Frederick Forsyth was in Guinea-Bissau when the country’s president Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in 2009. The thriller writer was looking for “the flavour, the odour, of a pretty washed-up, impoverished, failed west African mangrove swamp,” a search which led him straight to the former Portuguese colony. “I thought, what is the most disastrous part of West Africa, and by a mile, it’s Guinea-Bissau.”
One of the last countries in Africa to achieve independence, in 1974, the country’s history reads like a list of worst-case scenarios. A one-party state until 1991, the country is less economically developed than it was thirty years ago. During a short civil conflict in 1998, 350,000 people were displaced out of a population of 1.7 million and untold numbers were killed. The country has had a coup attempt every six years on average. In little more than a decade there have been eleven prime ministers. In recent years, it has been branded the world’s first “narco state” for its role in the global cocaine trade.