Expected Council Action
In June the Council will receive the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) and a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Representative in Guinea-Bissau, Shola Omoregie. The UNOGBIS mandate expires on 31 December.
No formal decision is expected although a press statement is possible. (The Council issued a press statement after the last two UNOGBIS reports.)
Key Recent Developments
In March many of President João Bernardo Vieira’s supporters defected to a new coalition which then passed a no-confidence motion in parliament against Prime Minister Aristides Gomes. On 20 March, Vieira was given 72 hours to agree to demands to appoint a new prime minister or dissolve parliament.
On 29 March, Gomes announced his resignation. Demonstrators from the three leading political parties took to the streets on 30 March demanding that Vieira accept the resignation.
Further demonstrations were averted when Vieira appointed Martinho N’Dafa Cabi as prime minister on 9 April. Cabi put national reconciliation high on his agenda and plans to hold legislative elections next year. A new cabinet was named on 17 April made up of an alliance of political parties.
The International Monetary Fund visited Guinea-Bissau from 23 May to 6 June to conduct annual consultations with the government and discuss post-conflict assistance.
Choosing not to take any action. This is the most likely option as long as the situation does not significantly deteriorate by the time the Council meets.
Issuing a press statement. This is possible if members want to stress the importance of political stability and signal their ongoing engagement to the new cabinet.
Issuing a presidential statement. This is unlikely but possible if the Council wants to take a stronger stand.
Requesting the Secretary-General to include in his next report practical benchmarks and an exit timetable to guide Council discussions on an exit strategy for UNOGBIS.
The key issue for the Council is maintenance of the fragile peace. Recent developments seem promising but there are concerns that in time the parties in the cabinet will find it difficult to work together and with Vieira.
A key related issue is the military’s reaction. Senior army officers are still receiving salaries but low-ranking officers have not been paid for months. Conditions are worse than in 1998 when the army rose up against Vieira during his earlier term as president, triggering a civil war. The army, or elements in it, may be tempted to take advantage of opportunities that may arise.
Another issue is the lack of diversity in Guinea-Bissau’s economy. Cashew nuts account for 85 percent of export earnings. Last year the government raised the price of cashew nuts scaring away foreign merchants. Farmers who failed to sell their crops were unable to buy food. In April, shortly after the appointment of the new prime minister, the government reduced the price of cashew nuts. It remains to be seen if lower prices will boost production and exports. A long-term solution needs to be found to avoid widespread poverty and instability.
Winning donor and investor confidence is another crucial issue. The $460 million pledged at the donor roundtable conference on Guinea-Bissau, held in Geneva in November 2006 has not been delivered. Investors, shaken by events in the first few months of the year, are slowly beginning to show interest in Guinea-Bissau again.
One issue that may return is the frequency of the UNOGBIS reports. The Ad Hoc Committee on Mandate Review has agreed to consider the suggestion of reports every six rather than three months.
The Council may be divided regarding the reporting cycle with countries like the US urging six months and others like Peru and Belgium preferring three months.
Guinea-Bissau is growing as a transit point for cocaine-smuggling. Over the last two years there have been fifty known drug seizures. Without adequate funding the government has been unable to build capacity to control the narcotics trade. There is little coordination between the police, the border patrol, customs and the army in addition to the lack of proper prisons. With salaries unpaid in many government ministries, reports suggest that some officials are turning to the drug smugglers for extra income.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|Reports and Letters of the Secretary-General|
|Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOGBIS|
|Shola Omoregie (Nigeria)|
|Size of UNOGBIS Staff|
Twenty, including international civilians, military advisers, police advisers and local civilians
6 April 1999 to present