Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 16 Jan - 20 Feb 2000

Situation Report
Originally published
Unless otherwise specified, all information contained in this report has been collected in-country by OCHA from the UN, NGOs, & ICRC network in Guinea-Bissau
Political / Military / Economic Situation

The final tally of the 16 January Presidential run-off added up to a landslide victory for opposition candidate Kumba Yalá, of the Partido de Renovação Social. Yalá garnered 72% of the votes cast on a relatively quiet election day. Voter turn-out nationwide was slightly lower the first round, 72% compared to 83%, but fewer logistical delays were reported. International election observers monitored the vote, ballot count, and compilation of results at regional and national election offices. In a public statement on 18 January, observers proclaimed voting had been free, fair, and transparent.

Yalá's victory marks a change from the dominance of the PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde), created in 1956, who fought for independence and ruled the country since 1974. This is the second democratic election (the first were in 1994) in the country's history.

The UN Secretary-General noted that the successful completion of the elections brings to a close the transitional government established under the Abuja Peace Accord of 1 November 1998 and ushers in a new democratic and peaceful political future for the country. He appealed to the international community to provide urgently needed assistance to consolidate the newly restored democracy in Guinea-Bissau. (UN DPI, 27/1/00)

Portugal, in its role of Presidency of the European Union, iterated its readiness to cooperate with the new authorities and to continue to support Guinea-Bissau in reconstruction and rehabilitation. The EU recognized the return to democratic and constitutional rule; calling on all parties to respect the results and to cooperate in order to consolidate peace, and to promote national reconciliation and economic development. (27/1/00)

Yalá announced his "determination to do all possible to combat corruption, violations of human rights and impunity", in his first victory speech. The themes were repeated in his inaugural speech and again at the swearing-in ceremony of new cabinet members. Junta leader Brigadier Ansumane Mane pledged "loyalty and subordination" to the in-coming president in a radio statement on 24 January. (Lusa, 25/1/00)

The new Parliament took office on 28 January, electing Jorge Malú, an architect from the PRS party, as the President of the National Assembly. Malú pledged to pay particular attention to the Anti-Corruption Unit, noting national reconciliation would not be possible without combating corruption and guaranteeing justice. (Diário de Bissau, 2/2/00; Nô Pintcha, 9/2/00)

The PRS party, which won a majority in the legislative elections, named Caetano N'Tchama as Prime Minister, the Interior Minister under the transition government. N'Tchama is a former Supreme Court judge and Inspector in the Anti-Corruption Unit. In an interview, N'Tchama said agriculture would be a priority, since 80% of the population lives off the land. Special attention will be directed towards women farmers, he said. (Expresso, 19/2/00)

The President of Mali made a brief visit on 7 February, in his role as President of ECOWAS. He met with interim President Malam Bacai Sanhá, President-elect Kumba Yalá, and Junta leader Ansumane Mane. (Diário de Bissau, 9/2/00)

The first African Bishop of Guinea-Bissau was ordained on 12 February in Bissau. Jose Camnate replaces the late Septimio Ferrazzeta of Italy, who died in January 1999 and was esteemed for his role in negotiating peace during the recent conflict. (Lusa, 10/2/00)

Inauguration festivities were held at the stadium on 17 February. Two heads of state were present: the Presidents of the Gambia and Cape Verde. UN Assistant Secretary-General for African Affairs Ibrahima Fall attended, bringing a special message of encouragement from the Secretary-General for the new President. The ceremony was marked by a military parade, local dances and music, and the firing of canons (causing concern among spectators, evoking memories of the recent war). Yalá ended his inaugural speech peculiarly with 'Viva o Comandante Supremo da Junta Militar' ; earlier in the speech he cheered, "Viva a Unidade Nacional' .

