Patrice Riemens on Fri, 18 Sep 1998 20:47:37 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> SOS-INEP (Guinee-Bissau)

From: (Michel Cahen)

Dear Colleagues,

I think it is very important for everybody to know this SOS from INEP of

Michel CAHEN/Lusotopie Diffusion

 S. O. S



The war which flared up in Guinea-Bissau on 7 June 1 9 9 8 , between the
Military Junta representing 90 per cent of the armed forces reinforced by
veterans of the armed struggle for national liberation, and the remaining
10 per cent supported by troops from Senegal and Guinea-Conakry solicited
by the Head of State, has already exacted a heavy toll, even if the precise
details still remain unclear. To the unknown number of deaths, can be added
some 2 5 0 , 0 0 0 displaced persons and refugees, and the enormous material
destruction caused by intense bombardment with heavy artillery during 5 0
days of confrontation.

Among the infrastructures most affected by the destruction is the Instituto
Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisa (INEP), which is the largest and most active
research institution in the country. The complex housing INEP is located
less than a kilometre from the initial front-line of the hostilities. It
has been transformed into an advanced post of the Senegalese troops. The
transformation of the complex into an army barrack and the adverse
bombardments it consequently attracted have caused immense damages.

Thanks to the cease fire signed on 2 5 August 1 9 9 8 , a few staff
members of
INEP were authorized, after enormous difficulties, to visit their place of
work. The preliminary balance-sheet can be summarized in one word:

All the workrooms were forcibly opened, emptied of their contents and
transformed into dormitories for soldiers. All work documents were thrown
outside and left exposed to the elements. The stock of dozens of computers
containing data bases on all aspect of Guinea-Bissau, compiled carefully
and painstakingly during the past fifteen years, has disappeared. The
computers left behind have been disemboweled. Sensitive and very rare
equipment, such as the only digital cartography table in the country, is
thrown outside and left exposed to dust and rain.

The INEP Library, embryo of the National Library and reference centre of
all publications in the country as well as for certain United Nations
agencies like FAO and UNESCO, is roofless and damaged on the sides. The
torrential rains which have fallen on Bissau since the end of June have
constantly entered the building. Its three floors - first, ground and
basement - have been transformed into pools where thousands of soaked and
irrecoverable books and journals float.

The National Archives at INEP are scattered, shredded and exposed to rain
and dirt. Hundreds of audio cassettes which record the history of the
national liberation struggle, as told by its actors and witnesses, cannot
be found. Hundreds of audio cassettes which record the oral history of the
different regions of the country have disappeared. Photographs and films
from the Audiovisual Archives are found dispersed and lying in the mud
outside. In other words, entire pages of the history of Guinea-Bissau risk
being irredeemably blank or illegible. This is particularly serious in view
of the fact that no general history of Guinea-Bissau has yet been written,
and that all recent efforts of the Institute ha been geared towards this

To summarize, the damages suffered by INEP have reduced to zero the
enormous efforts made since Independence to provide the country with a
centre of documentation and research useful to all those interested in

At the time of writing, INEP continues to be a military camp, in spite of
the cease fire. The staff of the Institute is forbidden to engage in work
to rehabilitate or save it from further destruction. Relentlessly, the
disaster continues. This letter to inform is also an SOS for the largest
research institution of Guinea-Bissau which is threatened by extinction.

As soon as INEP ceases to be a military barrack, a more detailed
balance-sheet will be made available. It will be followed by our project
for reconstruction.

We urge you to forward this SOS message to all friends of INEP that you
know, as well as to all institutions and individuals who attach value to
intellectual production.
The Management Council of INEP
1 2 September 1 9 9 8

Michel Cahen
Centre d'etude d'Afrique noire, Unite mixte de recherche n 2 0 6
CNRS-Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux
Maison des Suds, BP 2 0 0
3 3 4 0 5 TALENCE Cedex, FRANCE

Redacteur de la publication annuelle "Lusotopie. Enjeux contemporains dans
les espaces lusophones" (Karthala, Paris)
Courriel :
Le CEAN sur la toile :
Lusotopie sur la toile :

"L'universel, c'est le local moins les murs" (Miguel Torga)
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