Tense Guinea-Bissau Awaits Election Results

Boys watch electoral officials count votes through a window in Guinea's capital Bissau, March 18, 2012.
Boys watch electoral officials count votes through a window in Guinea's capital Bissau, March 18, 2012.
Anne Look

Vote-counting is under way in Guinea-Bissau following Sunday's presidential poll. The late-night assassination of a key military figure cast a shadow over an otherwise calm day of voting, and highlights the risk of further instability in the coup-prone West Africa country.

Guinea-Bissau's former military intelligence chief, Colonel Samba Diallo, was shot dead at a bar in the capital Sunday night following the country's presidential election.  

Sources in Bissau told VOA that the assailants appeared to be renegade soldiers, but the army says it has no information on the incident.

Military coups, army mutinies and assassinations are commonplace in Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau Elections

  • Guinea-Bissau wins independence from Portugal in 1974.
  • Luis Cabral becomes president in 1974 and is ousted in a 1980 coup led by armed forces chief Joao Bernardo Vieira.
  • Vieira clings to power despite alleged coup attempts and is elected president in 1994 multi-party polls.
  • Guinea-Bissau plunges into a bloody civil war in 1998 after an army uprising.
  • Military junta ousts Vieira in 1999; opposition leader Kumba Yala is elected president in 2000.
  • President Yala is ousted in bloody military coup in 2003; Businessman Henrique Rosa is sworn in as president.
  • Joao Bernardo Vieira wins 2005 presidential vote and is killed by soldiers in the presidential palace in 2009.
  • Malam Bacai Sanha is elected president and while hospitalized in 2011 a military struggle and attempted coup take place.
  • President Sanha dies in January 2012 after a long illness; National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira becomes acting president.

Political and military leaders have long wrestled for dominance of the tiny coastal nation and, according to analysts, profit from the thousands of kilograms of cocaine trafficked through its Atlantic coastline each week.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of its inhabitants live in poverty. Corruption runs rampant. No elected president has finished his mandate since 1994.

Sunday's murder was a troubling sign, following an election many hoped would mark a fresh start.

Voter Senguda Fonseca says the women of this country are tired. She says we cannot afford to send our children to school. She says our relatives die in misery. She says they need someone who can guide Guinea-Bissau forward.

In April 2010, Colonel Diallo was arrested by mutinous soldiers and detained for nine months. Then-prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior was also briefly detained. He is now a presidential frontrunner pledging to reform the economy and end drug-trafficking.

Casting his ballot at an open-air polling station in Bissau Sunday, Gomes said he was feeling calm and confident that the elections would go smoothly. He said his priority will be to serve the country.

Still, Gomes had ties to Colonel Diallo. Sources in Bissau worry that Sunday's killing could be a warning for the candidate.

Vincent Foucher, a Guinea-Bissau analyst for the International Crisis Group, says there have been rumors that a victory by Gomes would spark unrest or a military takeover. However, he says that Colonel Diallo had enemies, and it is still unclear what, if any, connection his murder had with the election.

Guinea-Bissau is voting to replace former president Malam Bacai Sanha, who died in January following a prolonged illness. Sanha had been elected only two years earlier after his predecessor, long-time president Joao Vieira, was assassinated by renegade solders seeking revenge for the killing of the chief of the armed forces just hours earlier.

Nine candidates are running for the presidency. Gomes' key challenger is former president Kumba Yala, who was overthrown by a coup in 2003. He has strong ties to the military and placed second in the 2009 poll.

Results are expected within one week. If no candidate wins a clear majority, the vote will go to a second round run-off next month.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs