July 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2010
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Guinea-Bissau

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s 24 June report on UNIOGBIS. The head of the office, Joseph Mutaboba, is expected to brief the Council. The mandate of UNIOGBIS expires on 31 December.

Key Recent Developments
Attempts to return to political normalcy in Guinea-Bissau, where the situation had started to improve since the election that followed the assassination of former President João Bernardo Vieira in 2009, suffered a serious setback when a military insurrection took place on 1 April.

At time of writing the crisis was expected to be discussed by heads of states of the Economic Community of West African States on 1 July in Cape Verde and there were reports of a visit to the region by Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva.

The mutiny was orchestrated by the now Army Chief of Staff, Major General António Indjai, with the apparent support of the former navy chief, Rear Admiral José Américo Bubo Na Tchuto, who had returned to the country from exile in Gambia in December 2009. (He had sought refuge in Gambia after being implicated in a failed coup attempt in August 2008.) Since his return Bubo Na Tchuto had until 1 April been living under protective asylum within the premises of the headquarters of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

Indjai initially detained Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior together with the then Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Zamora Induta, with about a dozen of the latter’s perceived (mostly military) allies.

Early statements by the insurrection leaders indicated that they intended to put Gomes Júnior and Induta on trial for “crimes committed against the people.” However, following a spontaneous gathering of hundreds of civilians on 1 April to express support for the prime minister, call for his release and oppose the mutiny, Gomes Júnior was released. Induta remained in detention.

On 1 April the Council issued a press statement expressing concern about the military incidents that had taken place that day in Guinea-Bissau. It urged all parties to avoid acts of violence, uphold constitutional order and respect the rule of law. Similar expressions of concern came from the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, the Secretary-General, the AU, the Economic Community of West African States and the EU, as well as Brazil, France and the US.

On 6 April, Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco briefed the Council during private consultations on the developments in Guinea-Bissau.

On 9 April the US, acting under its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, accused Bubo Na Tchuto and the current Air Force Chief of Staff, Ibraima Papa Camara, of drug trafficking, froze their US assets and proscribed US citizens’ engagement in business with the two.

On 13 May, Guinea-Bissau’s Military Supreme Court summoned Bubo Na Tchuto to answer questions regarding accusations of having orchestrated an attempted coup d’état in August 2008. On 31 May the court announced that it was dropping the long standing treason charges against him, leading to speculations that the decision was compelled by the leaders of the 1 April mutiny. (Indjai retained his post as deputy chief of staff—in effect the default commander—of the armed forces, with the removal of Induta as the head.)

President Malam Bacai Sahna and Prime Minister Gomes have continued in their constitutional capacities with the president describing the insurrection as “confusion between soldiers”, but seem to be in enfeebled positions. De facto power now appears to reside with Indjai who is perceived to have the final say in all government decisions. The dropping of treason charges against Bubo Na Tchuto (pursued by the prime minister before 1 April) seemed to confirm reports of his increasing influence in state affairs.

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)

At a meeting in mid-April, the Department of Political Affairs briefed the PBC configuration on Guinea-Bissau on developments in the country.

On 6 May the chair of the Guinea-Bissau PBC configuration, Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, sent a letter to the Government of Guinea-Bissau, conveying the PBC’s concern about the events that led to the detention of Induta and other military officers and indicated that it “would like to be reassured of the Government’s commitment to lead the national peacebuilding strategy.” It also made reference to the high-level event originally envisaged to take place on 9 June in New York (which was later postponed) to mobilise resources for the establishment of a pension fund for the military as part of the security sector reform (SSR) process and spelt out two preconditions before this could take place:

  • the issue of leadership of the armed forces must be addressed as soon as possible, in accordance with constitutional provisions; and
  • national authorities must clearly indicate their commitment to security sector reform.

Further, “in that context the release or legal prosecution of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and of other detained officers arrested on 1 April 2010 are expected as a matter of priority, as are guarantees of fair prosecution of all those involved.”

On 26 May the Guinea-Bissau mission conveyed the Government’s response. The Government’s letter sought to reassure the PBC about its commitment to the peacebuilding process, especially by indicating actions that it had taken to address the concerns raised by the PBC about developments in the country.

At press time, the PBC was yet to decide whether to set a new date for the meeting to mobilise resources for the establishment of a pension fund for the military.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council (HRC) began its Universal Periodic Review of Guinea-Bissau on 7 May. The working group of the HRC made over 100 recommendations, of which Guinea-Bissau accepted all but five. Recommendations that did not enjoy the support of Guinea-Bissau related mainly to bringing to justice members of the armed forces who had violated human rights, improving training in human rights for the armed forces and eliminating gender discrimination. The HRC will consider the working group’s report at its next session in September.

Key Issues
The major issue for the Council is whether the events of 1 April—the latest in a pattern of destabilising military interventions in the country’s contemporary history—now pose substantial new risks to peace consolidation in the country (no president of the country has successfully completed the constitutionally mandated five-year term since multiparty democracy began in the country in 1994, and three chiefs of defence staff have been killed over the past nine years).

