Democracy and rights
The democratic system in Guinea-Bissau has
major shortcomings. The country has been shaken by
several coups, the most recent in 2012. But although
several general elections have been held since then,
political life has periodically stalled because of a
power struggle between the president and large parts of
his own party. Corruption is a major problem, compounded
by the drug smuggling that goes through Guinea-Bissau.
Legal security has major shortcomings.
José Mário Vaz was elected by a clear majority to the
country's president in the 2014 elections. At the same
time, his party gained PAIGC's own majority in the
National Assembly. But soon enough, the policy was
crippled by a conflict between various factions of the
ruling party, one of which accused the government - and
the then Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira of
irregularities. Others described it as a power struggle
where Vaz ended up on a collision course with those who,
led by Simões Pereira, wanted to modernize the party
(see further Current Policy). The situation is
complicated by the fact that the Constitution does not
clearly state what powers the President and the Prime
Minister should have. The UN Security Council and the
West African cooperation organization Ecowas have
pressed for the parties to resolve the political (see
Calendar). The parliamentary elections in spring 2019
did not solve any problems, even though PAIGC, together
with several smaller parties, gained a majority in the
national assembly. The tensions between the two blocs in
Parliament remain strong.
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Vaz's term expired in June 2019, but he was allowed
to remain as acting president until the next
presidential election to be held in November of that
Ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections, it was
noted that two parties, PRS and Madem-G15, could spend
large sums on the electoral movement, but it was unclear
where the money was coming from. However, the election
was conducted in relatively calm forms and just as in
the 2014 elections, turnout was high, almost 85 percent.
In connection with previous elections, there have
been reports of voting and harassment and threats
directed at election workers and political candidates.
In 2009, the then President and former dictator João
Bernardo Vieira was murdered (see Modern History). Since
2014, the military has stayed out of politics.
In principle, people can openly discuss political
issues, but there are examples of public figures being
threatened with prosecution for statements they have
Although men and women should formally have the same
rights, this does not seem so in practice (see Social
More women (51 percent) than men voted in the 2019
parliamentary elections, but only 13 women were elected
to the National Assembly, despite the fact that the law
now states that at least 36 percent of the members must
be women. In the government that took office in the
summer of 2019, half of the 16 ministers were women.
The authorities have, on several occasions, in recent
years intervened in protest against the protracted
political conflict. In the first half of 2019, 16
protesters were arrested in connection with protest
actions, but they were released following intervention
by the UN intervention in the country (Uniogbis). It is
also common for public servants of Guineans to strike
and demonstrate against poor working conditions and
against having not received their wages on time.
There is a national human rights organization, the
League for Human Rights (Liga Guineense dos Direitos
Humanos), which has helped, among other things, to train
the police and the military in human rights.
Voluntary organizations can largely operate freely.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press and expression is guaranteed in
the Constitution. The state gave up its monopoly over
the mass media in 1991, but the authorities have
continued to interfere in their work. In connection with
the coup 2012, there were threats and harassment against
journalists, the content of the media was censored by
the military and all radio and TV channels except the
state Radio Nacional were forced to close for a period.
After the 2014 presidential and parliamentary
elections, conditions for the media improved. However,
defamation laws and prohibitions to reveal "state
secrets" still set clear limits to what may be said. In
2014, an editor at Donos de Bola was sentenced to
conditional sentence on 14 months slander by President
It is common for journalists to avoid reporting
combustible substances. It has been particularly
sensitive to report on Latin American drug cartels
smuggling drugs via the country (see below and Current
Policy) and their domestic partners, not least in the
In the politically tense situation that emerged in
2015, some media raised the tone, with strongly partisan
political speeches, which, according to the UN, helped
to heighten tensions . Both 2017 and
2019 employees at the state-run TV company TGB strike to
protest against political control of their reporting
. President Vaz stressed in 2018 how
important it is that the country has free media.
In Reporters Without Borders rankings for 2019,
Guinea ranked 89th out of 180 countries, which was the
country's worst ranking since 2013.
The work of both the newspapers and the e-media is
hampered by a lack of money. Since so few can read and
write, most receive their news via the radio. Alongside
Radio Nacional there are several private stations.
There are a few magazines with fairly regular
publishing. The newspapers have small editions. It can
be difficult to get them printed as the state printing
office does not always have money to pay the staff and
there is often a shortage of newsprint. The first online
magazine was started in 2005.
There are no formal restrictions on the Internet, but
access to the Internet is limited. By the end of 2018,
there were around 120,000 Internet users nationwide. But
fewer than one in ten residents are active in social
media. Most of them use Facebook. There is no indication
that the authorities are monitoring what is being
There are no laws guaranteeing that the public can
access public documents.
In 2007, the UN agency warned that Guinea-Bissau had
become a transit country for the smuggling of drugs
between Latin America and Europe, and it was feared that
drug cartels gained a foothold in the military and
political elite as well (see also Modern History). After
several high-level arrests, the problems seemed to
diminish, although some critics claimed the arrests were
for political reasons. In 2019, however, two cocaine
seizures totaling 2.6 tonnes were made, which raised
questions about the drug cartels still having a strong
hold in the country (see Calendar). Domingos Simões
Pereira (see above) accused the government of closing
the drug traffic in 2018, and that President Vaz had
contacts with the drug smugglers. When Vaz dismissed
Simões Pereira in 2015, he accused him of corruption.
There are also fears that foreign militant Islamist
groups are involved in the drug trade, and that they
have tried to recruit members of Guinea-Bissau.
In general, corruption is a major problem. The
country's anti-corruption legislation has major
shortcomings and it is common that the laws that are
still in force in this area are not followed.
Representatives of the government, for example - are
required by law to report their assets, but have not yet
In 2019, Guinea-Bissau ranked 168th out of 180
countries on the Transparency International's index of
corruption in the countries of the world. Four places
better than the year before.
Judicial system and legal security
The judiciary is formally independent, but the
political authorities often interfere in the work of the
courts. The courts are suffering from staff shortages
and it is common for legal processes to extend over
time, sometimes for several years. This has contributed
to the population not having much confidence in the
judiciary. There are both civil and military courts. In
the countryside, there is also traditional justice.
Only a few cases reach the courts and few of them
lead to convictions. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled
that the president's decision to appoint Baciro Djá as
new head of government violated the constitution. It was
the first time the Court has annulled a decision made by
the President (see Calendar).
The country's only prison was destroyed during the
civil war. After that, detainees were detained during
military missions, often under difficult conditions. The
situation improved after 2003 and two new prisons were
put into operation in 2011.
The death penalty was abolished in 1999.
In 2018, there were about 3,500 police officers in
the country, most of whom lacked adequate training for
the work. Arbitrary arrests, torture and mistreatment of
prisoners are a problem, but few have been convicted of
the abuses. This also applies to the political murders
that shook the country in 2009, when, among others,
President João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated. Nor
have any attempts been made to investigate the human
rights violations committed during the 1998-1999 civil
war or in connection with subsequent military coups.
Also, no trial has been initiated against the soldiers
who were accused of trying to murder General Biague Na
N'Tam 2017 (see Calendar).
More parties to new government
The new government consists of representatives of the Social Renewal Party
(PRS), the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD), former members of PAIGC as
well as some smaller parties and independent members.
New President assumes office
João Bernardo Vieira takes over as president on October 1, 2005. He promises
to work for national unity and reform the army. Early on, it is clear that the
collaboration between Vieira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, from PAIGC,
is not working. On October 28, Vieira dismisses the government. A few days
later, via decree Aristides Gomes, who had been excluded from PAIGC in May of
that year, he appointed new prime minister.