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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Guinea-Bissau: War Destruction

Guinea-Bissau: War Destruction
Date distributed (ymd): 980922
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a message from the staff of the National Institute of Studies and Research of Guinea-Bissau, recounting the destruction in recent conflict of much of the country's historical archives and research records. It also contains brief excerpts with background and current news on the war that erupted there in June and the present cease-fire efforts, and references to web sites with additional background.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

S. O. S



Distributed by

Michel CAHEN/Lusotopie Diffusion
Centre d'etude d'Afrique noire,
Unite mixte de recherche no. 206
CNRS-Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux Maison des Suds, BP 200

Redacteur de la publication annuelle
"Lusotopie. Enjeux contemporains dans les espaces lusophones" (Karthala, Paris)

Tel.: (00.335) ou (05).
Fax : (00.335) ou (05).
E-mail :

The war which flared up in Guinea-Bissau on 7 June 1998, between the Military Junta representing 90 per cent of the armed forces reinforced by veterans of the armed struggle for national liberation, and the remaining 10 per cent supported by troops from Senegal and Guinea-Conakry solicited by the Head of State, has already exacted a heavy toll, even if the precise details still remain unclear. To the unknown number of deaths, can be added some 250,000 displaced persons and refugees, and the enormous material destruction caused by intense bombardment with heavy artillery during 50 days of confrontation.

Among the infrastructures most affected by the destruction is the Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisa (INEP), which is the largest and most active research institution in the country. The complex housing INEP is located less than a kilometre from the initial front-line of the hostilities. It has been transformed into an advanced post of the Senegalese troops. The transformation of the complex into an army barrack and the adverse bombardments it consequently attracted have caused immense damages.

Thanks to the cease fire signed on 25 August 1998, a few staff members of INEP were authorized, after enormous difficulties, to visit their place of work. The preliminary balance-sheet can be summarized in one word: DISASTER.

All the workrooms were forcibly opened, emptied of their contents and transformed into dormitories for soldiers. All work documents were thrown outside and left exposed to the elements. The stock of dozens of computers containing data bases on all aspect of Guinea-Bissau, compiled carefully and painstakingly during the past fifteen years, has disappeared. The computers left behind have been disemboweled. Sensitive and very rare equipment, such as the only digital cartography table in the country, is thrown outside and left exposed to dust and rain.

The INEP Library, embryo of the National Library and reference centre of all publications in the country as well as for certain United Nations agencies like FAO and UNESCO, is roofless and damaged on the sides. The torrential rains which have fallen on Bissau since the end of June have constantly entered the building. Its three floors - first, ground and basement - have been transformed into pools where thousands of soaked and irrecoverable books and journals float.

The National Archives at INEP are scattered, shredded and exposed to rain and dirt. Hundreds of audio cassettes which record the history of the national liberation struggle, as told by its actors and witnesses, cannot be found. Hundreds of audio cassettes which record the oral history of the different regions of the country have disappeared. Photographs and films from the Audiovisual Archives are found dispersed and lying in the mud outside. In other words, entire pages of the history of Guinea-Bissau risk being irredeemably blank or illegible. This is particularly serious in view of the fact that no general history of Guinea-Bissau has yet been written, and that all recent efforts of the Institute have been geared towards this objective.

To summarize, the damages suffered by INEP have reduced to zero the enormous efforts made since Independence to provide the country with a centre of documentation and research useful to all those interested in Guinea-Bissau.

At the time of writing, INEP continues to be a military camp, in spite of the cease fire. The staff of the Institute is forbidden to engage in work to rehabilitate or save it from further destruction. Relentlessly, the disaster continues. This letter to inform is also an SOS for the largest research institution of Guinea-Bissau which is threatened by extinction.

As soon as INEP ceases to be a military barrack, a more detailed balance-sheet will be made available. It will be followed by our project for reconstruction.

We urge you to forward this SOS message to all friends of INEP that you know, as well as to all institutions and individuals who attach value to intellectual production.

The Management Council of INEP
12 September 1998

Brief excerpts summarizing background and current situation;
the URL of the source of each excerpt is listed in parentheses.

