Rather than shoring up democratic institutions, Guinea-Bissau’s presidential elections in March widened divisions between civilian and military leaders, culminating in a 12 April coup. It was the fifth successful putsch the country has experienced since independence in 1974.
Below is a chronology of the decades of political turmoil.
1956: Amilcar Cabral establishes PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde).
1963-74: PAIGC launches war of independence.
1973: PAIGC declares Guinea-Bissau independent of Portugal. Amilcar Cabral, nationalist politician and head of the independence movement of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, is assassinated.
1974: Portugal grants Guinea-Bissau independence with Luis Cabral, brother of Amilcar, as president.
1980: Luis Cabral is ousted in military coup orchestrated by João Bernardo Vieira.
1992: Koumba Yala founds the PRS (Party for Social Reform).
1994: The first free elections are held electing João Bernardo Vieira as president. From this point on, PAIGC dominates politics until the present day.
1998: Vieira sacks army chief of staff, Gen Ansumane Mané, leading to an army mutiny. A military junta led by Mané starts a civil war.
1999: A military junta takes control of Bissau, the capital, and President Vieira seeks asylum in Portugal. Malai Bacam Sanha of PAIGC becomes president in May 1999.
November 1999: The transitional government organizes elections in which PAIGC loses control over the National Assembly for the first time. PRS, under Koumba Yala, receives 38 seats and becomes the dominant party in the assembly.
January 2000: Presidential elections are held pitting Koumba Yala of the PRS against Malam Bacai Sanha of the PAIGC, a fierce opponent of Vieira. Yala wins with 72 percent of the vote and his victory is seen as progress for the Balante ethnic group as he is the first Balante to lead the country. Yala goes on to appoint many Balante to positions of power. Under his rule many members of the armed forces are promoted to become generals.
2000: Gen Anusmane Mané does not take up posts offered to him under President Koumba Yala's government, including adviser to the head-of-state, preferring to stay independent. In November he is killed by Koumba Yala's men
2001: President Yala's rule is characterized by chronic political instability as he constantly sacks ministers and reshuffles his government. Between 2001 and 2003 four prime ministers are nominated and sacked. Political crisis sets in. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank suspend aid due to poor financial accounting by government.
2002: President Koumba Yala dissolves parliament and calls for legislative elections but these do not take place and the country remains without a government for several months. Supreme Court judges are also sacked.
September 2003: A military coup led by Gen Verissimo Correia Seabra ousts President Yala, a move that is welcomed by the population. A transition government is put in place to prepare for elections and in the interim, Henrique Rosa is appointed president, and Artur Sanha, once secretary-general of the PRS, is nominated prime minister.
March 2004: Legislative elections are held as planned and PAIGC retakes most parliamentary seats. A new government is formed under the leadership of Carlos Gomes Junior as prime minister.
October 2004: A group of soldiers led by Baoute Yanta Na Man attempt a failed coup. Gen Seabra, now chief of staff of the army, is killed by a group of military rebels who are protesting against salary arrears and the corruption of the military hierarchy, and Gen Tagme Na Waie, an ethnic Balante, is appointed in his place.
2005: João Bernardo Vieira returns from exile in Portugal to participate in presidential elections, with financial backing from Guinea-Conakry and Senegal, and support from the military. In the June elections PAIGC’s Malam Bacai Sanha presents himself opposite Koumba Yala and for the first time against João Vieira who participates as an independent candidate. Bacai receives the largest number of votes but not enough to avoid a second round. Yala, who came third in the first round, goes on to support Vieira and Vieira becomes president for the second time. International observers deem the elections fair and transparent.
The military, under chief-of-staff Tagme Na Waie, ensures President Vieira understands they are a powerful political force and that Vieira requires their support to retain his hold.
October 2005: President Vieira sacks PAIGC Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior who was nominated by the assembly, citing “personal reasons”. After announcing on the radio that the president ordered the assassination of old members of the military junta that deposed him in 1999, Junior flees to the offices of the UN Peacebuilding Office until President Vieira can guarantee him his security.
November 2005: President Vieira appoints Aristides Gomes, former PAIGC deputy chairman, as prime minister.
November 2006: Koumba Yala is elected head of the PRS.
January 2007: Adml Mohamed Lamine Sanha, chief-of-staff of the navy, is killed. Sanha, an ally of Ansumane Mané who led a military rebellion against President Vieira in the 1998 civil war, was implicated in several coups against the government.
March 2007: Parliamentarians form a majority coalition and the three major parties, PAIGC, PRS and the United Social Democrat Party (PUSD) sign a pact meant to create political stability. The pact gives them the right to force the departure of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes who was nominated by Vieira after the sacking of Carlos Junior, and to vote in a new prime minister, Marthinho Ndafa Cabi. Donors welcome the pact and start to re-engage in the country after a period of relative isolation.
July 2007: A tribunal declares the resolution making former Guinea-Bissau President Koumba Yala head of the PRS "null and void".
February 2008: PAIGC withdraws backing from Prime Minister Martinho Ndafa Cabi, ostensibly to avoid acts of indiscipline threatening cohesion and unity in the party.
March 2008: Legislative elections are postponed.
April 2008: The mandate of the legislature ended on 21 April but President Vieira passes a temporary constitutional amendment to allow the continuation of parliament until elections take place later in the year. The president also grants amnesty to individuals in the military and civilians who allegedly committed crimes from 1980 to 2004.
July 2008: PAIGC leaves the “Pact of Stability” coalition government.
March 2009: President João Bernardo Vieira is shot dead by soldiers several hours after a bomb attack kills army chief-of-staff Gen Tagme Na Waie.
June 2009: Three senior politicians are killed by military police in what authorities call a failed coup attempt.
July 2009: Malam Bacai Sanha elected president.
April 2010: Carlos Gomes Junior is held for many hours by military officers. Adml José Zamora Induta is arrested and imprisoned, as is Col Samba Diallo, communications chief for the armed forces.
December 2010: Guinea-Bissau and Angola sign an agreement for the deployment of 200 soldiers as part of an Angolan technical-military cooperation mission (MISSANG) to support security sector reform in Guinea-Bissau.
March 2011: Angolan troops are deployed in Bissau.
November 2011: President Malam Bacai Sanha is evacuated to Val de Grâce Hospital in France.
15 December 2011: A plane full of cocaine lands in Amdalai, 55km from Bissau.
26 December 2011: Rear Adml Américo Bubo na Tchuto is arrested. Gen Buota Nan Batcha is wounded and arrested.
9 January 2012: President Malam Bacai Sanha dies in France. Raimundo Pereira, speaker of parliament, is made acting president in line with the constitution.
18 March 2012: Presidential elections take place. Former military intelligence chief Col Samba Diallo is assassinated by a group of soldiers just hours after voting opens.
23 March 2012: Carlos Gomes Junior, prime minister until February 2012 and the PAIGC’s candidate, obtains 49 percent of the votes cast; Koumba Yala, the PRS candidate, obtains 23 percent; independent candidate Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo is third with 15 percent of the votes.
12 April 2012: Carlos Gomes Junior and Raimundo Pereira, speaker of parliament and acting president for the transitional period, are arrested.
16 April 2012: Military and opposition leaders announce a two-year Transitional National Council, a move denounced as illegal by ECOWAS and condemned by the UN Security Council, African Union, European Union, Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, and other international bodies.