The primary challenges facing Kumba Yalá include re-starting an economy devastated by civil conflict and combating donor fatigue. (BBC Focus on Africa, 19/2/00)

France has shown interest in renewing diplomatic relations, with the attendance of Ambassador François Chappellet at inaugural events. Chappellet, who served as Ambassador prior to the conflict, indicated France intended to open its embassy and renew cooperation shortly. The Joint Commission, which had been scheduled for June 1998, may be reorganized upon request of the new government. France had previously provided technical and financial assistance in running the state budget, still considered a priority. (Wandan, Jan 00; Diário de Bissau, 2/2/00)

New Ministers were named by Presidential decree on 19 February. Sociologist and independent presidential candidate, Faustino Imbali, was named to the newly created post of Vice-Prime Minister and responsible for Economic and Social Reconstruction. Helder Vaz, leader of the RGB movement, was named Minister of Economy and Regional Development. Former Army Chief of Staff and member of the Junta command, Verissimo Seabra, has been named Minister of Defense. Antonieta Rosa Gomes, also a presidential candidate, has been named Minister of Justice. She is one of two women in the new cabinet.

None of the Ministers of the transition government were retained, the cabinet was reshuffled to create the post of Vice Prime Minister and four new Ministries. The Ministry of Defense and Former Combatants became two - National Defense and Social Solidarity, Reinsertion of Combatants, and Poverty Eradication (the latter headed by former advisor to the Prime Minister on military affairs, Iancuba N'Djai). The Ministry of Economy and Finance was divided between Vaz and new Minister of Finance, Purna Bia. Agriculture was divided from Natural Resources and Environment; the Ministry of Public Works became the Ministry of Social Infrastructure and the Ministry of Public Administration and Labor.

During a publicized 8 February visit to prisons and detention centers, the Portuguese Ambassador and the Representative of the UN Secretary-General called on judicial authorities to speed up the judicial process. While prisoners complained of long pre-trial detention, they thanked the Catholic and Evangelical missions and the ICRC for assistance in improving prison conditions. (Diário de Bissau, 10/2/00)

The visit resulted in public sparring between the Attorney-General and the Guinea-Bissau National Bar Association (OAGB). The OAGB called for the Attorney-General's resignation following arrests of former members of the Vieira government, claiming that under the Transitional Political Pact, no one may be prosecuted for positions taken during the conflict. Attorney-General Amine Saad held a press conference to counter the accusations, noting only 99 persons remain in detention (Nô Pintcha, Diário de Bissau 9/2/00). Remaining detainees have been regrouped in two detention centers in Bissau.

President Yalá, accompanied by the Attorney-General and the new Justice Minister, visited the prisons on 21 February, hinting to the press that he would consider granting unconditional releases for those arrested after the war. The first hearing, that of former Minister of Agriculture, Avito José da Silva, is slated to begin on 22 February. Da Silva is accused of high treason, allegedly because he counseled former president Vieira to refuse negotiations with the Junta and to request assistance from foreign troops. The OAGB and the League of Human Rights (LGDH) called for an international human rights body to monitor the trials. (ACEP)

The Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau elected new leadership at its General Assembly held on 30 January. Francisco Mendes was elected Secretary-General, a post previously held by the wife of ousted President Vieira. Francisco Diaz, former Director-General in the Ministry of Public Health, has been named Red Cross President.

Follow a series of strike actions last month, including teachers and health care workers, the new government will be hard-pressed to come up with funds to meet the promised wage increase. As part of a reform program, civil servants were promised an three-fold increase in salary, in conjunction with the elimination of certain posts. Following the conflict, the number of persons on state payroll has ballooned, and includes soldiers who joined the junta rebellion. (Diário de Bissau, 25/1/00)

Arrivals to Bissau can now proceed through the new airport. The building, constructed over three years ago, sustained damage during the war and never opened. TAP Air Portugal invested over US$ 120,000 in repairs. (Wandan, Jan 00) The airport is still not equipped to allow flights to land at night. The European Union has financed road repairs in Bissau; the access road to the Stadium 24 November has been repaired. Electricity and water supply in the city are still erratic. Problems with ferry crossings to the north have also been reported.


