Business, Finance & Economics

Guinea-Bissau: President dead and drug trade crisis continues


As Guinea-Bissau president dies, new obstacles arise the West African state. Here, a man holds up a sign saying Guinea Bissau as he looks over barbed wire from the Libyan side of the frontier to cross at the Ras Jedir border crossing near Ben Guerdane on March 2, 2011. The UN refugees agency made a plea today for hundreds of planes to end the gridlock at the Tunisia border with revolt-hit Libya, where "acres of people" are still waiting to cross.


Joel Saget

NAIROBI, Kenya — Guinea-Bissau's ailing president died on Monday in a French hospital.

Leaving aside the depressing truth that African leaders prefer to send themselves and their relatives abroad for medical treatment rather than invest in healthcare back home, the death of Malam Bacai Sanha represents a(nother) disaster in the making for this tiny West African state that lurches from crisis to crisis with barely time to take a breath.

Read more on GlobalPost: Guinea-Bissau President dies at Paris Hospital

In recent years the influx of drugs cartels have earned Buinea-Bissau an unenviable reputation as Africa's first narco-state.

The value of cocaine transiting the country from South American coca fields to European noses dwarfs the tiny economy.

Governments can literally be bought.

A senior position in the security services is virtually a guarantee of a large slice of the illicit earnings from the drugs trade and is something worth fighting and killing for.

But the drug money is just a recent iteration of Guinea-Bissau's independence era strife.

Read more on GlobalPost: Guinea-Bissau: Africa's new narcostate (PHOTOS)

Since freeing itself from Portuguese rule in 1973 there have been a succession of coups and little in the way of democracy or development.

Sanha himself was elected only in 2009 after his predecessor was gunned down in a long-standing political vendetta exacerbated by cocaine cash.

Fresh elections are now supposed to be held within 90-days meaning a tense few months for Guinea-Bissau.