Guinea-Bissau - Political background



Until 1991, Guinea-Bissau had a one-party republican form of government. A constitution adopted in 1984 created a 150-member National People's Assembly, whose members were drawn from the eight regional councils. All members of the regional councils had to be at least 21 years old and nominated by the Partido Africano de Indepêndencia de Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC—African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde). The National People's Assembly elected a 15-member Council of State. The president of the Council was head of state, commander in chief of the armed forces, and the secretary-general of the PAIGC. The constitution was amended 4 May 1991, revised in February and June of 1993, in 1996, and again in 1999.

Among the leaders in the struggle for independence were Amilcar Cabral, Luis Cabral, and João Bernardo Vieira. They formed the PAIGC in 1956 and by 1959 had called for an allout struggle to win independence. By 1963, a large-scale guerrilla war had broken out in the territory. Amilcar Cabral was assassinated in Conakry (Guinea) in 1973, but the Portuguese coup in 1974 led to an agreement and shortly thereafter to independence on 10 September 1974. Luis Cabral, Amilcar's brother, led the new government as head of the PAIGC. In 1980, perceptions that Cape Verdeans were controlling the country led to a coup d'état by Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira. Vieira survived numerous coup attempts until he agreed to hold a national conference in 1990.

In October 1990, 350 representatives of the PAIGC, government, civil society, and private organizations met to discuss the rules for advancing political reform and democratization in Guinea-Bissau. In May 1991, the National Assembly voted to end single-party rule. Free and fair multi-party elections occurred in July 1994. In June 1998, a coup triggered an 11-month civil war, which Guinean and Senegalese troops quelled at Vieira's request. Renegade troops led by General Ansumane Mané ousted Vieira in April–May 1999, paving the way for an interim government and the next rounds of legislative and presidential elections held in November 1999 and January 2000.

General Ansumane Mané and the junta promised to stay out of politics once a new civilian government was elected, but two weeks before the elections a "Magna Carta" was published demanding a 10-year role for the junta . In November 2000, gunfire erupted around the capital at a military barracks where General Mané tried to regain control of the armed forces. After declaring himself Supreme Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People of Guinea-Bissau, he fled and remained at-large for several days before government troops hunted him down and killed him. The year 2001 was equally turbulent, marked by cabinet sacks, reshuffling, dismissals of judges, and a thwarted coup attempt in December.

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