Fast forward. I’m now into my fifth month here, much of the time spent in many different capitals.
The political process is moving slowly, maybe too slowly, for a country that is literally bankrupt, with serious social problems – teachers without salaries and children off school. Even the World Food Program has run out of food and money.
Europeans pay their farmers billions of dollars in subsides and billions more to destroy excess milk and butter. And yet appeals by WFP and I for urgent food assistance has met with inaction. According to WFP there is no hunger as such in Guinea-Bissau due to a rich land with abundant produce and a tradition of mutual help. But malnutrition is widespread.
Elections will be held later this year. But the government and the National Election Commission have produced a staggering budget estimate – a “modest” $40 million! I guess it will be a sort of Gucci election with Gucci election bags and assorted Gucci souvenirs for all. Of course no one in his right mind is going to provide such an exaggerated amount. The Europeans will foot most of the bill but it will be a more realistic budget, maybe around $15 million.
There is some good news to share: since my arrival here in February I haven’t heard of cases extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture. The military still roam towns and streets showing off their guns in an intimidating manner. Journalists and civil society advocates are still fearful.
But I sense some improvement in the general political and psychological atmosphere. There is less tension in the air.
After weeks of intense lobbying and negotiations a broad-based inclusive government is in place; there’s a new transitional pact and a road map leading to elections later this year.
President Serifo Nhmajo and the main political actors are all to be commended for these steps towards a return to constitutional order. Much remains to be done. But we are moving forward few steps.
More in the next few days or weeks.
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