The UN Country Team has reviewed the Security Alert Phases and is proposing the following: downgrading the Security Phase for Bissau from Phase Three (Relocation) to Phase One (Precautionary). Northern areas bordering the Casamance region of Senegal, from Varela to Ingore would remain Phase Four (Program Suspension) and border areas stretching from Bigene to Dungal, would be downgraded from Phase Five (Evacuation) to Phase Four. The recommendation will be sent to UNSECOORD/ NY for the proposed phases to be in effect by March. The Phase revision is designed to align security status with country programs.

Following peace talks held in Banjul, the Gambia, on 24 to 26 January, the Senegalese government announced it was easing restrictions against the separatist Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de Casamance (MFDC). Both sides agreed to the necessity of clearing the region of mines and unexploded ordnance. Guinea-Bissau Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs attended the talks. (IRIN 25/1/00) Further talks are scheduled to be held in Bissau with the participation of the military commanders of the three countries. (Banobero, 25/1/00)

Despite the talks, an attack on two tourist buses at Kaliane village near Ziguinchor was reported on 20 February by government-owned Senegalese newspaper Le Soleil. The attack, blamed on separatist rebels, resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and two tour guides. (AP, 21/2/00)

Humanitarian Situation

- Food Assistance and Production -

Agricultural Activities

This year's rice production was higher than last years' average, especially in the south. Following the conflict, farmers recognized the need for rice and their dedication in draining and re-planting in flooded fields yielded high results. Good rainfall and a propitious choice of seed variety are also credited.

A joint FAO/ WFP mission visited the southern regions of Quinara and Tombali on 22 February to evaluate FFW projects in the recuperation of mangrove rice fields, and to evaluate the FAO/ Telefood project in breeding small ruminants. FAO recovered 50 MTs of rice seeds from the Carantaba seed multiplication center, and another 50 MTs from Contubuel. The seeds are to be distributed to farmers in the coming agricultural year.

Over 6,500 women gardeners in 141 villages in the region of Gabú have received seeds and technical support from the Association Française des Volontaires du Progrès (AFVP). Ninety kilos of onion seeds, 20 kg of diverse others (tomatos, peppers, cabbage), 400 hoes, and 200 watering pots have been distributed. Reimbursement schemes are equivalent to those developed by FAO in prior seed distributions. Training in fertilizer use and preservation techniques, including wind and solar drying, is planned for the coming weeks. The project will continue until May, when the harvest is due.

Provision of Food Rations

A shortage of bread in Bissau in late January was reportedly linked to the coup attempt in the Gambia. During this period the borders were closed, preventing flour from entering the country. This is the second "bread crisis" since 1997. (Diário de Bissau, 26/1/00) Although wheat flour and bread are not considered basic cereals in a country where the primary staple is rice, the incident demonstrates Guinea-Bissau's precarious dependence on regional commerce.

WFP has initiated a pilot project to support vulnerable groups of 'social caseload' (VGSC). The aim is to prevent malnutrition by a policy of direct intervention targeting vulnerable groups considered at higher risk of nutritional deficits. The following criteria have been defined to identify beneficiaries of the project: Elderly aged over 60 years old; Persons with a disability who have been certified by a competent authority; Orphans and abandoned children. These groups are considered a last priority within family and community food allocation, therefore when there is a dearth of food these groups are the first to suffer.

- Health, Education and Community Services -


A Round Table focusing on the Health sector, to assure coordination and mobilize new resources, is being organized by the Ministry of Health with WHO assistance. Yearly Round-Tables were planned under the National Health Plan 1998-2002 (PNDS), interrupted by the conflict.

UNFPA provides reproductive health and family planning assistance to the Family Health Unit/ Ministry of Health. UNFPA conducted a situation analysis of health centers in Bissau, Bafatá and Gabú which have integrated Family Planning services to determine the type and quality of services offered and relevant needs. UNFPA is finalizing the report on the National Symposium on Reproductive Health, held in October 1997, for dissemination. The report will serve as a working document to formulate a forthcoming national reproductive health program.

UNICEF and WHO are supporting the Ministry of Health in the preparation of a sub-regional vaccination campaign against Polio, with distribution of Vitamin A, in the regions of Bissau, Bolama and Cacheu to be conducted in April. The campaign is to complement those regions which did not receive satisfactory coverage during the National Vaccination Days held in November and December last year.

