News reaches us that in August the conflict-affected country most rapidly moving towards peace – Guinea-Bissau – was thrown into turmoil by political disputes. The tiny west African nation has a long history of coups and no elected leader has completed a full five-year term since independence from Portugal in 1974. In recent years it has become a hub for drug-trafficking from South America into Europe. But peaceful elections in April 2014 and recent reforms of the army were seen as a turning point, and Guinea-Bissau was ranked by the independent Global Peace Index as the world’s most improved country for peacefulness last year.
In August its parliament called emergency talks after the ruling party condemned the appointment of a new Prime Minister by President José Mário Vaz. Among the new PM’s first actions was to sack chiefs of the state-owned radio and television services for ‘bias’ in their reporting of the recent government shakeup. A day later, parliament had adopted a proposal to depose him.
These developments are concerning after the Global Peace Index (GPI) had noted Guinea-Bissau’s progress towards peace in 2014. GPI measures the state of peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators that measure the level of security in a society, the number of international and domestic conflicts and the degree of militarisation. All of this information is then collated into a single figure and ranked according to the scores. Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, it is a respected tool for measuring global levels of peace and violence.
Guinea-Bissau’s lawmakers might be wise to read GPI’s report on The Pillars of Peace, which recommends eight proactive measures that countries can take to strengthen themselves against conflict. These comprise: a well-functioning government, sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, acceptance of the rights of others, free flow of information, good relations with neighbours, high levels of education and low levels of corruption. These eight pillars were found to be associated with peaceful environments and are both inter-dependent and mutually reinforcing, such that improvements in one factor would tend to strengthen others and vice versa. The relative strength of any one pillar has the potential to positively or negatively impact another: an increase in levels of corruption would undoubtedly have an effect on a well-functioning government, business and the free flow of information.
Meanwhile our website Insight On Conflict has launched a new section on Guinea-Bissau, which includes details of ten local peacebuilding organisations in-country. They may well find themselves busy very soon.