Country report and updates: Guinea-Bissau

Last revision: 22 Jul 1998
22 Jul 1998

In June 1998 armed conflict broke out when the chief army commander was dismissed following accusations of arms smuggle to an armed insurgent group in Senegal.
The commander rebelled against the government and gained wide support from soldiers and veterans from the liberation war. Two thousand troops from Senegal and Guinea assisted the government forces to suppress the rebellion. [4]

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Guinea-Bissau has conscription. [1] [2] [3] [5]

military service

All 18-year-old men are liable for military service, which lasts for two years. [1]

postponement and exemption

Postponement is usually granted to those supporting families. [1]

No further details are known.


In practice conscription is applied selectively. [3]

Ninety percent of those called up are secondary school students from Bissau, the capital city. They sometimes serve for several years simply because requests to be demobilised are lost in bureaucracy. Serving conscripts earn USD 25 per month. [5]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

A substitute service is not available. [1]

3 Draft evasion and desertion

Refusal to perform military service is punishable by imprisonment. [1]

No information is available about the treatment of draft evaders or deserters.

5 History

Guinea-Bissau achieved independence from Portugal in 1974, following a liberation war. The liberation army consisted mainly of members of the Balante, the largest ethnic group. In 1980 there was a coup by army commander Vieira, who was then quite popular. After Vieira had two members of Balante, who were accused of a coup attempt, executed, his popularity diminished. From 1990 onwards the armed forces were nearly halved in size, the demobilised soldiers keeping their pay and their kalashnikovs. [5]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces comprise 9,250 troops, including a 2,000-strong Gendarmerie. They form about 0.8 percent of the population. [3]

Every year approximately 11,000 men reach conscription age. [3]


[1] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [2] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1997 The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [3] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [4] NRC Handelsblad (Dutch newspaper), 8-9-10-15-16 June 1998 [5] NRC Handelsblad (Dutch newspaper), 2 and 17 July 1998.

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