Marked by decades of political instability and conflicts, the people of Guinea-Bissau struggle with rooted Illicit economies, that due to their political, social, and criminal effects, are considered to be a public problem that should be given priority when defining public policies for security and fighting crime.
The illegal money generated by these economies socially gives rise to violence, which is reproduced from generation to generation, creating and/or aggravating a vicious cycle of inequality, violence, and poverty at the local level.
Illicit economies are operated by complex networks of local and foreign criminals who integrate and are responsible for the various stages of production, transportation, distribution, and sale of the products generated.
These networks, which in some cases include politicians and influential members of the society, exploit the deficiencies of the criminal justice system, made up of the various branches of the criminal police (Judicial Police, Public Order Police, and National Guard), the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Courts, and the prison system, and efficiently take advantage of the various connections existing in the network, generating criminal, lucrative and increasingly violent businesses.
By organizing a resilience community dialogue we were able to create a safe space that facilitated the exchange of ideas and expression of people with a common interest.
Community discussion around illicit markets is so limited in Guinea-Bissau that participants referred to a longstanding “taboo” around these topics. Information sharing between communities, civil society, and local government, particularly law enforcement, is low. Predatory behaviors among the police have eroded trust, leaving communities with no resources to justice when facing crime and corruption.
Experience from elsewhere indicates that civil society can play an important counterpoint to the elite capture of illicit activities. Success is greater if the approach is linked with attempts to strengthen and build partnerships and strong communication and information sharing with law enforcement.
The dialogue marked an important step in enhancing these partnerships. Community and civil society participants reported that, for the first time, they felt they could be part of the solution to the illicit markets destroying their environment (referring specifically to the illegal logging that is a chronic problem of Cacheu region with a direct and visible impact in the local communities).
Mrs. Aissatu Conté – Bula Sector Administrator referred to a major seizure event made by the local Police and National Guard, that sometime later the drug disappeared from police instances without any justification. As the highest representative, she spoke openly about the sector, the trends, and dangers, and asked for the maximum collaboration of all to combat this phenomenon.
Mrs. Antonieta Arcângelo; Specialist Midwife, responsible for the health area of Cacheu: “The practitioners of illicit sale of medicines and food products are also manipulators of community conscience creating a climate of tension among grassroots health agents, even in the Health Centers, contributing effectively in blocking the freedom of expression.”
Mr. Armando Landim; President of the Advisory Council of Bula Sector: “No citizen dares to demand anything because the police authorities impose themselves against any popular demonstration in defense of cutting down trees and abusive exploitation”. He even recalled the concrete case of the popular demonstration of Ingoré and Bigene against the felling but they were vehemently forbidden by the public security authorities. “The posture and dignity of a person in the fight against corruption is fundamental.”