"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


it's beginning to look a lot like 1976

Who says the era of coups d'etat in Africa is over? Reports today from Guinea-Bissau say that the tiny country's president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, was shot dead by mutinous soldiers, apparently in revenge for the death of an army chief of staff. As an ECOWAS official told Agence France-Presse, "The death of a president, of a chief of staff, is very grave news. It's not only the assassination of a president or a chief of staff, it's the assassination of democracy."

Never mind that you'd have to be illiterate or delusional to consider Guinea-Bissau a democracy.

According to the BBC, "The army denies that there is a coup." It's not often that I get to pull out the beloved first edition of Samuel Decalo's Coups and Army Rule in Africa that I found in the Niantic Book Barn one freezing cold "spring" day in Connecticut, but I'm pretty sure that if I were in my home office writing this, I could look it up and confirm that the definition of a coup hasn't changed. I'm also fairly certain that Guinea-Bissau's recent history of coups hasn't changed either. So maybe we need a new category to cover assassinations of heads of state by angry units of militaries who don't like the guy in power and want a change. Ideas, anyone?

Then again, maybe democratic ideals about the rule of law and constitutional order have taken over in Guinea-Bissau. Maybe the head of the army is telling the truth when he says they're going to track down the renegades and bring them to justice while respecting the constitutional order of succession. And maybe the new government will establish enough authority othat the Latin American drug cartels will have to find a new weak state with a poorly-guarded coastline through which they can ship tonnes of cocaine to Europe.

Somehow I doubt it.

(Where's Guinea-Bissau? It's a tiny, former Portuguese colony on the West African coast, south of Senegal. They had lots of Cuban doctors running the health system when nobody else would. You know, that Guinea-Bissau).


Anonymous Sister said...

Those Cuban doctors seem to have done a lot of good in Africa. They were the ones providing quality health care in northwestern Ghana when I was there.

Monday, March 02, 2009 12:30:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Yup. They also showed up in Guinea (the regular Guinea) when the French took everything (including the toilets) back to Paris, and there were a few in eastern Congo with Che in the mid-60's. But I had no idea they were still out there - got any pics?

Monday, March 02, 2009 1:18:00 PM


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