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Long lines of voters in Guinea-Bissau could favor a newcomer

Guinea-Bissau elections

Guinea-Bissau elections

(GIN) — Thirteen candidates are in the running for the presidency in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, which has yet to have an elected leader serve a full term since independence from Portugal in 1974.

Reporters saw long lines at the polls last week with no reported problems or incidents.

Politicians with the largest war chests include former finance minister José Mário Vaz of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, and Abel Incada, a member of the Party for Social Renewal of former President Kumba Yala, two weeks ago.

But a surprise upstart in the elections is 50-year-old Paulo Gomes, an independent candidate and economist. At minimum, he is comfortable with social media, having a website, a YouTube video, and a page on LinkedIn.

According to paulogomes.com, he was born in a family “with a long history of struggle and leadership for human rights and dignity.” His grandfather “was persecuted and arrested by the Portuguese during colonial times and his parents took part in the liberation movement leading to independence in 1973.”

“At eleven, he was sent to various military boarding schools in Bor, Bafata and Bolama where he developed the camaraderie, rigor and discipline that would come to define his life and career.”

After studies in Paris, according to his website, he returned home to join the president’s Office for Economic and International Affairs and later served as the national strategic planning director. In 1995, he left Bissau for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Two years later he was back home again working as the principal advisor to the minister of finance.

From the Finance Ministry, Paulo was sent to the World Bank, first as alternate executive director and then as executive director. He currently holds several board positions at area banks.

Guinea-Bissau, home to 1.6 million people, has few resources other than cashew nuts and fish. In recent years, South American drug cartels have turned the country into a cocaine trafficking hub, making use of the country’s dozens of remote islands and a jagged coastline of mangrove creeks.

The electoral results confirm a run-off to be held in May between José Mário Vaz (41 percent) from the historical PAIGC party and Nuno Nabiam (25 percent), running as an independent backed by the military.

 

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