Reactivation of routine vaccinations is being set up with UNICEF assistance, rehabilitating computer systems, the national cold chain, and providing logistic support to the Programa Alargado de Vacinação. UNICEF will rehabilitate several community health posts, initially in the regions of Bijagós, Tombali and Quinara.

The Spanish NGO Médicos Solidarios de Cataluña has donated anti-inflammatory (iboprufen) and antibiotics powder to the National Pharmacy, as well as a machine to produce them in capsule form. (Banobero, 25/1/00) Next month, MSC will assist with chloroquine powder. WHO is providing medicines to prevent cholera and to treat leprosy.

A US-based group, Direct Relief International, has donated pharmaceutical supplies valued at US$ 118,200. A US medical team is expected to arrive in the country in March to provide consultations and distribute the medicines. A previous donation was distributed by the Evangelical Church (IEGB) last fall.

Sweden has made available over US$ 1 million to keep the National Laboratory (LNSP) functioning from January to June of this year. (Nô Pintcha, 9/2/00)

The new Prime Minister, Carlos N'Tchama, indicated his government would ask the Catholic Church to take over the management of the Hospital Simão Mendes in Bissau. He appealed to Portugal to set up a fund specifically to assist in medical treatment. (Expresso, 19/2/00)

The Fight Against AIDS and HIV Infection

WHO will execute a program to combat the transmission of HIV/ AIDS valued at US$80,000 following an agreement with UNAIDS. The program will cover reactive blood testing, condom distribution, and youth education. On 3 January, UNFPA provided a stock of 100,800 condoms to support the National Program to Combat AIDS (PNLS). The World Bank has signed an agreement with NGO Population Services International to begin an education campaign on HIV and AIDS.

For further information, consult

Water and Sanitation

Twenty pit latrines have been constructed in four villages in Tite sector, Quinara region. WHO supported the project, implemented by local NGO SAF-COOPIN, with WFP food-for-work assistance. Another 40 latrines are to be constructed following a positive field evaluation by WHO on 17 February. WHO has made arrangements with local partners to construct another 50 latrines in the Brá bairro and 100 latrines in Bairro Militar of Bissau; 50 latrines are to be built on the Ilha de Orango Grande.

Water and Sanitation repairs in the surgery theater, maternity and pediatric wards, and out-patient area of the Simão Mendes Hospital in Bissau is underway with the financial support of UNICEF. UNICEF continues to provide potable water in needy areas of Bissau and at the Hospital.


More than 5,000 illiterate women will benefit from a literacy campaign over the next three years, the Director-General for Literacy and Adult Education claimed in an interview. Over 30 literacy centers are slated to be rehabilitated country-wide. Literacy rates have not reached previous target goals because the campaigns were conducted in Portuguese, rather than the more vernacular Kriolu. UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO are financing the literacy project, and WFP will provide food support for the trainees. (Diário de Bissau, 3/2/00)

In the framework of the Basic Education program, UNICEF has provided computers, printers, photocopiers and other materials to the Ministry of Education. The material is aimed to reinforce institutional capacity and supervision as well as contribute to a policy of decentralization.

Refresher courses for trainers in the in-school Population and Family Life education program have been conducted by UNFPA. The program is currently in place in four pilot regions, targeting elementary education levels. Awareness among teachers from Koranic schools in the regions of Oio and Gabú on family planning has been raised through workshops organized by the National Institute for Development in Education (INDE).