Questions have also been raised about how best the Council may assist in shoring up the authority of the current civilian government in Guinea-Bissau which seems to have very little power in deciding the most important matters of national interest.

A second issue is ensuring the success of peacebuilding efforts, especially keeping the SSR process on track.

Another critically important issue is the impact of drug trafficking and organised crime in Guinea-Bissau and, in light of recent revelations implicating key military and political actors in drug trafficking, whether and how the Council can address this issue.

Regional security implications are a related issue. There are concerns that further unrest in Guinea-Bissau could contribute to undermining the fragile security situation in the West African subregion, given the recent tensions in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger.

Underlying Problems
Perennially weak state institutions, caused in part by limited resources and political schisms and factionalism— giving rise to shifting alliances—within the politico-military ruling elite, have greatly undermined good governance in Guinea-Bissau.

Options
Options for the Council include:

  • issuing a statement (or perhaps adopting a resolution) designed to signal its increased concern that the peace consolidation process must remain on track, and ensuring that local actors must uphold constitutional order and respect the rule of law in the country, and keeping the SSR process on track;
  • adopting a wait-and-see stance by following developments closely on the ground; and
  • revisiting the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his 29 September 2008 report on the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (UNOGBIS) to “take strong action and … consider establishing a panel of experts to investigate the identity and activities of those involved in drug trafficking and organised crime in Guinea-Bissau with the possibility of taking measures, including punitive, targeted sanctions that would help reverse the current disturbing growth in the drug trafficking crisis in the country.”

Council Dynamics
Council members have been monitoring developments on the ground and expect that the Secretary-General’s next report will contain recommendations for a more proactive Council role, including measures designed to address the issues in the country. Council members seem open to lending their support to any feasible initiative to achieve progress in the situation in the country.

However, many members are aware of the delicate task of bringing appropriate pressure to bear on key players who wield apparent de-facto powers and simultaneously empowering the legitimate but beleaguered civilian government to return Guinea-Bissau to normalcy.

It remains to be seen whether the recent sanctions imposed by the US against Buba Na Tchuto will galvanise the Council to give serious consideration to applying possible sanctions against individuals involved in the country’s illicit drug trade.

Nigeria is the lead country on this issue in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1876 (26 June 2009) renewed the mandate of UNOGBIS until 31 December 2009 and requested the Secretary-General to establish UNIOGBIS beginning on 1 January 2010 for an initial period of 12 months.
  • S/RES/1233 (6 April 1999) supported the Secretary-General’s decision to establish UNOGBIS.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2009/29 (5 November 2009) welcomed the planning for the transition of UNOGBIS to UNIOGBIS.
  • S/PRST/2009/6 (9 April 2009) welcomed the convening of the presidential election for 28 June 2009 and urged credible polls.
  • S/PRST/2009/2 (3 March 2009) condemned the assassination of President Vieira and the chief of the armed forces of Guinea-Bissau, and urged continued adherence to stability, constitutional order, the rule of law and the democratic process.
  • S/PRST/2007/38 (24 October 2007) called on the Guinean-Bissau government and the UN system to take further action on drug trafficking and organised crime.

Selected Letters

  • S/2009/56 (30 January 2009) and S/2009/55 (27 January 2009) was the exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the president of the Council on the appointment of Joseph Mutaboba as the Secretary-General’s Representative in Guinea-Bissau and head of UNOGBIS.
  • S/2008/778 (22 December 2008) and S/2008/777 (10 December 2008) was the exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the president of the Council that revised and extended the UNOGBIS mandate to 30 June 2009 and requested recommendations on establishment of an integrated UN Office in Guinea-Bissau by 15 June 2009.
  • S/2008/208 (25 March 2008) was a letter from the chairperson of the PBC to the president of the Security Council providing advice on the peacebuilding priorities for Guinea-Bissau.
  • S/2008/87 (28 December 2007) was the letter from the chair of the PBC informing the president of the Council about the placement of Guinea-Bissau on the PBC’s agenda.
  • S/1999/232 (26 Fenruary 1999) welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish UNOGBIS.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/335 (24 June 2010) was the latest report of the Secretary-General.
  • S/2008/628 (29 September 2008) contained the Secretary-General’s proposal that a panel be set up a panel of experts to investigate the identity and activities of those involved in drug trafficking and organised crime in Guinea-Bissau with the possibility of taking measures, including sanctions, to curb those activities.

Other

  • SC/9900 (1 April 2010) was a press statement issued by the Council expressing concern about the military developments in Guinea-Bissau.
  • PBC/4/GNB/1 (16 December 2009) was the progress report on the implementation of the Peacebuilding Strategic Framework for Guinea-Bissau.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNIOGBIS

Joseph Mutaboba (Rwanda)

Duration

1 January 2010 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2010.

Full forecast

 

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