Contact Us Press Releases AFRICOM Portal
Africa Command Deputy Supports Diplomacy in Guinea-Bissau; U.S. Hopeful for Upcoming Elections
The United States is hopeful that scheduled elections following the recent killings of Guinea-Bissau's president and military chief can be an important step toward stability in the West African nation, which has been plagued by decades of
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat, front center, arrives at Bissau airport with Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, April 23, 2009, for meetings with Guinea-Bissau's civilian and military leadership.  (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat, front center, arrives at Bissau airport with Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, April 23, 2009, for meetings with Guinea-Bissau's civilian and military leadership. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - People in Guinea-Bissau visit shops along a busy street April 23, 2009, in the West African country's capital. About 1.5 million people live in the former Portuguese colony, which has a long history of conflict and political turmoil. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, visited in April at the request of the U.S. Embassy to emphasize U.S. support for political stability, military reforms, and political will to end narcotics trafficking. Yates told reporters that the people of Guinea-Bissau "have continually endured tragic events with great dignity." (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - People in Guinea-Bissau visit shops along a busy street April 23, 2009, in the West African country's capital. About 1.5 million people live in the former Portuguese colony, which has a long history of conflict and political turmoil. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, visited in April at the request of the U.S. Embassy to emphasize U.S. support for political stability, military reforms, and political will to end narcotics trafficking. Yates told reporters that the people of Guinea-Bissau "have continually endured tragic events with great dignity." (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Minister of Interior Lucio Soares meets with a U.S. delegation April 23, 2009, to discuss Guinea-Bissau's upcoming presidential election as well as counter-narcotics and security concerns. The American delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau and Senegal Marcia Bernicat (second from right); and Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, (right). (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Minister of Interior Lucio Soares meets with a U.S. delegation April 23, 2009, to discuss Guinea-Bissau's upcoming presidential election as well as counter-narcotics and security concerns. The American delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau and Senegal Marcia Bernicat (second from right); and Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, (right). (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's interim President Raimundo Pereria (seated in front of flags) meets with a U.S. diplomatic and military delegation April 23, 2009. Pereria assumed the presidency March 3 under the West African nation's constitution after the former president and chief of defense were killed in separate attacks March 1 and 2. Officials from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Africa Command said they are hopeful the elections in late June will be a turning point for reforms and stability for the people of Guinea-Bissau. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 4 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's interim President Raimundo Pereria (seated in front of flags) meets with a U.S. diplomatic and military delegation April 23, 2009. Pereria assumed the presidency March 3 under the West African nation's constitution after the former president and chief of defense were killed in separate attacks March 1 and 2. Officials from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Africa Command said they are hopeful the elections in late June will be a turning point for reforms and stability for the people of Guinea-Bissau. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - The new chief of Guinea-Bissau's military forces, Captain Jose Zamora Induta, meets with a visiting U.S. delegation April 23, 2009, to discuss upcoming elections following the March killings of the West African nation's president and former military chief. U.S. officers are, from right, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, civilian deputy of U.S. Africa Command; Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; David Mosby of the U.S. Embassy and (standing) Major Karl Asmus of the U.S. Embassy. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 5 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - The new chief of Guinea-Bissau's military forces, Captain Jose Zamora Induta, meets with a visiting U.S. delegation April 23, 2009, to discuss upcoming elections following the March killings of the West African nation's president and former military chief. U.S. officers are, from right, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, civilian deputy of U.S. Africa Command; Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; David Mosby of the U.S. Embassy and (standing) Major Karl Asmus of the U.S. Embassy. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's interim President Raimundo Pereria (center foreground) shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat during a U.S. diplomatic visit April 23, 2009. Also part of the American delegation was Ambassador Mary C. Yates (center background), U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy. Yates stressed that the U.S. military supports, and takes its directions from, elected civilian leadership. Guinea-Bissau's former president was assassinated March 2 by a group of soldiers. A presidential election is scheduled for late June. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 6 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's interim President Raimundo Pereria (center foreground) shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat during a U.S. diplomatic visit April 23, 2009. Also part of the American delegation was Ambassador Mary C. Yates (center background), U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy. Yates stressed that the U.S. military supports, and takes its directions from, elected civilian leadership. Guinea-Bissau's former president was assassinated March 2 by a group of soldiers. A presidential election is scheduled for late June. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - U.S. Embassy employee Dina Adao (left) translates into Portuguese during a news conference April 23, 2009, with U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat (right) and Ambassador Mary C. Yates (center), U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, at the U.S. liaison office in Bissau. The United States closed its Embassy in 1998 during a civil war, and Bernicat also is U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, where she is posted. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
7 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 7 of 7: BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - U.S. Embassy employee Dina Adao (left) translates into Portuguese during a news conference April 23, 2009, with U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat (right) and Ambassador Mary C. Yates (center), U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, at the U.S. liaison office in Bissau. The United States closed its Embassy in 1998 during a civil war, and Bernicat also is U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, where she is posted. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat, front center, arrives at Bissau airport with Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, April 23, 2009, for meetings with Guinea-Bissau's civilian and military leadership.  (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - People in Guinea-Bissau visit shops along a busy street April 23, 2009, in the West African country's capital. About 1.5 million people live in the former Portuguese colony, which has a long history of conflict and political turmoil. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, visited in April at the request of the U.S. Embassy to emphasize U.S. support for political stability, military reforms, and political will to end narcotics trafficking. Yates told reporters that the people of Guinea-Bissau "have continually endured tragic events with great dignity." (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Minister of Interior Lucio Soares meets with a U.S. delegation April 23, 2009, to discuss Guinea-Bissau's upcoming presidential election as well as counter-narcotics and security concerns. The American delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau and Senegal Marcia Bernicat (second from right); and Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, (right). (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's interim President Raimundo Pereria (seated in front of flags) meets with a U.S. diplomatic and military delegation April 23, 2009. Pereria assumed the presidency March 3 under the West African nation's constitution after the former president and chief of defense were killed in separate attacks March 1 and 2. Officials from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Africa Command said they are hopeful the elections in late June will be a turning point for reforms and stability for the people of Guinea-Bissau. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - The new chief of Guinea-Bissau's military forces, Captain Jose Zamora Induta, meets with a visiting U.S. delegation April 23, 2009, to discuss upcoming elections following the March killings of the West African nation's president and former military chief. U.S. officers are, from right, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, civilian deputy of U.S. Africa Command; Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; David Mosby of the U.S. Embassy and (standing) Major Karl Asmus of the U.S. Embassy. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - Guinea-Bissau's interim President Raimundo Pereria (center foreground) shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat during a U.S. diplomatic visit April 23, 2009. Also part of the American delegation was Ambassador Mary C. Yates (center background), U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy. Yates stressed that the U.S. military supports, and takes its directions from, elected civilian leadership. Guinea-Bissau's former president was assassinated March 2 by a group of soldiers. A presidential election is scheduled for late June. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S Africa Command)
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau - U.S. Embassy employee Dina Adao (left) translates into Portuguese during a news conference April 23, 2009, with U.S. Ambassador to Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat (right) and Ambassador Mary C. Yates (center), U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, at the U.S. liaison office in Bissau. The United States closed its Embassy in 1998 during a civil war, and Bernicat also is U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, where she is posted. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
The United States is hopeful that scheduled elections following the recent killings of Guinea-Bissau's president and military chief can be an important step toward stability in the West African nation, which has been plagued by decades of violence and, in recent years, drug trafficking.

