The former Portuguese colony of Guinea Bissau again sees the Casamansa question flare up and threaten the country’s stability. After a coup d’etat in June 1998, in which brigadier (now general) Ansumane Mane, overthrew President Nino Vieira, the country had democratic elections in which Kumba Yala was led to the presidency and Mane retired into obscurity. Mane is from Casamansa, the region in the north of Guinea Bissau and the south of Senegal. Rich in oil, there is a strong independence movement, supported by Mane when he was Nino Vieira’s Chief of the Armed Forces. This support led to Vieira demoting him and this action in turn led to the coup d’etat. This time, President Yala refused to accept a list of military promotions prepared by Mane and handed to the government. This refusal led to an uprising in which Mane proclaimed himself Chief of the Armed Forces and he led a military column against the capital, Bissau. Forces loyal to Yala defeated Mane’s troops, killing ten soldiers and arresting scores of opposition party figures. Mane retreated into the interior of the country and his position at present is unknown. For sure, he will be back and until he is found, Bissau will be in a state of alert. “Until we find General Ansumane Mane, we consider that we are in a state of war”, said the Prime Minister Caetano Ntchama. Much of the political map of Africa was drawn by distant colonialists in western European capitals, drawing straight lines on maps and creating ethnic problems almost impossible to solve. One has only to look at a map of Africa to see the number of straight lines. These regarded geographical boundaries which would have been acceptable to Europeans, such as natural frontiers like rivers or mountain ranges. In Africa, tribes live on both sides of such boundaries. What is needed is a generalised trend towards larger economic blocks, concentrating on a macro scale of trade, not a micro situation, focusing on geo-political units which find it hard to survive on their own in a changed world. This position is defended by Portugal but unfortunately there are great interests at stake behind the oil companies and these influences prefer to divide and rule.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon

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