Foreign policy and defense
Guinea-Bissau's foreign policy is greatly
affected by the country's need to stay well with foreign
aid donors. The EU, various UN agencies and several
European countries, especially the old colonial power
Portugal, have long been among the most important
donors. In recent years, however, contacts with China,
Angola and Brazil have increased in importance.
Relations with Portugal have generally been good,
which is reflected in, among other things, extensive
trade between the countries. However, contacts
deteriorated after the coup in spring 2012 but have
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Guinea-Bissau for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The EU has provided extensive support to the country,
but several times, often in connection with military
coups or other unrest, parts of the aid have been
withdrawn. In conjunction with the 2012 coup, the EU
also introduced travel bans for several of the coup
leaders who also had their assets frozen.
The EU and other major donors resumed their support for
the country in 2014 after the democratically elected
government took office.
China was one of the few donor countries that chose
to cooperate with the junta, despite condemning the
coup. China has, among other things, built and funded a
military hospital, new government buildings and schools.
Brazil, which has, among other things, provided
support for agricultural development and training of
police officers, on the other hand, held a firm line
against the military authorities. Trade between the
countries has also gained momentum in recent years.
From 2007, Angola has been one of the country's
largest bilateral donors. In 2011, Angola promised,
among other things, $ 30 million for defense reform (see
below). According to some sources, this was part of
Angola's quest to strengthen its influence in the
region, but there were also suspicions that
representatives of the Angolan government were taking
advantage of the situation to launder black money.
Guinea-Bissau has also strengthened ties with India
(which is Guinea-Bissau's main trading partner), France,
Nigeria and South Africa.
In the past, the country has also received financial
support from Libya. In September 2011, Prime Minister
Gomes promised that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would
get Guinea-Bissau political asylum in a situation when
no other country seemed prepared to accept him.
The separatist movement MFDC's armed struggle in the
Casamance region of southern Senegal, which began in the
early 1980s, has created tensions between Guinea-Bissau
and Senegal. The MFDC has historical and ethnic ties to
Guinea-Bissau and Senegal has long accused the
neighboring country of allowing the MFDC to operate from
its territory, something the Bissau government denied.
The government's intervention on the government side in
the Guinean civil war was unpopular among the Guineans
(see Modern History). In 2000, the countries signed an
agreement on joint border patrol to avoid incidents, but
in 2004 and 2006 there were conflicts between factions
of the MFDC and the Guinean government army. In 2006,
hundreds of Guinean soldiers and an unknown number of
rebels were killed and about 10,000 Guineans fled to
Previously, a dispute between Guinea-Bissau and
Senegal was ongoing as to where the sea boundary between
the countries would go, which was also brought to light
by any oil deposits that existed in the area, but it is
In the early 2000s, contacts with the Gambia also
intensified. Former Guinean President Kumba Yalá then
accused Gambia of being involved in a coup attempt
against him in 2002, which was rejected by Gambian
leader Yahya Jammeh. For a while, Yalá threatened to
invade the Gambia, which according to him entertained
supporters of former coup leader General Mané and
separatists from Senegal.
The West African cooperation organization Ecowas
played an important role in establishing a peace
settlement during the civil war, but has also mediated
in subsequent domestic political conflicts. However,
Nigeria has been criticized for passivity after the 2012
coup, which prevented Ecowas from acting more
forcefully. The rivalry between Nigeria and Angola over
influence in the region was then considered to have been
Contact with Guinea was strained by the neighboring
country sending troops to Vieira's defense in 1998, but
relations appeared to have normalized later.
After the 1980 coup, the relationship with Cape Verde
was tense, but has since gradually improved.
Guinea-Bissau also belongs to the Portuguese-speaking
countries' organization CPLP, which was formed in 1996,
which is supposed to be a counterpart to the
Commonwealth. Consists of Portugal and its former
colonies - Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Brazil,
Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe and from 2002 East
Since the spring of 1999, the UN has an office,
Unogbis (from 2010 Uniogbis), in Bissau, which through
various measures will try to promote democracy and
peaceful development in the country.
The UN Drugs and Crime Office, Undoc, has also
launched a project in the country to help the government
fight drug trafficking.
Following the April 2012 coup, Guinea-Bissau was
temporarily suspended from the African Union (AU).
However, the country was able to re-enter the
organization after the May 2014 presidential election.
The police force is responsible for security within
the country, while the military must deal with external
threats. About a quarter of the state budget is
estimated to go to the defense. Since many soldiers were
promoted in connection with coups and various revolts,
the proportion of officers is unusually high.
Plans for major cuts in the armed forces were an
important factor behind both the civil war and
subsequent unrest. The fact that some militaries can
earn large sums from working for the cartels smuggling
drugs via Guinea-Bissau, while others hardly have any
money at all is considered to have contributed to
tensions within the armed forces.
Several donors at the beginning of the 1990s demanded
a defense reform as a condition for continued financial
support. One of these was also initiated and the
intention is that the defense forces should lose weight
In August 2016, Ecowas signaled that the troop force,
Ecomib, the organization had held in the country since
2012, with the mission of protecting leading people and
important institutions, is likely to be withdrawn within
the coming year. In the meantime, a domestic troop force
must be trained to take over responsibility from them.
FACTS - DEFENSE
4,000 men (2017)
The air Force
100 men (2017)
350 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
1.7 percent (2015)
Military spending's share of the state budget
7.0 percent (2015)
Drug suspects are released
People arrested in connection with drug seizures are reported to have been
released following pressure from the military.
Removal of large amount of cocaine
674 kilos of cocaine stored in the Ministry of Finance's premises disappear.
According to Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, the drug has been burnt, but there
is no evidence that it really happened.