Brittle Guinea-Bissau: a quest for political and economic stability

Francisco José Leandro, Paulo Gonçalves

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This research paper analyzed a fundamental challenge facing the Republic of Guinea-Bissau (GB) — political instability. Since GB declared independence on September 24, 1973, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) has failed to bring political stability to what is now one of the poorest countries in the world. Reviewing GB’s political history from its first head of state Luís Cabral (1974–1980) to 2022, we see that there have been 16 heads of state, 30 heads of government, a considerable number of ministers, numerous failed national economic development plans, a year-long civil war, two suspensions of the constitution, and at least four successful coups d’état (and numerous failed attempts). Today, GB remains one of the least developed countries in the world with poor spatial development initiatives, is located in a challenging regional environment, and has a politically relevant diaspora. However, GB is home to approximately two million inhabitants, holds a remarkable range of fauna and flora, and has a unique immaterial heritage that must be protected — which can only be achieved with political stability. The protection of this heritage was an important reason that, in 1996, UNESCO classified the Bolama-Bijagós region as a World Biosphere Ecological Reserve. Considering all of these aspects, we posed and answered the following research question: How can Guinea-Bissau overcome its governance instability as a condition to disentangle itself from its impoverished status? This research question is particularly important in the context of avoiding being exposed to the economic interests of external actors. Methodologically, we use Dahl’s democracy model (2015) and a qualitative approach in the context of a data triangulation involving primary sources, official sources, and media reports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-372
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Factionalism
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Least developed country
  • Political instability
  • Semi-presidential system


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