Guinea-Bissau Admits It Needs Help Fighting Drug Trafficking

I almost never write about Guinea-Bissau, the West African country so often referred to as a “narco-state” – see some different perspectives on that label here, here, and here. As the epithet implies, Guinea-Bissau has become a transit point for cocaine from South America to Europe. Guinea-Bissau made headlines this year for a military coup this spring, the latest in a long line of political upheavals in the country. Despite the installation of a transitional government, drug activity has reportedly increased.

West Africa as a whole, including Sahelian countries like Senegal and Mali, has “emerged as a hub for cocaine trafficking.” Events and trends in Guinea-Bissau, then, are relevant to the entire region. That’s why a headline yesterday caught my eye: “Guinea-Bissau Asks for Help.” From the article:

“Guinea-Bissau cannot face drug trafficking by itself,” said Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, the country’s leader under a transition process negotiated after an April 12 coup.

“I call once more on the international community to come to the rescue, to stop this evil,” said Nhamadjo, in an address to mark the 38th anniversary of the country’s independence from Portugal.

The remarks, as quoted, are short on details. But it will be worth watching whether and how the transitional government and its successors attempt to translate this sentiment into concrete partnerships with outside governments and agencies. Some regional anti-drug partnerships already exist. Yet Nhamadjo’s statement is, while laudable for its honesty, disheartening: if the government freely admits it cannot control the problem,  and existing organizations have not slowed its growth, then the problem has become severe indeed.

Writings Elsewhere: Mali, Islamic Education in Northern Nigeria, and ECOWAS

I’ve put out a few things recently that followers of this blog might be interested in reading:

  • At The American Interest, I have an analysis of Mali’s twin crises and their implications for the region, as well as for the United States.
  • At New York University’s The Revealer, I’ve finished a six-part series, “Schooling Muslims in Northern Nigeria.” Here are links to the introduction, part two (on Qur’anic schools), part three (on advanced Islamic education in “traditional” settings), part four (on “Islamiyya” schools), part five (on universities) and the conclusion. For more on these topics, I would recommend The Ink of the Scholar, Quranic Schools: Agents of Preservation and Change, the 1975 dissertation of John Weir Chamberlin, and Dr. Muhammad Sani Umar’s article “Education and Islamic Trends in Northern Nigeria: 1970-1990s” in Africa Today (summer 2001).
  • At World Politics Review, I have a briefing on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its reactions to the coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.
  • Finally, I recently reviewed Hans G. Kippenberg’s Violence as Worship for H-Net Reviews.

If you read any of these pieces, please let me know what you thought of them!

Africa Blog Roundup: Charles Taylor, the Sudans, Guinea-Bissau, and More

Baobab and Africa Is A Country on Charles Taylor. Quoting from the latter:

“Liberians decry ‘mockery of justice’ in Charles Taylor verdict” is a piece by Geoffrey York in Canada’s Globe and Mail that portrays a country outraged by the result of Taylor’s trial. The fact that Charles Taylor is reviled in the West but loved in Liberia is a fun thing to report on. It hints at the idea that Liberians have a very different world view, a mystical one where power is celebrated for its own sake, except it’s not really true.

Lesley Anne Warner: “Does War Serve Political Interests in Sudan and South Sudan?”

Roving Bandit, meanwhile, looks at media coverage of South (and north) Sudan during the current conflict.

Dr. Michael Nelson on the possible intervention by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in Mali and Guinea-Bissau:

Guinea-Bissau might be a harder case. On the one hand, G-B’s problems are a little more straightforward: this is “just” a coup. But on the other hand, the prospects for a peaceful and democratic path are really pretty bad here. No president has ever finished their term in office. And, as Lesley Anne Warner notes, G-B is indeed quite coup-prone. The country has had twice as many coup incidents (10, including failed and alleged plots) as any other country in Africa since 2000. And that doesn’t even include the assassination of President Vieira in 2009! Reuters has a nice timeline of just a few of the events in their violent past.

All of that leads me to wonder: how will ECOWAS gauge success here? What is the exit strategy? Or are West African leaders trying to send some sort of hard signal to the elites in G-B that business-as-usual (coups every few years) cannot be tolerated?

What are you reading today?

Africa News Roundup: ECOWAS Troops, Malian Politics, Displaced Persons in Cote d’Ivoire, and More

The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) voted on Thursday to deploy troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau, both of which have suffered coups this spring. The junta in Mali says it will treat any foreign soldiers on Malian soil as enemies. Readers who understand French may be interested in RFI’s article entitled (my translation) “In Mali, Confusion and Uncertainty on the Role of the Military Junta.”

In Guinea-Bissau, meanwhile, soldiers have released former PM Carlos Gomes Junior and interim President Raimundo Pereira.

AFP analyzes the “unlikely role” of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore as “the Sahel region’s troubleshooter.”

In negotiating [Swiss hostage Beatrice] Stockly’s release from the Islamists [in northern Mali], Compaore proved he’s in tune with the shifting realities on the ground, observers said.

“We have in Compaore a serious intermediary with a serious network,” said one western diplomat.


Compaore is perhaps an unlikely fit for this partly benevolent role: he took power in a 1987 coup that saw his predecessor and once brother-in-arms Thomas Sankara assassinated, and his democratic credentials have been steadily questioned since.

But his skills at navigating among the sometimes shadowy armed groups operating in the Sahel were reinforced last month when fellow heads of state from the west African bloc ECOWAS named him mediator for the Mali crisis.

IRIN reports that displaced persons in western Cote d’Ivoire “feel forgotten.”

