Guinea-Bissau

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Republic of Guinea-Bissau

The Republic if Guinea-Bissau (República da Guiné-Bissau) is a small, West African nation that was once a Portuguese colonial possession. Part of the Mali Empire from the 13th to 16th centuries, the region later rose to prominence as part of the Kaabu (or Gabu) Empire. As early as 1446, Portuguese explorers and traders began landing on the coast seeking sources for gold and slaves. The first Portuguese forts were built in 1480 (followed by British, Dutch and Danish), and a profitable trade in black slaves established, for which the region later earned the nickname Slave Coast. European presence was largely limited to the coastal regions, and as slavery declined only the Portuguese remained in Guinea. By 1915, after three decades of military campaigning to suppress local African leaders, the boundaries of the present nation were established as Portuguese Guinea (Guiné Portuguesa).

Beginning in 1956, the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde or PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) was established, and by 1961 was waging a guerilla war against the Portuguese. Supported by several Eastern European countries and operating out of safe areas in neighboring Senegal and Guinea, the PAIGC were nevertheless outnumbered by Portuguese troops, and managed by 1973 to secure control over only parts of the interior. Nevertheless, the guerillas officially declared the independence of Guinea-Bissau in September of that year, although in reality it was only after the military coup d'etat in Portugal in 1974 that genuine independence was granted.

The nation was controlled by a revolutionary council until 1984. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994, but an army uprising in 1998 led to the president's ousting and sparked the a civil war pitting government forces against guerilla elements from June 1998 to May 1999. Elections were held again in 2000 and Kumba Ialá was elected president; he was removed from office and arrested in 2003, leaving the country again in military hands until new elections were held in 2005. João Bernardo Vieira succeeded to office, under protest from his opponent who claimed election tampering had occurred. In 2009, Vieira was assassinated by members of the military, and his previous opponent Malam Bacai Sanhá won the new presidential election in June of that year. However, the nation was again faced with military unrest in April of 2010 when Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior was placed under house arrest and his PAIGC supporters protested in the capital. Later that year the European Union sent a mission to reform the armed forces, which ended in August.

Camouflage Patterns of Guinea-Bissau

  • Under Portuguese colonial administration, African troops wore the same camouflage uniforms as regular Portuguese military personnel. African Commando troops in Portuguese Guinea were some of the most effective jungle fighters in all of Portuguese Africa.

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  • During the war for independence, PAIGC insurgents were supplied with several types of camouflage by the Communist governments of Eastern Europe, including Czech mracky (clouds), DDR rain pattern, and even surplus French lizard camouflage.

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  • The tradition of wearing Portuguese-style "vertical lizard" camouflage has continued into the present era, with several Asian-made variations having been documented in use by the armed forces of Guinea-Bissau.

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  • At some point in the 1990s many units of the armed forces began wearing a DPM camouflage pattern very close to that now worn by Portugal. The similariy is most likely not coincidental, although at least two types have been documented.

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  • Another commonly encountered pattern in recent years has been the Chinese copy of French lizard pattern seen throughout much of West Africa.

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  • Some units are also wearing copies of the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern.

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