A Look Ahead to June 2018

The Beautiful Game Turns Ugly in Ghana

On 6th June, renowned undercover investigative journalist – Anas Aremeyaw Anas – will premier his new documentary in Accra entitled ‘Number 12’. After previously exposing corruption in Ghana’s police service, passport office and, most famously, the judiciary, Anas has turned his attention to the Ghana Football Association (GFA). Anas has said that he hopes that ‘Number 12’ will provide a “fresh start” for Ghana’s “tainted football system” and, given the fallout from his last exposé, it is likely that June will be an eventful month for the GFA. In the wake of his documentary on the judiciary in 2015, scores of judges and magistrates were suspended or sacked, and similar actions are expected at the GFA. Moreover, there are rumours that politicians and other government officials may be implicated in the documentary.

Given that President Nana Akufo-Addo was elected on an anti-corruption platform, ‘Number 12’ is seen as an important test of the administration’s commitment to this. And, thus far, it appears that the government is passing the test. After reportedly viewing part of the documentary in late May, Akufo-Addo called for the arrest of the GFA’s president – Kwesi Nyantakyi – on the grounds of “defrauding by false pretences”. It was reported that Nyantakyi allegedly offered access to the president and other senior government officials, in return for money. Akufo-Addo’s quick response was likely a reaction to the potential damage such an allegation could do to his anti-corruption credentials. However, it remains to be seen whether he will adopt this uncompromising approach to other individuals identified in the documentary, especially those with closer links to his party. Akufo-Addo has been praised for appointing a senior opposition figure in the newly created role of Special Prosecutor and it is hoped that this will prevent the government from adopting a politically partisan approach to anti-corruption, of which other governments in the region have been accused. Consequently, there are strong signs that those that are implicated will be properly investigated, no matter their political allegiance.

While ‘Number 12’ is set to reveal the ugly side of football in Ghana, its release further demonstrates the vibrancy of investigative journalism and anti-corruption activism in the country, which is seemingly supported by a government that is committed to improving Ghana’s international image.

Will Guinea-Bissau cope without ECOWAS’s guiding hand?

For the last three years, Guinea-Bissau’s government has been prevented from serving its purpose by a continuation of political crises. These were sparked by President Jose Mario Vaz’s decision to remove Domingos Pereira as prime minister in August 2015, which was opposed by the majority of the ruling party – Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). Vaz and the rest of his party (PAIGC) were unable to agree on a new prime minister and, given Guinea-Bissau’s tumultuous history, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) quickly assumed the role of regional arbitrator, brokering a deal between the two sides. While this deal looked promising, it was broken by Vaz in December 2017, which led to ECOWAS imposing sanctions on individuals connected to the president, including his son. This was evidently an effective tactic as, following the imposition of sanctions, there was a breakthrough in negotiations and, on 17th April, Aristides Gomes was appointed prime minister and the government resumed its activities.

This was another success for ECOWAS, which is becoming increasingly effective at upholding democracy in the region. However, as Guinea-Bissau looks ahead to its legislative election in November 2018, it is slightly concerning that the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB) will be withdrawn before the end of June. As voter registration has already started, it is likely that the coming months will experience an increase in political tension and the divide in the ruling party will be tested further. Considering the country’s recent experiences of political violence, the lack of ECOWAS’s presence in the country may see a resurgence in instability ahead of the election. An extension of ECOMIB’s mandate would allay these fears and help to create an environment which is conducive for a peaceful election. Without ECOMIB, the lead up to the election will be an important test of the resilience of Guinea-Bissau’s democratic system.


Guinea-Bissau’s Political Crisis

Guinea-Bissau’s most recent cabinet lasted less than 48 hours as a political crisis continues in the country. On 9th September 2015, the Prime Minister – Baciro Dja – resigned after only 20 days in the post following a Supreme Court ruling that his appointment was unconstitutional. On 10th September 2015, Dja’s cabinet was similarly dismissed.