A U.S. delegation that included the U.S. ambassador to Guinea Bissau and the civilian deputy of U.S. Africa Command made a daylong trip to Guinea-Bissau on April 23, 2009. They met with the country's interim president and interim military chief, both of whose predecessors were assassinated in early March. Elections have been scheduled for June.

"We have watched with concern the recent tragic events here in Guinea-Bissau," Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, told reporters April 23 in a joint news conference with U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau Marcia Bernicat.

"We want to know if there is now an opportunity for genuine reforms in the security sector of Guinea-Bissau," said Yates, who visited at the invitation of Bernicat. Yates is U.S. AFRICOM's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities. She is a former U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Burundi.

"The United States," Bernicat told approximately a dozen Bissau Guinean reporters, "is eager to accelerate efforts to support the rule of law in Guinea-Bissau to end the decades of impunity that have corroded government institutions and left Bissau-Guineans impoverished and disillusioned."

U.S. Embassy officials said the meeting with reporters was the first senior-level U.S. news conference in the country in the past several years .The U.S. Embassy suspended operations in Bissau on June 14, 1998 in the midst of a civil war. Currently, U.S. diplomatic relations with Guinea-Bissau are coordinated by the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, and Bernicat is U.S. ambassador to both countries. The Embassy recently opened a branch office in Bissau and regularly sends diplomats on overnight visits from Dakar to Bissau.

