October 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2007
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Guinea-Bissau

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to receive the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) and a possible briefing by the Secretary-General’s Representative in Guinea-Bissau, Shola Omoregie.  A formal decision aimed at intensifying international engagement with the situation in the country may be taken by the Council, possibly in the form of a presidential statement.  The mandate of UNOGBIS expires on 31 December.

Key Recent Developments
The political and social situation in Guinea-Bissau continues to be difficult.  The country has been plagued by rampant drug trafficking with Latin American cartels using it as a transit point for drugs on their way to Europe and taking advantage of the desperate economic situation (for example, the unpaid members of the military and public service), the country’s relative proximity to South America,  porous borders and weak state security institutions.  On 31 August, following the confiscation of a truckload of aviation fuel in a forest on the outskirts of the city of Buba and in an attempt to stem the drug trade, the government announced that aircraft suspected of carrying drugs will be shot down. But reports also indicated intimidation of those opposing and publicising the drug problem, with Amnesty International in mid-August expressing concern about harassment of human rights activists and journ
alists focusing on drug trafficking in the country.

On 18 July President João Bernardo Vieira announced that parliamentary elections would be postponed from March 2008 to March 2009, when they will be held alongside presidential elections, reputedly to save costs. 

The Council was last briefed by the Secretary-General’s Representative on the situation in Guinea-Bissau in July. A Council press statement highlighted concern over the continuing deterioration of the socioeconomic situation as well as the alarming increase in organised crime, and the trafficking of drugs and arms.  It also welcomed the formation of the new government, commended it for efforts to re-establish constructive relations with international financial institutions and appealed to them to continue to support Guinea-Bissau.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is maintenance of the fragile peace in the country, especially in light of potential unrest in the military related to unpaid salaries.
 
A related issue is the country’s weak economy, including its dependence on cashew nuts, which accounts for 85 percent of export earnings.  The government reduced the price of cashew nuts in April in an effort to boost export sales, but as yet no impact on exports has been reported.

An issue linked with economic vulnerability is the growing drug trafficking problem and the risk of a gradual slide by Guinea-Bissau into a “narco-state”.

Options
Options for the Council include:

  • issuing a press or presidential statement to urge enhanced international engagement; a presidential statement seems more likely as African members of the Council are becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of significant progress in the situation; or
  • taking no action. 

A separate option is to adjust the frequency of UNOGBIS reports. Previously, the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Mandate Review had considered changing the reporting cycle from three to six months. However, given the deteriorating situation the Council may consider the option of retaining the cycle of three months.

Council Dynamics
For most Council members, Guinea-Bissau is not a high priority.  It is possible that Ghana, which is the lead country on this issue, may initiate a presidential statement to send a stronger message from the Council on the need to intensify international support for a country perceived to be tottering on the brink of chaos. 

Former non-permanent members like Brazil and Angola took the lead on Guinea-Bissau in the past.  However, Guinea-Bissau’s case has lacked support from influential members.  Observers contrast for example US support for Liberia, UK support for Sierra Leone, and French support for Côte d’Ivoire.

Underlying Problems
Problems include the tense political climate, the continuing socioeconomic deterioration, an alarming increase in organised crime, drug trafficking and the proliferation of illicit small arms.  Guinea-Bissau’s lack of economic diversity has impaired the government’s capacity to deal with these issues as it lacks adequate funding.

UN Documents

 Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1580 (22 December 2004) revised and extended the mandate of UNOGBIS.
  • S/RES/1233 (6 April 1999) supported the Secretary-General’s decision to establish UNOGBIS.
 Reports and Letters of the Secretary-General
  • S/2007/401 (3 July 2007) was the latest report on UNOGBIS.
  • S/2006/975 (13 December 2006) and S/2006/974 (8 December 2006) was an exchange of letters recommending extension of UNOGBIS until 31 December 2007 and noting the activities of UNOGBIS.
 Other
  •  SC/9075 (10 July 2007) was the latest press statement by the Security Council.

Other Relevant Facts

 Representative of the Secretary-General and  Head of UNOGBIS
 Shola Omoregie (Nigeria)
 Size of UNOGBIS Staff
 29, including international civilians, military advisers, police advisers and local civilians
 Duration
 6 April 1999 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2007

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