Guinea-Bissau is at risk of further political unrest despite the country’s history of instability and the averted attempted coup d’etat in February 2022. Reports of an attack by unknown gunmen at the presidential palace in Bissau went viral on 1 February 2022. Incident reports indicated that President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, Prime Minister Nuno Nabiam and other government officials were held hostage for five hours during a Council of Ministers meeting. The attack resulted in eleven (11) confirmed fatalities. The series of events that ensued from the incident has raised concerns about the actual political and security situation of the country.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) approved the deployment of a stabilization force to Guinea-Bissau during a Summit of Heads of State and Government on 3 February 2022. However, this has been fiercely resisted by other political parties such as the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) claiming that it had not been approved by the National People’s Assembly, the country’s legislative body. The move was also interpreted as a means of imposing authoritarian measures especially as there remain unanswered questions surrounding the attack.
Looming Political Instability
Within the political scene, the main opposition, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) on several occasions, was prevented by security forces from holding a congress. On 18 March 2022, there was an altercation between members of the party and security forces at its national headquarters resulting in several casualties. Partisans later staged protests to denounce the perceived political repression of their leader Domingos Simões Pereira and the party as a whole. There were also allegations that the COVID-19 state of alert was implemented to stifle the activities of opposition political groups despite a significant decline in infection cases. The shutdown of 79 radio stations, out of the 88 listed per the broadcasting law No. 4/2013 by the government, has also been viewed as a way to restrict freedom of speech.
While the country is yet to recover from the COVID-19 impact, tensions are also rising due to decisions to increase the taxes on citizens as well as the price hikes of basic goods and fuel. It should be noted that Guinea-Bissau imports almost everything and is vulnerable to price fluctuations on global markets, which have seen a continuous rise. Widespread protest and strike actions with the primary focus to denounce unpaid wages in the public sector are also impacting the economy negatively due to the various disruptions that have resulted from these industrial actions.
The outlook of Guinea-Bissau remains bleak, owing to structural flaws, a divided parliament, high costs of living, an energy crisis and misgivings of opposition suppression. Therefore, the already challenging business environment could be exacerbated by renewed political instability.