‘It doesn’t help that all these Guineas are hot, by the sea and full of poor people,’ said American businessman Dirk Lukavic. ‘I’ve even heard that two of them are side by side, but I’m not sure which. Somebody really should have spotted that at the planning stage. All we need is some signposts so it’s clear which one does oil, which one does aluminium and which one does drugs.’
Others have had similar problems. ‘When I arrived at the airport I saw a crowd of people waving signs reading ‘Welcome to Equatorial Guinea’,’ said British journalist Jake Hennessy. ‘But when I looked a bit closer, I could see some people were holding up other signs that said ‘Welcome to Guinea-Bissau’ and even ‘Welcome to French Guinea’. It really made me feel uneasy as I’d never knowingly travel somewhere the French have been.’
International observers had been concerned about the erosion of the three states’ identities since George W. Bush’s tendency to refer to them variously as Guyana, Guatemala, Guadalajara and even Guantanamo. The problem was then compounded when the leaders of each nation decided to swap identities at a UN meeting in 2008 to see if any of the Western countries would notice. Since then no one has been sure whether the three men returned to govern the right country, with many citizens of the three states too scared to say anything.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promised to resolve the situation by sending UN Place-Keepers to each country, but the plan descended into chaos when each of the planes was re-routed to a different Guinea and the parties’ luggage was sent to the wrong place. As angry UN officials failed to understand why they couldn’t have their bags if they’d also been flown to Guinea, riot police were called in to calm things down but proved powerless to help as no one could determine whether or not they had jurisdiction.
Observers are now fearful that the confusion may soon spread to Papua New Guinea, while Ghana and Gambia are said to be nervous.