From No Djunta Mon! (
September 10, 1998

Guinea-Bissau, a small country in west Africa, is in the throes of a humanitarian crisis. On June 7, 1998, ousted General Ansumane Mane led a military revolt against President João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, which deteriorated into a full-scale civil conflict, and verged on regional collapse as neighboring countries got involved. The fighting centered mostly in the capital, Bissau, sending nearly all of its 300,000 inhabitants upcountry to escape. With a dwindling food and water supply, a massive internally displaced population, and rainy season diseases such as cholera and malaria spreading, Guineans are suffering the worst humanitarian crisis since the war for independence ending in 1974.

On July 26, 1998, a ceasefire was declared and plans for peace negotiations outlined. The work of building a lasting peace and rebuilding a nation devastated by war remains.

From Amnesty International
July 1998

The violent conflict in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau which began on 7 June 1998 has generated an estimated 300,000 internally displaced people and some 13,000 refugees, out of a population of one million. The two opposing sides in the conflict, a faction of the armed forces loyal to former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Brigadier Asumane Mane and troops loyal to the government, as well Senegalese troops assisting the Guinea-Bissau Government, have committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. ...

The fighting began following the dismissal by President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, on 6 June 1998, of Brigadier Asumane Mane from his position as Armed Forces Chief of Staff. He had already been suspended in January 1998, as the government had suspected him of involvement in the traffic of arms to armed separatist groups in the Casamance region of Senegal. At the same time, in December 1997 and January 1998 the government also arrested over 20 people including Guinea-Bissau soldiers and civilians and Senegalese civilians whom it suspected of involvement in the arms trafficking. This led to increased tension within the armed force, many of whom were already dissatisfied about low wages and poor conditions of service. Many rallied in support of Brigadier Asumane Mane following his dismissal and staged an armed rebellion.

Under a security agreement signed between the governments of Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, the Republic of Guinea and the Gambia in October 1997, troops from Senegal and the Republic of Guinea are assisting the Guinea-Bissau government to quell the armed rebellion. Already, the conflict has had devastating effects, though the number of dead is not known. Those displaced by the conflict have suffered severe shortages of food and medical supplies and unless peace is soon restored there will not be time to plant the next rice crop. Epidemics, particularly of cholera, are feared. The shelling in Bissau, the capital, has reduced many buildings to rubble.

From Inter Press Service
August 31, 1998

POLITICS-WEST AFRICA: Guinea Bissau Takes a Step Towards Peace

By El Hadj Youga Ndiaye
PRAIA, Cape Verde, Aug 31 (IPS) - Guinea Bissau's government and army mutineers took a major step towards peace when they agreed to a cease-fire after two months of fighting that had already sucked in two other African nations.

However, the cease-fire - signed by the belligerents signed on Aug. 27 in Praia, capital of Cape Verde Islands - and the negotiations that led to it proved almost easier to achieve than harmony between the two groupings mediating in the conflict.

The agreement was concluded under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), which includes Portugal, Brazil and the African nations of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe.

A broad-based government is to be formed under the agreement, which binds all parties to respect the country's institutions and constitutional legality, while the belligerents are to stick to the military positions they held up to Aug. 27.

Under the accord, the main airport in Guinea Bissau has been reopened so that humanitarian aid can be flown into the Portuguese-speaking country and logistical support can reach a buffer force that is to monitor the cease-fire. The composition of the force - which is also a result of last week's negotiations - is to be defined by the two sides.

From Pan African News Agency

Guinea Bissau Peace Talks Hit A Snag

September 17, 1998
by Melvis Dzisah

Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire (PANA) - The future of war-torn Guinea Bissau is in the balance after two days of peace talks during which the two disputing sides failed to agree on how to re-establish peace in the country.

Both negotiators and the belligerent groups represented at the Abidjan talks Tuesday and Wednesday agreed on one thing: There is the need of an interposition force in country.

But the warring functions failed to agree on the composition of that force and command. Added to that was the demand by the rebels for the withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean troops who intervened shortly after the beginning of the mutiny 7 June.

Representatives of the rebels at the talks described the presence of the two countries an interference in the international affairs of another country.

As a result of the discord on these and other issues, the negotiators were compelled to suspend the talks and left Abidjan Thursday without agreeing on a future date and place of further meetings.

For more information on efforts to aid Guinea-Bissau, organized by Guineans and friends of Guinea-Bissau in North America, visit No Djunta Mon! (Let's Join Hands;

For updates on the current situation, in addition to the documents cited above,
check Relief Web ( and
Africa News Service (

For additional sources on the web, visit the Africa Policy Web Site

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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