Expected Council Action
In February, the Council is expected to have a briefing and hold consultations on Guinea-Bissau. José Ramos-Horta, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), will brief the Council as it considers the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau. Other expected speakers are Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), as chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), and representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.
It is likely that the Council will issue a presidential or a press statement.
Key Recent Developments
Transitional President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo issued a decree on 15 November rescheduling national elections from 24 November 2013 to 16 March 2014, marking the second time that a deadline to restore constitutional order would be missed.
When Ramos-Horta briefed the Council on 26 November 2013, he reported a deterioration in the human rights and security situation that threatened the holding of credible elections. During consultations, he asked the Council to consider visiting Guinea-Bissau to send a strong signal about keeping to the new electoral date.
In a presidential statement adopted on 9 December, the Council called for timely and credible national elections and warned potential spoilers of possible sanctions (S/PRST/2013/19). The statement also welcomed an ECOWAS plan to reinforce the ECOWAS mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB).
The long-delayed voter registration began on 1 December and was to run until 31 December. The elections commission president, Augusto Mendes, issued a statement on 17 December noting that the process was behind schedule due to, inter alia, insufficient electoral kits and inadequate training of Guinea-Bissau nationals in their use. He recommended a minimum of 400 electoral kits. As of late January, there were approximately 200 functioning kits, comprising laptops, webcams, generators and fingerprint and barcode readers, of which 150 had been provided by Timor-Leste and 50 by Nigeria (Nigeria sent 300 total kits, but most have not worked). During multi-stakeholder consultations over the weekend of 4-5 January, it was decided that voter registration would be extended to 31 January.
Addressing the media on 27 January, Nhamadjo said that 72 percent of the estimated 810,000 potential voters, including in the diaspora, had been registered. He suggested that authorities could extend the registration by several days, but would not change the 16 March election date.
Earlier, Koumba Yalá of the Social Renewal Party (PRS) announced on 1 January that he was retiring from political life and would not run for president. Yalá would have faced ousted former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior in the 2012 run-off presidential election had it not been interrupted by the 12 April 2012 coup.
In other developments, an amnesty law for the coup leaders was reintroduced in the National Assembly on 6 December, which the assembly has yet to act on.
The crew of a TAP Portugal passenger plane was forced to board 74 Syrian refugees by authorities at the Bissau airport on a 10 December flight bound for Lisbon. The Syrians, who carried fake Turkish service passports, had travelled from Turkey then Morocco to Guinea-Bissau. After they landed in Portugal, where they sought asylum, Portugal suspended direct flights to Guinea-Bissau. In a press release, Ramos-Horta described the incident as likely part of a human-trafficking ring. Guinea-Bissau Foreign Minister Fernando Delfim da Silva resigned; several days later, Interior Minister Antonio Suka Tchama, who personally telephoned airline staff and demanded that the refugees be allowed to board, also resigned. Nhamadjo has yet to accept their resignations. Attorney-General Abdu Mane ordered that Tchama be arrested, but police have not done so citing security concerns.
On 4 January, Senegal detained a Russian fishing trawler with reportedly 62 Russians and 20 Guinea-Bissauans on board. Senegal said that the ship was illegally fishing without a permit in its waters near the Guinea-Bissau border. It had a Guinea-Bissau license. In the Secretary-General’s November report, it was noted that the Guinea-Bissau military has been negotiating fishing licenses with foreign fishing boats (S/2013/680).
Guinea-Bissau police and the National Guard tried to enter UNIOGBIS facilities in Buba on 16 January to search for Gomes Júnior, who is rumoured to have returned to the country. After about an hour, they left having been denied entry by UNIOGBIS.
Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission
From 20-23 January, Patriota, as chair of the PBC Guinea-Bissau configuration, visited the country. The mission was intended to show support for the elections and the efforts of UNIOGBIS, as well as to begin planning a post-electoral strategy for PBC reengagement.
The key issue of concern for the Council is the holding of elections and whether the 16 March date will be met.
In addition to completing voter registration, a key immediate issue is the need for the National Assembly to shorten several electoral deadlines, in particular the requirement that voter registration be completed at least 60 days before elections.
The pre-electoral climate, including the human rights situation and keeping the candidates and press free of intimidation, is also critical for credible elections.
Post-election plans to support a newly elected government and promoting a government of national unity are considered important in order to avoid a new coup.
Moving forward with structural reforms to break the cycle of military interference in politics and corruption is a related longer-term issue.
An emerging issue seems to be that as substitutes for a reported decline in drug-trafficking revenues since some high-profile arrests by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, other illicit activities have expanded. (In this context members may seek more information about human trafficking networks or illegal fishing.)
The Council may consider the following options:
- issuing a presidential or a press statement reiterating the importance of free and fair elections and reminding potential spoilers of possible sanctions;
- directing the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee to identify individuals for further sanctions if Ramos-Horta reports intentional delays in holding the elections; and
- undertaking a visiting mission to Guinea-Bissau.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council tends to be united on Guinea-Bissau and follows the lead of ECOWAS. With Nigeria having joined the Council on 1 January 2014, members may defer to its preferences.
Council members’ concerns about the situation were demonstrated by the warning of targeted sanctions in their recent presidential statement. However, with the voter registration moving forward, the Council may continue to show flexibility if another delay of elections appears likely. Much will depend on whether UNIOGBIS assesses the delays as technical or intentional.
To date, the 2048 Sanctions Committee has not been very active. With Nigeria now chairing the Committee and also being the penholder on Guinea-Bissau, as well as manning most of ECOMIB, this may result in a new dynamic and an increase in overall focus on Guinea-Bissau in the Council.
ECOWAS has sought financial and logistical support to reinforce ECOMIB but the P3 have made it clear that ECOWAS must support ECOMIB using its own resources.
As for a possible Council visiting mission to Guinea-Bissau, several members think that a visit will be more appropriate after the elections.
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|
|9 December 2013 S/PRST/2013/19||This was presidential statement calling for timely and credible elections in Guinea-Bissau.|
|19 November 2013 S/2013/680||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the restoration of constitutional order.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|11 September 2013 SC/11118||This press statement urged credible and transparent elections by the end of 2013.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 November 2013 S/PV.7070||This was a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jose Ramos-Horta on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the restoration of constitutional order and the activities of UNIOGBIS.|