Guinea-Bissau is a multiparty republic that continues to struggle with instability and an economy shattered by the 1998-99 civil war. The country has not enjoyed a long democratic tradition, despite peacefully changing governments in April 2007 and holding transparent legislative elections in November 2008. On March 3, 2009, in accordance with the constitution, parliament speaker Raimundo Pereira was sworn in as the interim president following the March 2 military assassination of president Joao Bernardo Vieira. Interim president Pereira is leading a civilian government until elections, scheduled for June 28, 2009, are held. The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, the following problems occurred: arbitrary killings; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence and due process; interference with privacy; harassment of journalists; widespread official corruption, exacerbated by suspected government involvement in drug trafficking; violence and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation; child trafficking; restrictions on legal strikes and use of force on strikers; and child labor.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's priorities in the country are to support democratic and good governance in the three branches of government; encourage political dialogue, cooperation, and reconciliation; and address drug-related corruption. Strengthening civil society is also an important area of focus. In addition, supporting efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons is a priority.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. embassy in Bissau closed at the start of the 1998 civil war. Therefore, U.S. diplomatic and programmatic efforts are managed primarily by the U.S. embassy in Senegal. The United States works with the government, NGOs, political parties, civil society, international institutions, and the private sector to encourage national reconciliation and democracy building. For example, throughout much of 2008 the United States supported a parliamentary strengthening program in the National Assembly. In 2008 U.S. officials also hosted an Iftaar dinner during the month of Ramadan, designed to foster a dialogue with the country's Muslim community. The United States also trains select members of the armed forces and civil servants in the Ministry of Defense on respect for human rights.
Through diplomatic efforts and technical and material support, the U.S. Government encourages government efforts to address drug-related corruption. In 2008 the U.S. Government provided technical and material support to the investigation into a grounded airplane suspected to have transported narcotics into the country with the complicity of the military. In numerous meetings with government leaders, including the president, prime minister, and other cabinet officials, U.S. officials urged the government to make anticorruption and counternarcotics efforts a top priority.
The United States funded a program to restore books, periodicals, and Internet access to the country's premier research institute, which was heavily damaged during the country's civil war. The United States also supports efforts to raise awareness of human rights issues with journalists and promote free and open media coverage. In 2008 and 2009 the United States funded a grant to raise public awareness and train members of the security forces on basic human rights issues.
The United States encourages the government to pass antitrafficking legislation and improve efforts at fighting child trafficking. U.S. officials have spoken on national and regional radio programs to raise awareness of the problem of child trafficking. The United States also supports a school feeding program and the creation of parent-teacher associations that increase parents' participation in the education system.