Yates originally planned to visit Guinea-Bissau in early March at the invitation of Bernicat to discuss U.S. concerns about narcotics trafficking throughout West Africa, as well as the U.S. military role in supporting regional security initiatives. However, the visit was postponed because of the killings of the nation's most senior leaders. On March 1, 2009, Armed Forces General Tagme Na Wai was killed in a bomb blast at the military headquarters. The following morning, President Joao Bernardo Vieira was killed by a group of soldiers at the presidential palace. National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira became interim president March 3 under the nation's constitution.

In meetings with Guinea-Bissau's senior leadership, Bernicat and Yates stressed that the United States hopes the upcoming election can mark a turning point in the country's future.

In a West Africa trip that also included visits to Nigeria and Senegal, Yates met with regional leaders, including representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss regional cooperation in helping the people of Guinea-Bissau achieve greater stability and strengthen their democratic processes. In her meetings, Yates stressed that the U.S. military is firmly under the control of elected U.S. civilian leaders and their representatives.

Guinea-Bissau in recent years has become a major transit point for cocaine, which is smuggled across the mid-Atlantic from Latin America to West Africa en route to Europe. The United States has found that government ministries and agencies must coordinate their efforts to address illegal trafficking. The problem does not have a purely military solution but requires coordination with military forces, police, customs, the judiciary, nongovernmental agencies and other sectors of society. In addition, effective counter-narcotics action requires international cooperation.

"I am well aware that narcotics trafficking is not just a problem for Guinea-Bissau," Yates told reporters in Bissau. "The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that $2 billion worth of cocaine transited West Africa in the past year, and I do not need to tell you that UNODC identified Guinea-Bissau as one of the main hubs in this illegal trade. Drug trafficking is no way to gain wealth. In the long-term it devastates government, communities and lives. It is a global problem that requires regional cooperation as well as cooperation between the military, law enforcement and other governmental ministries."

During their visit, Bernicat and Yates also met with Captain Jose Zamora Induta, chief of defense for the Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces, and Minister of the Interior Lucio Soares. They also met with international military and civilian representatives posted in Bissau.

In Nigeria April 20-21, Yates met with senior Nigerian government officials and spoke to West African military professionals about the U.S. role in support of security sector reform. During her Nigeria visit, she also joined 75 military and government professionals attending a Security Sector Reform conference co-hosted by regional governments and the U.S. Defense Department's Africa Center for Strategic Studies. ECOWAS military and civilian officials from across West Africa attended the conference, formally called the 2009 ECOWAS Strategic Level Seminar on Security Sector Reform in West Africa. Discussions touched on a wide range of issues, including counter-narcotics across the region and the recent events in Guinea-Bissau.

Guinea-Bissau officials said they agree with international assessments that the nation's 4,500-member armed forces are in need of reforms and restructuring. Between 60 and 70 percent of Bissau Guinean military personnel are military officers, a ratio far out of balance with most militaries, where enlisted personnel ordinarily far outnumber the officer leadership. In addition, a large percentage of those officers are in senior ranks. Guinea-Bissau civilian and military officials explain that restructuring the military includes finding a solution to properly care for senior officers, the majority of whom served in the nation's past conflicts. However, the country lacks the financial resources to offer them retirement pay in accordance with their veteran status.

"As a military organization," Yates told reporters, "U.S. Africa Command highly values military professionalism and promotes an environment in which military professionals are the servants of their people. This includes striking an appropriate balance in size and composition of military organizations."

Yates added, "We hope that this difficult period of transition will result in positive change for the people of Guinea-Bissau, and the U.S. military is sincerely interesting in working with nations dedicated to long-term stability and genuine reform."

Bernicat, as the U.S. ambassador to Guinea-Bissau, said the United States wants to "identify credible local partners who respect the rule of law and who are prepared to combat the drug traffickers."

The United States "must be confident of our Bissau-Guinean counterparts’ commitment to ending complicity in the drug trade," Bernicat said. "We need partners who respect basic human rights, who empower and inspire people, not terrorize them."

Guinea-Bissau's presidential election is scheduled for late June. On November 16, 2008, the country held parliamentary elections that were praised by the international community as well-organized and transparent.
PARTNERSHIPS OPERATIONS READINESS