Monday, March 2, 2009
...and now for something REALLY SCARY
See the little red dot on that map of Africa? That's an itty-bitty country called Guinea-Bissau, and there are two reasons that you need to know about it. The first is President João Bernardo Vieira (the creepy-looking guy pictured above), who was assassinated this morning by rogue elements in the military. That, in itself, is enough to justify paying attention for a few hours. Unfortunately, African leaders get plugged far too often, so it's the second reason that really makes this development scary.Guinea-Bissau may seem like a run-of-the-mill Third World backwater, but nothing could be further from the truth (see video below...you REALLY should watch that).
In fact, the country has become a key linchpin in the international drug trade since 2005. Colombian cocaine cartels have figured out that the government has almost no control of the place, and hence it has become the ideal place to to trans-ship cocaine on its way to the European market (large loads of coke get shipped into the Guinea-Bissau hub, where they are then broken up and shipped around Europe). Needless to say, the effect on society has not been positive, especially when you consider that Guinea-Bissau ranked 175th out of 177 countries on the UN's Human Development Index - which means that it makes Ethiopia look like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous".
The UN said that Guinea-Bissau was in danger of becoming "Africa's first narco-state", and I think that that the transformation took a dramatic leap forward this week. The local strongman, President Vieira, is dead. In addition, Vieira's top political rival, Gen. Batista Tagme Na Waie (head of the military), was blown to smithereens on Saturday. There is a total power vacuum, and my guess is that the situation will only get worse. Nobody is currently implicating the cartels in either assassination, but I would be flabbergasted if they weren't involved in both.
As I see it, Guinea-Bissau is no longer "in danger of becoming Africa's first narco-state". It BECAME Africa's first narco-state this morning. Now think about this...Guinea-Bissau is on the edge of the Islamic-Christian religious divide in Africa - so the Latin American cocaine cartels are now operating on turf where radical Islam is looking for a toe-hold. Birds of a feather flock together, and when the jihadis set up shop in Guinea-Bissau, this lawless West African backwater could become the birthplace of a toxic alliance between two of the world's two most malevolent forces. Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion, but the potential confluence of radical Islam and the Latin American drug cartels scares the heck out of me.
*Photo of President Vieira and map taken from Wikipedia, both licensed under Creative Commons, see links for details