A protocol agreement to establish Guinea-Bissau's first University was signed on 31 January between the Portuguese Lusofono University and the Ministry of Education. The Amilcar Cabral University, once established, will be the first public institution and would include existing faculties of medicine and law. Classes are projected to begin in the next academic year, with some professors coming from Portugal. (Lusa, 31/1/00)

Community Services

A community development initiative in popular areas of Bissau (Quelele, Militar and Belem) is to begin in March. The four-year project includes constructing a health clinic, repairing houses, professional training and economic skills for women, youth and former combatants. The initiative is a result of a partnership between three local NGOs - AD, Tiniguena, AIFA-PALOP and 3 Portuguese NGOs - ACEP, IED and IMVF with financing by the EU. (ACEP, Banobero 21/2/00)

- Relief Activities and Rehabilitation -

Return and Reintegration Assistance

Repatriation by air of some 868 refugees from Guinea (Conakry) is scheduled to begin on 6 March, UNHCR reports. To date, UNHCR has provided assistance to 1,368 refugees out of an estimated 7,000 who fled the Guinea-Bissau conflict. An estimated 4,000 refugees remain in Portugal, 19 were officially repatriated on 27 July 1999. Refugees had fled to Senegal (1,257 refugees, 855 repatriated), the Gambia (350 refugees, 232 repatriated), and Cape Verde (500 refugees, 456 repatriated).


Houses completely destroyed by the war in the Bandim area of Bissau will be reconstructed by end April, the NGO Bandim Health Project reports, as part of the second phase of a rehabilitation project.

Mine Action

Local NGO ANDES reports 37 incidents, 23 of them fatal, of mines and UXOs have been reported since June 1998. Some of the accidents were due to explosives left over from the war of liberation in the 1970s.

HUMAID, a de-mining NGO, has received a grant of over US $35,000 from Great Britain. The funds will be used to purchase protective gear and to finance a 15-day training course on humanitarian de-mining. More resources are sought to launch a publicity campaign and for anti-fragmentation suits, gloves, and vehicles for the de-mining teams.

An exploratory mission by French NGO Handicap International is visiting Bissau to examine potential assistance to local centers for disabled and mine victims. The NGO will also explore possible collaboration in Mine Action activities and Demobilization.

De-mobilization of former combatants

Preparatory phase of the Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration Program (DRRP) has initiated with recruitment of staff for the technical team. Lists of soldiers to be demobilized should be complete by end May. The WB project start date has been delayed until January 2001.

- Human Rights, Protection, and the Promotion of Solutions -

Human Rights

Trial monitoring of the prisoners of war is being conducted by UNOGBIS/Human Rights. An invitation has been extended to international human rights organizations, including OHCHR to follow the judicial process. UNOGBIS is providing support to the Supreme Court in training of a further 20 magistrates, scheduled to begin on 28 February. The course curriculum includes administration of justice, judicial guarantees, and human right.

Protection, promotion of durable solutions

Fieldwork of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is slated to begin in April, reports UNICEF. The MICS will provide the government and social development partners up-to-date data and statistics on the status of women and children.

Capacity-building and reconciliation initiatives

International Election Observation for the presidential run-off was organized by UNOGBIS, with the support of UNDP and the UN Electoral Assistance Division/NY. Observers represented the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Comunidade dos países de língua Portuguesa (CPLP), Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Ivory Coast, the Gambia, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, USA, Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'homme (FIDH), and international NGOs active in Guinea-Bissau. Observer teams were deployed throughout the regions, observing the voting process at 500 of the 1875 polling stations and observed the ballot count at 235 of those.

USAID donated office material from its former TIPS project to the Supreme Court in hopes of promoting further efficiency of the judicial process. The donation consisted of 17 computers, 4 UPS, 6 printers, a generator, and other office equipment. (Banobero, 25/1/00)

- Coordination and Support Services -

UNDP organized a donor meeting in Bissau on 18 February as a post-election follow-up to the Emergency Round-Table. The Netherlands announced that its assistance to Guinea-Bissau would focus on two main issues: Gender mainstreaming and support to Democracy and Good Governance.

** The new government in place marks the end of civil conflict. It is hoped that rehabilitation and reconstruction activities will gather speed under the direction of the new Ministries. As illustrated in this report, assistance interrupted by the war is slowly re-starting. In this current setting - one of transition from relief to development - the OCHA Field Coordination Unit will close on 31 March 2000 and the production of Humanitarian Situation Reports will cease. Your attentive readership has been greatly appreciated.

Contact: Wendy Cue Information Officer UNOCHA - Bissau Tel (+245) 20 35 77/ 20 36 17 Fax (+1 847) 589-1655

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit