Expected Council Action
In November, the Council expects to be briefed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), José Ramos-Horta. It is also expected that Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) country-specific configuration for Guinea-Bissau, will address the Council, as well as representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). Earlier in the month, the Council will receive concurrent reports from the Secretary-General on Guinea-Bissau: the 180-day report on the activities of UNIOGBIS and the 90-day report on the restoration of constitutional order. A press statement is possible as an outcome.
Key Recent Developments
On 5 September, Ramos-Horta addressed Council members in consultations on the last quarterly report on the restoration of constitutional order (S/2013/499). The Special Representative told the Council that national elections scheduled for 24 November could again be delayed, mostly due to a lack of progress in implementing a voter registration system. According to Ramos-Horta, there were two options for manual voter registration: a less expensive option could make elections possible in February, and a more costly but secure option would allow for elections in May (both would be after the previously agreed deadline of 31 December for the end of the transitional period). He noted that the government had expressed a preference for the second option.
Ramos-Horta also told the Council that Transitional President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo would be sending letters to the Secretary-General requesting the UN to establish two commissions of inquiry: one to investigate past political violence in Guinea-Bissau and the other to document drug trafficking in the country. At press time, Council members were not aware of whether the Secretary-General had received these letters.
On 11 September, the Council issued a press statement urging Guinea-Bissau to hold presidential and legislative elections by 31 December (SC/11118).
On 18 September, in a press release, the AU called for urgent international financial support for the elections. President Alassane Outtara of Côte d’Ivoire echoed this call, as chair of ECOWAS, in the General Assembly on 25 September.
Seven of the eight foreign ministers of the CPLP (excluding Guinea-Bissau) met on 25 September on the margins of the General Assembly. The consensus from their discussions on Guinea-Bissau was that conditions did not exist in the country for free, fair and transparent elections, and, in particular, security conditions were insufficient. Nhamadjo, however, told the General Assembly on 26 September that the transitional government intended to meet the 24 November date for elections.
In other developments, an amnesty bill for the 12 April coup leaders failed to pass in the National Assembly on 10 September. The bill received the backing of 40 members, falling short of the 51 votes required for adoption.
On 8 October, mobs in Bissau attacked Nigerian nationals and threw stones at Nigeria’s embassy. One Nigerian was killed. The ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) eventually assisted the police in restoring order. The attacks followed several recent kidnappings in Bissau, with the 8 October incident triggered by the abduction of a seven-year-old boy, whose kidnappers were rumoured to be Nigerian. Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, according to press reports, claimed that accusations against Nigerians were politically motivated by individuals seeking to undermine the ECOWAS mission. ECOWAS military chiefs of staff travelled to Guinea-Bissau to meet with transitional authorities about the incident.
ECOWAS and the EU condemned the attacks in separate statements. ECOWAS, on 11 October, reaffirmed its commitment to conclude the transition period by 31 December, while the EU condemned intimidation of civilians by the military.
Timor-Leste announced on 24 October that it was sending an electoral support mission to Guinea-Bissau, with funding of $6 million, to assist in preparations for the elections.
Following an ECOWAS regional summit on October 25, it was reported that Nhamadjo, who attended the meeting, would hold consultations in Guinea-Bissau to determine a new election date.
The principal issue for the Council is learning when the elections will be held. Since it appears that the elections will need to be delayed (voter registration has not started), members will want to know a precise timeframe for rescheduling them. It seems that Ramos-Horta has been pushing for a February date.
A closely related issue is finalising an agreement on the type of manual voter registration system and progress towards its implementation.
Obtaining donor support to finance the elections is a related issue. The electoral climate, such as freedom of expression and the security of candidates, is also important.
Council members will be very interested in learning whether the Secretary-General has received the letters that, according to Ramos-Horta, Guinea-Bissau was planning to send requesting UN commissions of inquiries.
Other issues include progress by ECOMIB in its security sector reform efforts, as well as the problems of drug trafficking and organised crime. UNIOGBIS was given a new anti-drug component when the Council revised its mandate in May. Members may want an update on the status of this work.
Ramos-Horta’s dialogue with the military and its assurances that it will stay out of politics is another area of interest. The humanitarian situation, which has deteriorated since the 12 April 2012 coup, is also of concern.
The Council may wish to consider the following options:
- issuing a presidential or press statement that reiterates the need for Guinea-Bissau to hold elections as soon as possible;
- issuing a statement to endorse any new date for elections that ECOWAS and Guinea-Bissau agree to;
- issuing a statement with a specific date for holding national elections; or
- issuing a statement that endorses commissions of inquiries into past political crimes and drug trafficking, if Guinea-Bissau requests them.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Although the CPLP and ECOWAS had divergent views on Guinea-Bissau after the 12 April 2012 coup, which filtered into the Security Council, there is now a high degree of unity within the Council on Guinea-Bissau as all members want elections to be held as soon as possible. Moreover, the Council tends to follow the lead of ECOWAS. If ECOWAS announces a new date for elections, including beyond the 2013 transition period, the Council is likely to acquiesce.
For ECOWAS, a delay beyond the transition period would be the second time that the bloc has missed its scheduled deadline for restoring constitutional order and could be embarrassing. At the same time, Council members and other stakeholders seem to realise that the situation requires some flexibility.
Council members continue to be impressed by Ramos-Horta’s performance and support his strategy, though there might be growing concern that some of his predictions have not materialised.
Togo is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolutions|
|22 May 2013 S/RES/2103||This resolution revised the mandate and structure of UNIOGBIS and extended it for one year.|
|18 May 2012 S/RES/2048||This resolution imposed travel bans on coup leaders and set up a new sanctions committee.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|21 April 2012 S/PRST/2012/15||This statement was on the coup in Guinea-Bissau.|
|21 August 2013 S/2013/499||This report of the Secretary-General was on the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.|
|6 May 2013 S/2013/262||This was a consolidated report of the Secretary-General on UNIOGBIS and the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|11 September 2013 SC/11118||This press statement urged credible and transparent elections by the end of 2013.|