Guinea Bissau achieved independence from Portugal in 1973 following nearly twenty years of armed rebellion in which the independence movement received large quantities of arms, including surface-to-air missiles, from Cuba, the Soviet Union and China.
Following independence, Guinea Bissau was used as a forward airbase by the Soviet Union, who stockpiled large quantities of aircraft bombs, cluster bombs and air-to-surface rockets.
After the Cold War, Guinea Bissau suffered a period of continuous political instability including a civil war (1998-2000) and a series of military coups and the assassination of the President in 2009.
As a result of its turbulent history, Guinea Bissau has large stocks of degraded and poorly managed ammunition that place the people of the Guinea Bissau at risk and poses a threat to regional stability. The risk of explosions within vast ammunition stockpiles and the potential for theft and proliferation of weapons and ammunition is an immediate concern.
HALO has been active in Guinea Bissau since November 2017. Our mission is to work with the government to provide support for weapons and ammunition safety and security.
Funded by the United States Department of State, our technical specialists are working with the military to construct a temporary ammunition storage area that will allow unsecured ammunition to be moved away from populated areas. This is the first step in a construction programme that aims to bring ammunition storage standards in line with international regulations.
We are re-furbishing armouries and introducing marking and record-keeping in accordance with the ECOWAS Small Arms Convention to prevent theft of weapons.
We are also destroying unsafe ammunition stocks including large numbers of aircraft bombs.
We are grateful for the support of the USA in Guinea Bissau. The government is supportive of our work and can see the lasting effect. However, the sustained presence of our construction and ammunition technical specialists is vital to the continuing mission and further funding is essential to help bring lasting stability and prosperity to the country.