Most displaced families told IRIN they could not return to their homes because they were destroyed, or because their farms were taken over by other groups and are now being guarded by armed guards or “dozos”.

Téhé comes from a village 5km outside of Duékoué but he has not returned home because his fields were taken over during his absence. “It’s because we’re Guéré,” he says, referring to his ethnic group, whose members overwhelmingly supported the former president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Much of the long-term inter-community conflict in the west is rooted in issues of land tenure, as members of different ethnic groups claim ownership to the same land.

President Ouattara recognized that the west is still very unstable, with forests “infested with armed persons”, which is “not acceptable”. Nonetheless, during his visit to the towns of Toulépleu, Bloléquin and Duékoué he repeated calls for the displaced to return home, and called on Ivoirians to leave it to the justice system to punish those who have committed crimes. He stressed that he is the president of all Ivoirians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or region.

VOA: “Sudan Fighting Damages Both Sides’ Oil Industry.”

I leave you with a video on hunger in Chad from the World Food Programme:

Africa News Roundup: “Total War” in Mali, Coup in Guinea-Bissau, Heglig, Mauritania Border Buildup, and More

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore has pledged “total war” against rebels in the northern party of the country.

It looks as though there has been a coup in Guinea-Bissau.

Newly elected Senegalese President Macky Sall makes his first overseas trip – to Gambia and France.

South Sudanese troops continue to hold the Heglig oil field inside (north) Sudan, but they stated yesterday that they would withdraw if Sudan agrees that a neutral force can take charge of the area. All Africa now has a section of its site entitled, “Are the Two Sudans Heading for War?”

The dream of building an oil pipeline from South Sudan to Kenya moves into a new phase.

In Nigeria, a new video from Boko Haram threatens President Goodluck Jonathan. The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria party – which is strongest in the Southwest and in the Middle Belt – has urged the government to renew efforts at dialogue with the rebel group.

In other Nigeria news, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has claimed an attack on an ENI pipeline.

Mauritania increases troop levels on its border with Mali.

What else is going on today?

Africa News Roundup: Mali Coup, Somalia, Senussi, Senegal Elections, and More

IRIN and Bloomberg probe the causes of the coup in Mali. Think Africa Press examines the micro-dynamics of the mutiny/coup itself. Reuters provides a look at the military situation in the north. The United Nations Security Council, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, and the United States have all condemned the coup.

Given how rapidly news is coming out of Mali, Twitter remains your best bet for the latest.

Despite hopes that Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would become the next World Bank president, it appears almost certain that President Barack Obama’s nominee, Darmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, will get the job.

Ethiopian troops aren’t gone from Somalia, yet, it seems. Together with Somali government forces they drove al Shabab rebels from the town of Hudur (map) on Thursday.

The Mauritanian government has refuted earlier reports that it had agreed to an extradition of former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al Senussi back to Libya. Libya’s new government says it wants to try Senussi before elections this June.

Guinea-Bissau is set to hold a run-off in its presidential elections. The problem is, the second-place finisher, former President Kumba Yala, says he will not participate.

IRIN has an interesting look at the strategies of pastoralists in Niger for coping with drought, and includes some commentary on how the border closure with Nigeria (due to the Boko Haram uprising) has denied pastoralists access to an economic safety valve.

Last but definitely not least, Senegal will hold the second round of its presidential elections tomorrow, pitting incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade against challenger Macky Sall, whom the BBC has profiled here.

What are you reading today?

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Chad, and More

Alex de Waal writes on confusion in Sudan: “Finding the truth is always hard in the Sudanese political scene. At the moment it is simply impossible.” And Opheera McDoom offers a “Journalist’s Guide to Covering Sudanese Politics.”

In Somaliland, a “homemade helicopter” (h/t Texas in Africa).

A Nigerian insider argues for a complete and decisive transfer of power from President Yar’Adua to Acting President Jonathan. In other Nigeria coverage, Loomnie talks oil and transparency.

UN Dispatch fills us in on events in Guinea-Bissau, and argues that Chad needs the UN.

The China in Africa blog is back. And speaking of Africa’s ties with other lands, the Azanian Sea points us to a documentary on the African diaspora in Iran.

Finally, the US State Department tells citizens how to avoid international scams.

Quick Updates on Sudan Boycott, Attempted Coup in Guinea-Bissau

Both situations are evolving.


Several opposition parties said Thursday that they were withdrawing from Sudan’s imminent presidential election, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the nation’s first multiparty vote in more than 20 years and complicating the landmark agreement that ended decades of civil war in the country.

The decision followed an announcement the night before by the leading opposition candidate, Yasir Arman, that he was dropping out because it was “impossible” to hold an election in the conflict-racked region of Darfur and that the whole electoral process had been “rigged.”


Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau briefly detained the country’s prime minister and arrested the army chief of staff Thursday in what appeared to be a coup attempt.

Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and Army Chief Zamora Induta were both seized and taken to a military base in the capital, Bissau.

Soldiers later escorted Mr. Gomes back to his office, where demonstrators gathered outside and chanted his name in a show of support.

However, the seized army chief’s deputy, Antonio Ndjai, warned that the military would kill Mr. Gomes if his supporters did not disperse.

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments. I should have more on Sudan tomorrow.

Cocaine in West Africa

Journalists, governments, and international organizations are paying more and more attention to cocaine smuggling and use in West Africa. Earlier this week, representatives from Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Cape Verde, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal met in Dakar to discuss anti-drug measures. Here are some related stories from the region:

This issue is rising in importance, and we’re going to hear a lot more about it. Feel free to contribute any insights you have in the comments section.