Expected Council Action
While no meetings are currently scheduled, according to the terms of resolution 2203, the Council may review in September the Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime and possibly adopt a resolution. The 2048 Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime is open-ended and the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) expires on 29 February 2016.
Key Recent Developments
Guinea-Bissau experienced a political crisis in August as tensions persisted between President José Mário Vaz and Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira. The issue between the two leaders stemmed in part from differences over their interpretation of the constitution and the president’s role in government decision-making. By early August, it became clear that Vaz intended to dissolve the government.
On 6 August, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon telephoned Vaz to urge restraint. Senegal’s President Mackey Sall, who is also the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Guinea-Conakry’s President Alpha Condé met with Vaz in Dakar on 7 August to encourage him to back down from his plan to dissolve the government.
The political bureau of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which is the party of both Vaz and Simões Pereira, convened a meeting on 8 August about the crisis. A statement was issued that condemned Vaz’s actions and warned of the possible withdrawal of confidence, which could trigger a “direct, political and judicial struggle for his removal.” It called on Vaz to resume dialogue with other state figures, in particular Simões Pereira.
Despite these efforts, Vaz announced on 12 August that he had decided to dismiss the government. On 15 August, the PAIGC renominated Simões Pereira as prime minister. Vaz, however, proceeded to appoint and swear-in Baciro Djá, formerly a presidential adviser, as prime minister on 20 August. At a special session on 22 August, Guinea-Bissau’s National Assembly issued a statement that “vehemently condemned” Djá’s appointment, noting that he “was not proposed by the party which won the last legislative elections, in this case the PAIGC.” Two days later, the National Assembly adopted a resolution stating it would pursue legal means, including through the Supreme Court, to depose Djá.
Amidst this crisis, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun briefed Council members under “any other business” during consultations on 10 August. Council members subsequently issued a press statement on 12 August, just before Vaz’s announcement. The statement welcomed the ongoing efforts of regional and international actors to encourage dialogue, in particular the efforts of Sall, Condé and Special Representative and head of UNIOGBIS Miguel Trovoada. In light of Vaz’s decision to dissolve the government, Zerihoun briefed Council members again in consultations on 14 August. Following this meeting, Council members issued a second press statement calling on leaders to seek dialogue and consensus, and underscoring the importance of the non-interference of security forces in the political situation.
At press, the Council was scheduled to be briefed on 28 August by Trovoada on the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNIOGBIS’s activities and the situation in the country. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau configuration, was also expected to brief.
On 11 August, the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee was briefed by the Secretariat on the assessment it conducted, as mandated by resolution 2203, of progress in Guinea-Bissau since the restoration of constitutional order and recommendations on continuing the Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime. The Secretary-General’s report concluded that the root causes of fragility still exist and recommended that the Council maintain the existing sanctions. The sanctions consist of a travel ban currently applied to 11 individuals involved in the 12 April 2012 coup. The Secretary-General noted that the sanctions can continue to have a deterrent effect on potential spoilers, while the criteria established by the Council to impose sanctions remain relevant.
The Secretary-General additionally recommended that the Council establish a two-person Panel of Experts to assist the 2048 Sanctions Committee (it is one of the three out of the 16 existing sanctions committees that does not have a monitoring mechanism to assist it). For its mandate, he proposed the Panel could “identify those who meet the designation criteria for targeted measures” with “specific attention…to those who undermine the process of national dialogue and reconciliation, perpetrate acts of human rights violations, impede the security sector and judicial reform processes, undermine the process of State-building and peacebuilding through corruption and organised crime and misappropriate the country’s natural resources.”
He further recommended that the Council elaborate benchmarks for ending the sanctions and that the Committee review the current individuals who are designated to determine whether they still meet the designation criteria.
In making his recommendations, the Secretary-General stressed that the sanctions are widely regarded in Guinea-Bissau as the only serious existing measure of accountability against those who perpetrated the coup.
A key immediate issue is whether to adopt the Secretary-General’s recommendations.
A broader ongoing issue is supporting efforts to resolve the current political crisis and ensuring that the progress Guinea-Bissau has made since the restoration of constitutional order in 2014 is not lost.
Regarding the sanctions review, the Council could adopt a resolution in accordance with the recommendations of the Secretary-General that:
- maintains the sanctions and designation criteria against those who threaten the stability and constitutional order of Guinea-Bissau, while declaring its readiness to adopt additional sanctions measures and designations;
- establishes a panel of experts and benchmarks for lifting the sanctions; and
- requests the Committee to review currently designated individuals.
Another option is maintaining the sanctions regime in accordance with the Secretary-General’s recommendations without establishing a panel of experts. The Council could also decide not to take any action at this time.
Regarding the political crisis, a small Council mission could be dispatched to Guinea-Bissau to support UN and regional mediation efforts, stressing the need to resolve the current dispute through the creation of an inclusive government.
Earlier this year when the Council requested the Secretariat’s assessment on continuing the sanctions, a number of members seemed inclined to end the sanctions since their main purpose—to pressure the April 2012 coup leaders to bring about the restoration of constitutional order—had been achieved. The recent political crisis seems to have strengthened arguments that the country’s continuing fragility, despite last year’s elections, makes the sanctions a valuable tool for deterring spoilers. In the Sanctions Committee’s 11 August meeting, no member expressed opposition to continuing the sanctions, and most seemed to support maintaining them. At press time, the level of support for establishing a panel of experts was unclear, though members have expressed interest in the Secretary-General’s proposals. Other considerations may be whether it would be more appropriate to follow up on his recommendations after the political crisis has subsided or, conversely, if acting upon the recommendations now could have a positive impact on the situation.
Regarding the political crisis, the Council often follows the lead of key regional actors when considering Guinea-Bissau. Both Nigeria, as a member of ECOWAS and main contributor to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau, and Angola, as a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, are keenly interested in developments in the country. Recently Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed former president Olusegun Obasanjo as a special envoy to mediate in the crisis.
Nigeria is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau and the chair of the 2048 Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolution|
|18 February 2015 S/RES/2203||This was a resolution renewing UNIOGBIS until 29 February 2016.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|14 August 2015 SC/12007||This press statement called on leaders to seek dialogue and consensus in resolving the crisis and underscored the importance of the non-interference of security forces in the political situation.|
|12 August 2015 SC/12005||This press statement called on Guinea-Bissau’s political leadership to resume dialogue.|
|13 August 2015 S/2015/626||This was a report on the activities of UNIOGBIS and developments in Guinea-Bissau.|
|12 August 2015 S/2015/619||This report contained a set of recommendations on the Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime.|