- Africa Center for Strategic Studies
- ACSS Releases Special Report - Advancing Stabil...
ACSS Releases Special Report - Advancing Stability and Reconciliation in Guinea-Bissau: Lessons from Africa’s First Narco-State
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) has released a Special Report on "Advancing Stability and Reconciliation in Guinea-Bissau: Lessons from Africa's First Narco-State." The 50-page report, released June 12, 2013, takes an in-depth look at how the global drug trade has turned the West African nation into a crossroads of instability.
"A string of crises stretching back more than a decade has rendered Guinea-Bissau one of the most fragile states in Africa," according to the Special Report.
"Exploiting this volatility," the report says, "trafficking networks have co-opted key political and military leaders and transformed Guinea-Bissau into a hub for illicit commerce, particularly the multibillion dollar international trade in cocaine. This has directly contributed to instability in Senegal, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa."
The Special Report was co-authored by Davin O'Regan, Research Associate at ACSS, and Peter Thompson, Mediator of the Commission on National Reconciliation established by Guinea-Bissau's National People's Assembly, as well as Coordinator of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Guinea-Bissau.
Over the past decade, interdiction efforts in the Americas coupled with strong market forces in Europe have resulted in a growing transit of cocaine and other narcotics from Latin America across the Atlantic to West Africa and then into Europe.
The report identifies three inter-woven trends that have contributed significantly to Guinea-Bissau's crises:
- First, a significant deterioration in civil-military relations over the last decade has led to increased political meddling by military officers, fragmentation within the security forces, and a sharp decline in military professionalism, according to the report. "The expanding politicization of the armed forces has upended Guinea-Bissau's weak system of institutional checks and balances as well as the more formidable but unofficial balance of power among different groupings of influential elites," said the report.
- Second, a disproportionate concentration of power residing in the presidency has led to intense and oftentimes unproductive competition for control over the Office of the President. "Individuals aligned with president gain access to financial opportunities and career advances unavailable to the general population," said the report. "Outsiders are also subject to intimidation and arbitrary application of the law."
- Finally, the rise of the narcotics trade in Guinea-Bissau has exacerbated many of the country's governance problems."Thriving on this volatility, trafficking networks have transformed Guinea-Bissau into a hub for illicit commerce, particularly the multi-billion dollar international trade in cocaine," said the report. "[T]he drug trade has amplified the level of instability in the country and refutes the common assumption that transshipment of drugs-the movement of drugs produced and consumed in other states-has a benign effect on the transited country."
"Drug trafficking has provided both the means and motive to sidestep the state, and it has sparked its own fierce competition. It has weakened the state as a whole, from the inside and out, as institutions are co-opted," said the report. "Through the drug trade, certain senior officials, both in the military and civilian sectors, have been able to amass unprecedented wealth and influence, making them less beholden to the constraints of their offices, other institutions, or the political system."
Meanwhile, emerging ethnic tensions-especially within the military-have complicated the country's cycle of crises. "The rise in ethnic divisions demonstrates how new drivers of instability in Guinea-Bissau rear up as other sources of instability go unresolved," said the report.
The report provides detailed recommendations for how to address Guinea-Bissau's complex challenges. "A more determined stabilization effort is needed to resolve the deep-rooted political fissures in the country," the report said. "These fissures are also multilayered, so multiple tracks of reform must be pursued concomitantly and collaboratively by a broad range of actors at the national and international level. Breaking the country's cycle of crises will require fundamental reforms."
The challenges faced by Guinea-Bissau-and the policies and strategies developed to address those challenges-provide valuable lessons for dealing with the challenges of narco-states emerging elsewhere on the continent. "As evidence of heroin, cocaine, and amphetamine trafficking expands in Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, South Africa, and other African states, lessons from Guinea-Bissau hold important insights for what appears to be a worsening problem across the continent," the report concludes.
Click here to read the full report:
Advancing Stability and Reconciliation in Guinea-Bissau: Lessons from Africa's First Narco-State