Political chaos in Guinea-Bissau boosting illicit drug trade

For a day recently, the small West African country of Guinea-Bissau had two presidents and two prime ministers, until one of the presidents stepped down citing death threats.

The country has been gripped by political turmoil for so many years that analysts do not agree on exactly how many coups it has had in its 46 years of independence.

Some say nine, others count 10. An election held last year was another attempt to carve a new peaceful path but it has sparked yet more chaos, as journalist Ricci Shryock reports.

Amidst the political chaos, daily life appears to be carrying on as normal in the capital, Bissau, but underneath the veneer, residents say they are deeply frustrated with the political chaos and confused about what will happen next and whom to believe.

While the Portuguese word “saudades” expresses a longing for the past, the feeling in Bissau is more akin to a longing for a more prosperous future they know is possible, but each time Bissau-Guineans’ raise their hopes, they are dashed by political manoeuvring – often backed by guns.

Along the streets, women are selling the country’s number-one cash crop – freshly harvested cashews.

But the presence of armed soldiers is a reminder that things are not normal.

The absence of trusted sources of news has provided good fodder for rumours and innuendo, with people constantly trying to parse what is true and what is not.

Contradictory official communiqués and letters from various sides, about who is the rightful president, are being shared on WhatsApp and Facebook in the country of 1.6 million people.

“We don’t know what’s going on,” said a hotel manager, Aboubacar, as he scrolled through his Facebook feed. He furrowed his brow and frowned as he tried to decide which local blogs to read.

One restaurant owner, who said the chaos was hurting her business, added: “For such a tiny country, it’s amazing how much fake news we can produce.”

Umaro Cissoko Embaló was announced as the winner of December’s election.

The long-time ruling party PAIGC however alleged it was cheated out of victory and insists that Mr Embaló waits for the Supreme Court to rule on its third request to annul the elections. But he refused and has taken the oath of office.  -BBC

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