Expected Council Action
In February, the Council will likely renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for a limited period of three months, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his latest report on developments in the country and on the activities of the office (S/2013/26). This would allow the newly-appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNIOGBIS, José Ramos–Horta (Timor-Leste), to make a thorough assessment of the situation in the country and for the Secretary-General to recommend a new mandate for the mission in May. Jeffrey Feltman, the head of the Department of Political Affairs, is expected to brief the Council, to be followed by consultations. It is likely that the Council will then adopt a resolution extending the current mandate of the mission for three months.
The mandate of UNIOGBIS expires on 28 February.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s 11 January report covers developments in the country since 17 July 2012. It documents a series of regressive steps the country has taken during those months, citing serious deterioration of the security situation and grave violations of human rights and the rule of law following an alleged coup attempt on 21 October. These violations included, the report said, “politically-motivated assassinations” with “total impunity” and, according to the report, dashed all hopes that the country would pursue political inclusiveness leading to the restoration of constitutional order.
According to the report, aside from targeting certain military officers for assassinations, the “transitional government” (which is not recognised by the UN) has during the reporting period targeted for abuse senior members of the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), which was in power until the coup of 22 April 2012. (On 22 January, deposed Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior was named PAIGC presidential candidate by the PAIGC and will contest presidential elections whenever they are held.)
Meanwhile, the economy of the country has collapsed, with the growth rate estimated to have declined from 5.3 percent in 2011 to negative 1.5 percent in 2012, according to the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Office in West Africa of 31 December 2012 (S/2012/977). All major financial and donor agencies, including the African Development Bank, the EU, the World Bank and the IMF, have maintained their suspension of assistance to the country since the coup. During the reporting period, the transitional government faced a $50 million budget deficit. Contributions by Nigeria ($10.6 million), Côte d’Ivoire ($2 million) and the West African Monetary Union ($5.5 million) barely allowed the government to pay salaries of the military and civil servants.
Council members were last briefed on Guinea-Bissau on 11 December 2012 by Joseph Mutaboba, the outgoing head of UNIOGBIS. (Prior to this briefing, on 9 October, the transitional government wrote to the Secretary-General requesting the replacement of Mutaboba on the grounds that he did not serve the interest of the transition programme underway.) On 13 December, members issued a press statement expressing “serious concern” over the lack of progress in the restoration of constitutional order in the country (SC/10857). On 2 January, the Secretary-General named Ramos–Horta, former President of Timor-Leste and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as Mutaboba’s replacement.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a communiqué on 19 January stating that it was satisfied with progress in the transition and vowing to assist Guinea-Bissau in the holding of “inclusive, free, fair and transparent elections.”
From 16-21 December, the AU, which suspended Guinea-Bissau shortly after the coup, led a joint assessment mission to the country comprising personnel also from ECOWAS, the EU, the UN, and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. On 26 January, the AU convened a meeting in Addis Ababa of all the organisations involved in the joint assessment, including the UN (represented by Feltman and Ramos–Horta). The result of the meeting was agreement to send a second joint assessment mission to Guinea-Bissau once the “transitional government” adopted a “transition road map” agreed to by the National Assembly (which is dominated by PAIGC).
Earlier, on 21 January, news reports quoted Transitional President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo as saying that holding general elections planned for May would be impossible for technical reasons (the previous arrangement brokered by ECOWAS had scheduled the elections for April).
Human Rights-Related Developments
The latest Secretary-General’s report on UNIOGBIS noted ongoing serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, house searches and cases of individuals suspected of political involvement being threatened, abducted, beaten up and abandoned in unknown locations on the outskirts of the capital. Some of the alleged perpetrators were said to be wearing uniforms and others were in civilian clothing. The Secretary-General urged the de facto authorities to “take swift action to fight impunity and promote justice.”
The key issue for the Council remains the return of constitutional rule to Guinea-Bissau following free, fair and transparent elections.
The implementation of comprehensive security sector reforms (with an emphasis on civilian control of the military), respect for the rule of law and an end to impunity are important underlying issues.
An ongoing issue is Guinea-Bissau’s involvement in international narcotics trafficking, particularly as recent reports indicate that key military leaders who control the state are implicated in the trafficking.
Options for the Council include:
- adopting a resolution extending without modification the mandate of UNIOGBIS by three months pending a report by the Secretary-General on the need for a new mandate for the office;
- adopting a resolution granting a new political mandate to UNIOGBIS for a period of one year (a less likely option); or
- establishing a panel of experts to assist the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee in monitoring the violations to the sanctions regime in place (an unlikely option).
Council and Wider Dynamics
Guinea-Bissau presents a critical challenge to the Council: how to balance the interests of an important regional partner—ECOWAS, which brokered the agreement leading to the establishment of the transitional government—against the principle of respect for constitutionality and the rule of law. ECOWAS has been urging the AU to the lift its suspension of Guinea-Bissau, a position it reiterated in its 19 January communiqué. The AU for its part has been more cautious, and has insisted on seeing concrete progress in the political transition process before doing so.
As the only ECOWAS member currently on the Council, Togo firmly supports the transitional government. The US, a close ally of ECOWAS, is critical of the lack of constitutionality in Guinea-Bissau but appears nevertheless to support the efforts and agenda of ECOWAS in Guinea-Bissau. The EU members of the Council remain united in their lack of support for the current government in Guinea-Bissau, despite the acknowledged need to work with ECOWAS on the pressing issue of Mali and the wider Sahel.
Council members are generally of the opinion that the mandate of UNIOGBIS needs to be radically changed to warrant an extension beyond the three months necessary for the new head of UNIOGBIS to make an assessment of what needs to be done in the country in the short, medium and long terms.
Togo is the lead country on Guinea-Bissau, and Morocco is the chair of the 2048 Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Guinea-Bissau
|Security Council Resolutions|
|18 May 2012S/RES/2048||This resolution imposed travel bans on coup leaders and set up a new sanctions committee.|
|21 December 2011S/RES/2030||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNIOGBIS until 28 February 2013.|
|11 January 2013S/2013/26||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNIOGBIS covering developments since 17 July 2012.|
|31 December 2012S/2012/977||This was the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|13 December 2012SC/10857||This expressed serious concern over the lack of progress in the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNIOGBIS
José Manuel Ramos–Horta (Timor-Leste)
UNIOGBIS Size and Composition
Strength as of 30 November 2012: 61 international civilians; 53 local civilians; two military advisers; 16 police; five UN volunteers
1 January 2010 – 28 February 2013
Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the PBC
Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti (Brazil)
ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB)
Strength as of 6 November 2012: 629 soldiers and police (contributing countries: Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Senegal) Duration: May 2012 – 17 May 2013