Guinea-Bissau, a multiparty republic with a population of approximately 1.6 million, continues to struggle with instability and an economy shattered by the 1998-99 civil war. Since his election as president in 2005, President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira has endeavored to strengthen democracy. The country does not enjoy a rich or long democratic tradition; however, it peacefully changed governments in April 2007 via a constitutional procedure in the National Popular Assembly (ANP). The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; nonetheless, poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lack of judicial independence, and official corruption and impunity were problems. Journalists and human rights defenders received death threats and harassment for their reporting on narcotics trafficking, which has led to self-censorship.
The U.S. government's priorities in the country are to consolidate democracy, encourage political dialogue, and address drug-related corruption.
The U.S. Embassy in Bissau closed at the start of the 1998 civil war. Therefore U.S. diplomatic and programmatic efforts are managed primarily by the U.S. Embassy in Senegal. The United States works with the government, NGOs, political parties, civil society, international institutions, and the private sector to encourage national reconciliation and democracy building. A tri-partite agreement was signed by foreign ministers from the government, Brazil, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2007 to improve the democratic functioning of the ANP. The program provides training on research, organizational techniques, and foundations of democracy; it has received positive feedback from legislators, technical experts, and NGOs. In addition the United States supports a student intern program to link ANP deputies with research-savvy students.
High levels of corruption among government and security officials threaten to turn the country into a narco-state. Through diplomatic efforts and technical and material support, the U.S. government encourages government efforts to address drug related corruption.
The United States funded a program to restore books, periodicals, and Internet access to the country's premier research institute, which was heavily damaged during the country's civil war. The United States also supports the Human Rights League's efforts to raise awareness of human rights issues with journalists and promote free and open media coverage.
The United States encourages the government to pass anti-human trafficking legislation and improve efforts at fighting child trafficking. U.S. officials have spoken on national and regional radio programs to raise awareness of the problem of child trafficking. In addition, the director of the national NGO Association for Women and Children, which promotes antitrafficking initiatives, participated in the U.S.-funded International Visitor Program for civil society promotion.
The United States also trains select members of the armed forces and civil servants in the Ministry of Defense on respect for human rights.