The current political crisis stems from a power struggle between President José Mário Vaz and former Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira within the country’s semi-presidential system. On 12th August 2015, Vaz dismissed Pereira and his cabinet stating that there had been a “breach of trust”. Tensions between the two men, which have been present for a while, are said to have increased in the weeks leading up to Pereira’s dismissal. It has been reported that such tensions were predominantly caused by disagreements over the use of aid funds and the appointment of a new army chief of staff. This is of particular importance in Guinea-Bissau considering the role the armed forces have played in the country’s politics. Since 1980, there have been nine coups or attempted coups, with the most recent taking place in April 2012. As this coup was led by the former army chief of staff – Antonio Indjai – it is clear that the support of the holder of this position is extremely important to the president. Although the military have made a commitment to neutrality, Guinea-Bissau’s recent history will undoubtedly influence Vaz’s decision making. It appears that Vaz’s dismissal of Pereira was an attempt to not only exert his political authority but also secure his position in relation to the armed forces.

Nevertheless, Pereira’s dismissal was met with fierce opposition from his, and Vaz’s, political party – the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). On 15th August, PAIGC responded by re-nominating Pereira as the party’s candidate for prime minister. PAIGC’s vice-president – Adja Satu Camara – said that the party was nominating Pereira as he is the President of the PAIGC and added that if his nomination is rejected by Vaz, the party would pursue other available options. Moreover, thousands of PAIGC supporters took to the streets in protest against the decision. At one demonstration, Pereira addressed the crowds stating that “with such a huge mobilization…the institutions of the republic must respect the will of the people”.

However, it seems that Vaz ignored the “will of the people” and his own party and rejected Pereira’s re-nomination. Instead he announced on 20th August that Baciro Dja – a former minister and government spokesman – would be Guinea-Bissau’s new prime minister. The PAIGC responded by calling for further protests in the capital Bissau and put forward a proposal to the National Assembly for the removal of Dja. On 24th August, the National Assembly adopted a resolution to “attempt actions with a view to deposing the new prime minister”. This was supported by 75 of 79 members present from the 102-seat parliament.  Nonetheless, Vaz ignored the resolution and named a new cabinet on 8th September with support from Guinea-Bissau’s second largest political party – the Party for Social Renewal (PRS). Although Dja described this as “an alliance sanctioned by the formal recognition of the judicial authorities”, the next day the Supreme Court found his appointment unconstitutional, which undermined the legitimacy of the new cabinet. As a result, Vaz dismissed the cabinet the following day.

Thus, at the time of writing, Guinea-Bissau has neither a prime minister nor a cabinet. The United Nations (UN) has called on Vaz and Pereira to seek dialogue and consensus in order to resolve the crisis. Due to Guinea-Bissau’s tumultuous past, it has only recently been reaccepted by the international community. It was only in March 2015 that the European Union (EU) restored ties with the country. Due to this restoration of ties, Guinea-Bissau was able to secure €1 billion in financing. However, Portugal – Guinea-Bissau’s former colonial ruler – has warned that the recent political instability could endanger such assistance. The Portuguese foreign ministry stated that “it would be extremely difficult for the international community to keep providing the co-operation and support that Guinea-Bissau needs”.

Additionally, there are fears that if the political crisis continues, the country’s armed forces may attempt to provide a solution. International organisations such as the UN, EU and ECOWAS have all warned the army to stay out of the political crisis and, at the time of writing, it appears to have respected those wishes. A UN envoy – Miguel Trovoada – told the UN Security Council that “the military has stressed that they are determined to stay totally out of politics”. This was supported by Guinea-Bissau’s ambassador to the UN – Joan Soares Da Gama – who said that “they [the military] will maintain this attitude of non-interference”. Nevertheless, the longer this crisis continues the more likely it is that the military will intervene. Although this will undoubtedly cost the country, both diplomatically and financially, if the political crisis leads to social unrest there is a possibility that the military will no longer remain neutral.

Thus, it seems that Vaz and Pereira are under significant pressure to resolve this crisis as quickly as possible. Although the re-appointment of Pereira will be a political blow to Vaz, it’s highly unlikely that he will be able to find a palatable alternative for the PAIGC and the National Assembly. Furthermore, by allowing the crisis to continue, Vaz could weaken the position he was originally attempting to strengthen concerning his relationship with the military. Vaz’s actions over the coming days and weeks will not only affect his political future but also Guinea-Bissau’s.