Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2010

Democratization via Elections in an African "Narco-state"? The Case of Guinea-Bissau

Dirk Kohnert

February 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Recent development cooperation with Guinea-Bissau, focusing on good governance, statebuilding and conflict prevention, did not contribute to democratization nor to the stabilization of volatile political, military and economic structures. The portrayal of Guinea-Bissau as failed a "narco-state", as well as Western aid meant to stabilize this state, are both based on dubious concepts. Certainly, the impact of drug trafficking could endanger democratization and state-building if continued unchecked. However, the most pressing need is not state-building facilitated by external aid that is poorly rooted in the social and political fabric of the country. Rather, it is grassroots nation-building that is a pre-condition for the creation of viable state institutions.