Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) which expires on 31 May. A briefing and consultations on Guinea-Bissau are planned. Special Representative of the Secretary-General José Ramos-Horta is expected to brief, as is the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and its Guinea-Bissau configuration, Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil). The Council will be considering the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the restoration of constitutional order and the biannual report on UNIOGBIS.
Key Recent Developments
The presidential and parliamentary elections, ultimately held on 13 April (and with a presidential run-off set for 18 May), have been key to developments for many months now. Meant to restore constitutional order following the 12 April 2012 coup, the electoral process experienced a number of challenges. Voter registration, conducted between 1 December 2013 and 10 February, succeeded in enrolling approximately 95 percent of an estimated 810,000 eligible voters. Yet shortly after, on 21 February, transitional president Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo postponed elections, for a second time, from 16 March to 13 April.
The largest political party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), overcame internal divisions at its congress, held from 30 January to 11 February, and elected Domingos Simões Pereira as party chairman (who would become prime minister in the event of a PAIGC victory). Several weeks later, the PAIGC chose José Mario Vaz, a former finance minister and Bissau city council president, as its presidential candidate, effectively ending the presidential aspirations of Carlos Gomes Júnior, the exiled former party leader and leading presidential candidate before the coup.
On 18 March, the Supreme Court released the list of 15 parties eligible to contest the legislative elections and 13 presidential candidates, which included five independents in addition to Vaz, whose nomination had been challenged by the prosecutor general. Divisions within the Social Renewal Party (PRS), the second largest party, led to three PRS members, in addition to its official candidate, running as independents. These included Nuno Gomes Nabiam, who had the backing of PRS founder and former president Kumba Yala, and General Antonio Indjai, the head of the military. Official campaigning began on 22 March.
Heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met from 28-29 March and in a final communiqué directed ECOWAS to take all necessary measures to ensure the success of the elections and extended the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) until the end of 2014. The new ECOWAS chair, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, visited Guinea-Bissau on 10 April, meeting and urging military officials not to interfere in the elections. There had been concerns that Indjai was trying to influence the outcome in favour of Nabiam, and that candidates had received threats.
On 3 April, the Council was briefed on election preparations during consultations under “Any Other Business” by UN political affairs head Jeffrey Feltman. Later that day, the Council issued a press statement condemning intimidation and violence and calling for free and fair elections (SC/11345). It also recalled its willingness to consider sanctions against spoilers. The PBC Guinea-Bissau configuration had issued a similar press statement two days earlier.
On 4 April, Kumba Yala died of a heart attack. Campaigning was suspended for three days.
With more than 400 international observers on hand as monitors, voters went to the polls on 13 April without incident. Turnout totalled nearly 90 percent. The PAIGC won 57 of the National Assembly’s 102 seats. The PRS took 41 seats. Since no presidential candidate received an outright majority, a run-off election was scheduled for 18 May between the top two finishers—Vaz, who garnered 40.98 percent of the vote, and Nabiam, whose 25.14 percent share was somewhat of a surprise due to the PRS’s divisions. The AU Peace and Security Council announced on 16 April that following the election of the president, Guinea-Bissau would be invited to resume participation at the AU.
The Council also met on Guinea-Bissau on 26 February. Ramos-Horta discussed, in addition to the electoral process, his proposed Governance Efficacy Amelioration Programme to reform the country’s public administration. If implemented, international experts would be imbedded in different ministries to mentor officials and provide oversight of international funds. A Council press statement after the meeting recalled its 9 December 2013 presidential statement that warned spoilers that they would be subject to targeted sanctions (SC/11299).
Human Rights-Related Developments
During a visit to Guinea-Bissau from 24 February to 1 March, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, called for systematic structural changes to tackle impunity, ensure access to justice, and address education and agricultural reforms and gender inequality. Sepúlveda voiced particular concerns about the situation of women and children. She stressed that the rights and needs of women and girls are neglected: compared with men, women suffer from worse access to health services, higher incidence of HIV/AIDS, lower levels of school enrolment and literacy, reduced incomes, higher rates of unemployment and greater difficulties in overcoming poverty. In addition, sexual and gender-based violence and child labour are prevalent.
The key immediate issue for the Council is the successful completion of the electoral process. (There remain concerns that Indjai and the military could interfere as was the case in 2012 when the coup occurred days before the run-off election.)
Renewing UNIOGBIS’s mandate will be another key issue in May. The presidential run-off is to be held only 13 days before UNIOGBIS’s mandate expires. If the electoral process is completed successfully, mandated activities for supporting the restoration of constitutional order could change in favour of more statebuilding assistance, though the Council will not have much time to consider such revisions.
Security sector reform and ensuring that the military stays out of politics are ongoing issues. (These are connected to questions over amnesty for coup leaders, downsizing the military and pensions. They are also related to drug trafficking and other illicit activities that fuel corruption in the military and government.)
The formation of a national unity government is considered critical to break the cycle of coups and political violence.
The very fragile humanitarian situation, exacerbated by the suspension of most assistance following the 2012 coup, remains a serious issue.
Monitoring the situation prior to the run-off election very closely and being ready to react should there be reasons for concern is an immediate option.
Welcoming the successful conclusion of the electoral process in a statement is an option if events warrant this.
With regard to the renewal of the UNIOGBIS mandate, if the electoral process concludes successfully, options include:
• authorising a technical roll-over of UNIOGBIS to allow the Council more time to revise the mandate; or
• updating the mandate to reduce the mission’s activities to restore constitutional order and instead strengthening its statebuilding activities;
• expressing support for Ramos-Horta’s public administration plan; and
• lifting sanctions to encourage the military to respect the election results.
Conducting a visiting mission to Guinea-Bissau to show support for the elected leaders, encourage a national unity government, and signal the Council’s ongoing attention, is a further option.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council tends to follow ECOWAS’s lead on Guinea-Bissau. Recent Council statements threatening further sanctions have sought to support the regional organisation’s efforts and those of UNIOGBIS to hold elections.
Within the Council, African countries closely support Nigeria, the penholder on Guinea-Bissau, and an ECOWAS member which also provides most of the personnel for ECOMIB. Latin American and some European members support the positions of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). However, divisions between the CPLP and ECOWAS that once permeated the Council have dissipated.
Following recent news reports about Ramos-Horta’s plans for stepping down, Council members will likely be interested in the timing and his possible successors.
UN Documents on Guinea-Bissau
|Security Council Resolution|
|22 May 2013 S/RES/2103||This resolution revised the mandate and structure of UNIOGBIS and extended it for one year.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|9 December 2013 S/PRST/2013/19||This presidential statement called for timely and credible elections in Guinea-Bissau, and threatened targeted sanctions.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|3 April 2014 SC/11345||This press statement repeated calls that elections should not be delayed or interfered with.|
|26 February 2014 SC/11299||This press statement urged Guinea-Bissau to hold elections without delay and threatened targeted sanctions.|