As I was writing this introduction, Guinea-Bissau was rocked by yet another “political crisis.” On the night of March 1 and 2, 2009, the army chief of staff, General Batista Tagme Na Waie, and the president of Guinea-Bissau, João Bernardino “Nino” Vieira, were killed in the space of a few hours. As was to be expected, articles mushroomed in the international press in the following days, sporting headlines that we have long since become accustomed to, such as “Guinea-Bissau Collapse Deepens after Leader Killed” (Pitman 2009) or “Guinea-Bissau Threatens Return to Bad Old Days in Africa” (George 2009). An article by the Economist Intelligence Unit was entitled—with a literary touch reminiscent of Conrad's Heart of Darkness—“Edge of the Abyss.” These days Guinea-Bissau, particularly since the 1998–99 civil war, seems to be the poster child for all the negativity generally attributed to African countries, an overlapping of political, economic, and humanitarian crises, in blatant confirmation of the picture of “shadowy Africa” that James Ferguson pinpoints as one of the features of international discourse on Africa today (2006:15,190).
Despite these clichéd articles (identical in tone to those that have appeared during the various crises that have characterized the last decade of Guinea-Bissau's history) and pessimistic forecasts from international experts, these violent events have not triggered any real political or civil turmoil. The following morning the capital city, Bissau, was calm. The army leaders declared that they had no intention of intervening in the upcoming elections.