-Bissau, it is the president who appoints the prime minister.

Civil vs. military control

The prospect of Vaz being elected president mirrors the 2012 situation where the PAIGC was about to control the presidency and legislature. At the time, the military staged a coup against the PAIGC’s presidential candidate, Carlos Gomes Jr., and appointed a transitional president. Vaz’s political survival will largely depend on his relationship with Guinea-Bissau’s over-powerful military establishment. In the event that the military-backed candidate, Nabiam, wins the presidential elections and the government undertakes steps to reform Guinea-Bissau’s security sector, the president may decide to dismiss the prime minister. Overall, it is unlikely that the military will lose control over civilian authority.

[1] PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde); PRS (Party for Social Renewal); PND (New Democracy Party); PRN (National Reconciliation Party); PRID (Republican Party for Independence and Development); RGB (Guinea-Bissau Resistance); PT (Workers’ Party); PS-GB (Socialist Party of Guinea-Bissau).

[2] Nabiam is close to General António Indjai who is seen by many as the real leader of Guinea-Bissau.