Expected Council Action
In August, the Council will receive a briefing on Guinea-Bissau from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Miguel Trovoada, followed by consultations. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), the chair of the Guinea-Bissau country configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), may also brief.
The 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee plans to consider a report from the Secretariat regarding the continuation of the sanctions regime before an expected Council review in September.
No outcome is expected in August. The mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) expires on 29 February 2016.
Key Recent Developments
Guinea-Bissau continued to make progress on governance and economic reforms since last year’s presidential and legislative elections that restored constitutional order following the 12 April 2012 coup. A donors’ conference on 25 March in Brussels raised $1.5 billion for Guinea-Bissau’s ten-year national development plan. Guinea-Bissau has also benefitted from short-term programmes that the government initiated, including improvements in electrical service and water supply, the timely payment of civil servants’ salaries and increased customs revenues. The International Monetary Fund has projected that the country will see a 4.7 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2015.
Despite progress in advancing reforms, tensions escalated between President José Mário Vaz and Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira. As concerns increased over the situation, Senegal, whose president, Macky Sall, is the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), sent its foreign minister to Guinea-Bissau to meet with both Vaz and Simões Pereira. Amidst rumours that Vaz wanted to change the government, Simões Pereira requested a special session of parliament, which was held on 25 June. At the session, parliament passed a motion of confidence in the Simões Pereira-led government. Vaz subsequently sent a declaration to the parliament, stating he never intended to change the government. Since then, tensions seem to have dissipated. The tensions between Vaz and Simões Pereira have been attributed to differences over interpreting the constitution and past practices regarding the president’s role in government decision-making.
In late May, there were renewed concerns about the risk of Ebola spreading to Guinea-Bissau. The Boke district in Guinea along Guinea-Bissau’s border experienced an upsurge in Ebola cases. At least one sick person was believed to have crossed the border several times. The head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, Peter Graaff, visited Guinea-Bissau on 24 and 25 June. While commenting at a press conference that more should be done to improve response capacity, Graaff noted his pleasure with the government’s engagement in dealing with the threat and cross-border cooperation between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
At a 16 April configuration meeting, members emphasised that countries must fulfil the pledges they made at the donors’ conference. Discussion also focused on a recent UN-led security sector reform (SSR) mission. Additionally, Patriota noted with concern the Council’s emphasis on drug trafficking in resolution 2203 when it renewed UNIOGBIS’s mandate in February. Patriota said that this emphasis was no longer warranted and unfairly stigmatised the country.
Patriota visited Guinea-Bissau from 19 to 21 April. He met with Vaz, Simões Pereira and a number of other government officials. Meetings with international partners in the country included the force commander of the ECOWAS Security Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB). In his report on the mission, Patriota highlighted the optimism in the country despite Guinea-Bissau’s institutional fragility. He noted that according to interlocutors, ECOMIB plays the essential roles of deterrence and providing assurance to the authorities. The PBC was asked to mobilise financial support for maintaining the force. Since the constitutional reform process will take time, the chair noted that it was important for political leaders to show personal responsibility for defusing possible conflicts.
In renewing the mandate of UNIOGBIS in resolution 2203, the Council requested the Secretariat to submit a report within six months to the 2048 Sanctions Committee on progress in stabilising Guinea-Bissau and restoring constitutional order, and to make recommendations regarding the sanctions regime’s continuation. It further decided that in seven months the Council would review the sanctions, which consist of a travel ban created in resolution 2048 and is currently imposed on eleven individuals involved in the 2012 coup.
During August, the Committee will receive this report. The report is expected to assess the contribution made by the sanctions in restoring constitutional order and the role that they currently play, and to provide recommendations. During the report’s preparation, options were considered on the future of the regime ranging from lifting sanctions, through maintaining them to strengthening them, such as by targeting those involved in illicit trafficking activities.
An important issue is the state of the relationship between the president and prime minister.
Sustained international attention to Guinea-Bissau to help the government implement its reform agenda and SSR is critical to avoid a reversal in progress.
Related to this are efforts to combat corruption, illegal natural resource exploitation and drug trafficking.
Regarding the upcoming sanctions review, a key issue is whether to lift, maintain or strengthen sanctions.
The Council could issue a press statement:
- welcoming ongoing progress in consolidating the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau and the government’s commitment to implement reforms;
- stressing the importance of inclusive political dialogue, in particular between the president, prime minister and speaker of the parliament;
- encouraging further advances in the constitutional review process and national reconciliation;
- appreciating ECOMIB’s ongoing role in providing security and assisting the SSR process; and
- urging donors to quickly fulfil their pledges and to continue to support Guinea-Bissau’s reforms.
The Council has tended to follow the lead of Guinea-Bissau’s partners, ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). Council member Nigeria is ECOMIB’s main contributor and has previously expressed its desire for greater burden-sharing regarding the mission. Angola, a CPLP state, is also keenly interested in developments in Guinea-Bissau. During negotiations to renew UNIOGBIS’s mandate, Angola had sought to reduce language in the resolution on drug trafficking, which it argued no longer accurately represented the situation and maintained a negative impression of the country despite its progress.
Regarding the upcoming sanctions review, it seems that there are diverging preferences among members over keeping the regime. Arguments for ending the sanctions include that their main purpose—to pressure the April 2012 coup leaders and bring about the restoration of constitutional order—was achieved more than a year ago with successful elections. It is also pointed out that the travel ban restrictions have never been properly enforced. Alternatively, some members consider that despite its progress, Guinea-Bissau remains fragile. Resolution 2048 additionally included as criteria for imposing sanctions actions that undermine the country’s stability. Some argue that Guinea-Bissau has never completed a full democratic cycle, and there is still a deterrent value in the sanctions. On 12 June, the EU renewed its asset-freeze and travel-ban sanctions against individuals in Guinea-Bissau, and EU Council members are likely to be among countries that will support maintaining the regime.
Nigeria is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau and the chair of the 2048 Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolutions|
|18 February 2015 S/RES/2203||This was a resolution renewing UNIOGBIS until 29 February 2016.|
|19 January 2015 S/2015/37||This was a report on the activities of UNIOGBIS, including the findings of the UN strategic assessment mission to Guinea-Bissau.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|5 February 2015 S/PV.7376||This was a briefing by Special Representative Miguel Trovoada on the Secretary-General’s Guinea-Bissau report and strategic assessment of UNIOGBIS.|