Democratization Via Elections in an African 'Narco-State'? The Case of Guinea-Bissau

GIGA Working Paper No 123

25 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2010 Last revised: 17 Aug 2012

See all articles by Dirk Kohnert

Dirk Kohnert

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs

Date Written: February 15, 2010


Recent development cooperation with Guinea-Bissau, focussing on good governance, state-building and conflict prevention, did not contribute to democratization nor to the stabilization of volatile political, military and economic structures. Both the portrayal of Guinea-Bissau as failed ‘narco state' as well as Western aid meant to stabilize this state by multi-party elections are based on doubtful concepts and assumptions. Certainly, the impact of drug trafficking could endanger democratization and state-building if continued unchecked. However, the most pressing need is not state-building, facilitated by external aid, yet poorly rooted in the social and political fabric of the country, but nation-building from below as a pre-condition for the creation of viable state institutions.

Keywords: Guinea-Bissau, elections, democratization, informal institutions, aid, nationbuilding, institution building, drug trafficking

JEL Classification: D72, E26, N47, O17, Z1

Suggested Citation

Kohnert, Dirk, Democratization Via Elections in an African 'Narco-State'? The Case of Guinea-Bissau (February 15, 2010). GIGA Working Paper No 123, Available at SSRN: or

Dirk Kohnert (Contact Author)

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs ( email )

German Inst. of Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
Neuer Jungfernstieg 21
D-20354 Hamburg


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