Do not divide the people, Church in Guinea-Bissau tells politicians

Guinea-Bissau’s Bishop José Câmnate na Bissign has appealed to the country’s politicians to prioritise reconciliation and forgiveness instead of dividing the people.

SOURCE: Vatican News

Paul Samasumo –Vatican City

The Catholic Church’s Agenzia Fides quotes Bishop José Câmnate na Bissign saying, “Many countries in Africa have already given the example of having created (peace) and reconciliation commissions and achieved important results. Why do some of our Guinean brothers not want to believe in the power of forgiveness?” the Bishop challenged politicians.

A longtime advocate for dialogue and reconciliation

Bishop José Câmnate na Bissign was speaking on the sidelines of a religious ceremony, the perpetual vows of two Guinean Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, Sisters Eva Sambú and Welly Fernando Cabral.

The Bishop of Bissau is a longtime proponent of dialogue between the different political and religious groups in Guinea-Bissau. On several occasions, the Bishop has called for inter-religious dialogue and the promotion of human dignity in the country.

Instability risks peace in West Africa

Although the overall political situation in Guinea-Bissau has considerably improved from what it used to be, the Church wants politicians and local authorities to place the best interests of the people above all other considerations.

Worrying fault lines that spell recurrent instability in Guinea-Bissau remain. With looming presidential elections due in November 2019, the political climate is volatile. Instability in Guinea Bissau is a threat to peace in the wider sub-region as well.

Country’s politicians must show leadership

As if echoing the position of the Church, Brown Odigie writing for ACCORD, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes says Guinea Bissau’s political and military leaders must show leadership and resolve to act in the best interest of the country.

ACCORD is a South Africa-based civil society organisation working throughout Africa to bring creative African solutions to the challenges posed by conflict on the continent.

“Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa with a population of 1.8 million people, has been embroiled in political and institutional crises since August 2015, following the run-off presidential elections of May 2014 that produced President José Mário Vaz. The political and institutional crises had roots in certain structural factors common to most post-colonial African states: an underdeveloped economy, overdependence on foreign aid and former colonial masters, fractionalised and factionalised elites, a praetorian army serving personal interests, and general governance deficits. The case with Guinea-Bissau, however, is peculiar. It has a long history of political and institutional fragility dating back to its independence in 1974, with recurring coups and assassinations of political leaders. With the exemption of President Vaz, whose constitutionally mandated term of office ended on 23 June 2019, no elected president has ever completed a term of office – an indicator of the gravity of the country’s political instability.” writes Odigie.

Odigie admonishes Guinean-Bissau-political actors to exhibit statesmanship, prioritising the interests of the nation above party, groups and personal interests. Trust building among political stakeholders is critical, he says. He further warns that the Guinea-Bissau leadership and all political stakeholders need to be mindful of likely support fatigue by the international community.

A country caught in an international drugs trade

The country is also struggling with the burden of being labelled Africa’s “First Narco-State.” On its own, Guinea-Bissau cannot contain the global drugs trade and shipments of cocaine from Latin America to its soil. The Government is now working with INTERPOL.

In September, an INTERPOL team deployed to Guinea-Bissau together with local Police made ten arrests following the seizure of 1.8 tonnes of cocaine that was being transported by sea to the country’s northwest. The suspects arrested originate from Colombia, Guinea Bissau and Mali.

The United Nations Security Council recently extended its peacekeeping mandate in the country, with a specific focus on fighting drug trafficking.

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