The former Portuguese colony of 1.7 million has a long history of coups: no elected leader has completed a full five-year term since independence from Portugal in 1974.
The most recent was on 12 April 2012. This saw most major development partners suspend their aid cooperation to the improvised West African country, including the United Nations, European Union and African Union, among others. Prior to this aid accounted for up to 60% of the national budget.
The country has also become a known as a hub for trafficking Latin American cocaine to Europe, which led to higher levels of corruption in public institutions and armed forces.
However, in April 2014 Guinea-Bissau successfully held credible and predominantly peaceful elections – the first since the coup on 12 April 2012.
This has significantly reduced tensions and improved security. The army’s acceptance of the result is also a sign of greater stability.
The newly elected administration includes the country’s two largest parties, that are historical rivals. This reduces the risk that the losers of the election will disrupt the peace process.
Guinea-Bissau has also begun a gradual reform of the army, aimed at reinforcing civilian control over the military. This will reduce the risk of army interference in political matters, and further the cause of political stability.
Widespread poverty and unemployment will continue to fuel anger in the country and this could contribute to sporadic outbreaks of unrest. However, the presence of a democratically elected government, with support from international donors should ease tensions, and see the country focus on key peacebuilding and development projects.
Despite being one of the world’s largest producers of cashew nuts, which provides a small living for some farmers, Guinea-Bissau remains one of the world’s poorest countries. The country is heavily reliant on aid – a situation newly elected president José Mário Vaz says he wants to change.
Following Guinea-Bissau, the next largest improvement in peace for 2015 was fellow West African nation Cote d’Ivoire. Cote d’Ivoire did not improve quite as much as Guinea-Bissau in terms of its raw score, but did nevertheless rise 26 places in the Index to 105th. The country saw an improvement in internal safety and security following a decline in the number of attacks by former rebels.
Cote d’Ivoire was followed by Egypt (rising nine places), Tajikistan (rising 19 places) and Benin (rising 29 places). Common among the four African countries was a significant decrease in organised conflict, leading to greater peace.
Regionally, Sub-Saharan Africa’s score improved slightly in 2015, putting it further ahead of regions including Russia and Eurasia, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Explore the last eight years of peace in Guinea-Bissau with the Global Peace Index interactive maps.
Learn more on how a well-functioning government can contribute to a peaceful society.
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