Expected Council Action
In February, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), which expires on 28 February. Ahead of the renewal, Special Representative Miguel Trovoada is expected to brief on developments and the Secretary-General’s latest UNIOGBIS report. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), chair of the Guinea-Bissau country configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), will also brief.
Key Recent Developments
Political instability has continued to afflict Guinea-Bissau since President José Mário Vaz’s decision to dismiss Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira’s government on 12 August 2015. On 20 August, Vaz unilaterally appointed Baciro Djá as prime minister, a move that was condemned by the National Assembly since Djá was not nominated by the majority party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), to which all three men belong. The National Assembly appealed to the Supreme Court, which on 9 September ruled Djá’s appointment unconstitutional. Djá resigned and Vaz dismissed the government that he had appointed only days earlier.
It seemed that a compromise had been struck between Vaz and the PAIGC when Carlos Correia, an 84-year-old veteran politician who served as prime minister three times between 1991 and 2008, was appointed and sworn in as prime minister on 17 September. However, disagreements persisted between Vaz and Correia over the formation of the new government, with Vaz initially rejecting Correia’s proposed list of ministers. At last, on 13 October, Vaz appointed Correia’s proposed government, made up in large part from members of Simões Pereira’s former cabinet. The coveted ministries of Interior and Natural Resources, however, remained unfilled, to be temporarily overseen by Correia. The Party for Social Renewal (PRS), Guinea-Bissau’s second-largest party, which had participated in the administration of Simões Pereira, declined an invitation to join the new government.
A new political crisis emerged on 23 December 2015 when 15 PAIGC representatives in the National Assembly abstained during the vote on Correia’s proposed 2016 budget, preventing its adoption. According to Guinea-Bissau’s constitution, a second failed vote on the legislation would require the dissolution of the government. On 14 January, the PAIGC expelled the 15 legislators, including Djá and others close to Vaz, from the party. On 18 January, the expelled party members joined the opposition PRS, making it the new majority party. PRS leader Alberto Nambei declared himself speaker of the assembly. PAIGC leaders decried the developments as illegal. At press time, a second vote on the budget had been postponed indefinitely.
Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)
The Guinea-Bissau country configuration has remained active in considering the country’s political crisis, holding informal meetings on 17 August 2015, 21 October 2015 and, most recently, 20 January. It issued statements last year on 28 August, 26 October, and 15 December. At press time, a statement was expected in January as well.
At the 20 January meeting, Trovoada briefed via video teleconference on the prevailing political situation and recent developments in parliament. Paola Zacchia from the World Bank Regional Office in Dakar briefed the PBC configuration on the impact of the political situation on the economy. Configuration members all expressed concern over the unpredictability of the situation, along with discussing roles for ECOWAS, the International Contact Group and Trovoada to try to resolve the crisis.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto, visited Guinea-Bissau from 10 to 16 October 2015, to assess the functioning of the justice system in the country. In a 16 October statement she warned that the government must prioritise urgent measures to guarantee better access to justice and to rebuild the population’s trust in the justice system, where she observed serious dysfunctions and material deficiencies that contribute to corruption and impunity. She further stressed the importance of guaranteeing the security of judges, prosecutors and lawyers, as well as protecting victims and witnesses.
Guinea-Bissau’s political instability is a key issue, threatening to undermine the progress achieved following the restoration of constitutional order in 2014, including the disbursement of $1.2 billion that donors pledged in March 2015 to support the country’s five-year reform and economic-development programme.
Whether security forces will continue to refrain from interfering in political affairs in light of the deteriorating political situation is another key issue.
Related to this is advancing security sector reform, as well as the difficulty the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) faces in financing the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau, which is charged with security sector reform.
Considering how Trovoada’s good offices role and regional mediation efforts could be more effective is an important issue.
Another important issue for the Council to follow is the constitutional review to clarify the powers of the president and prime minister.
Also connected to the political instability are concerns that drug trafficking and illegal natural-resource exploitation could rise.
The Council may renew the mandate of UNIOGBIS, continuing to prioritise its good offices role, support for national dialogue and reconciliation and coordination of international assistance.
The resolution could express deep concern over the deterioration in the political situation and recall that Guinea-Bissau risks losing the funds pledged at the March 2015 donor conference in Brussels if political leaders fail to restore a government committed to the Strategic and Operational Plan 2015-2020. It could additionally recall that spoilers of Guinea-Bissau’s democratic consolidation could be subjected to existing travel-ban sanctions.
Another option is to use the Informal Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa as a tool to monitor ongoing developments in Guinea-Bissau more closely.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Last August, amidst the crisis involving Vaz and Simões Pereira, the Council became quite engaged in following developments, requesting two briefings on the situation. This was in addition to the Council’s regularly scheduled August semi-annual briefing and a meeting of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee to consider the Secretary-General’s findings from a review of the Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime. The Council had requested the review earlier in the year when it renewed the mandate of UNIOGBIS, with some members thinking at the time that the sanctions regime might be ended. The Secretary-General’s review, conducted before the crisis, recommended maintaining the sanctions, and the political crisis, which occurred when the Committee was considering the review, swayed members otherwise inclined to end the regime, that doing so would be premature.
Since then, the Council has been less engaged, which demonstrates its tendency to follow the lead of regional actors—ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP)—when dealing with Guinea-Bissau. While Guinea-Bissau is not a priority for most members, other Council members have taken a keen interest. Angola, which is a CPLP member, was quite vocal during last year’s negotiations on the UNIOGBIS mandate, feeling that the resolution did not sufficiently reflect the progress that Guinea-Bissau had achieved. Newly elected member Senegal is likely to take interest in Guinea-Bissau as an immediate neighbour. Its president, Macky Sall, is the current chairman of ECOWAS and has been involved in mediation efforts. During consultations on the UN Office for West Africa in January, Spain and Angola raised concerns over the situation in Guinea-Bissau, which were reflected in the 16 January press statement about the regional office that was drafted by Senegal. Senegal is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau. Uruguay chairs the 2048 Guinea-Bissau 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|
|15 January 2016 SC/12207||This was a press statement on the UN Office in West Africa, in which members expressed concern over Guinea-Bissau’s political tension and called on national leaders to sustain stability through dialogue.|
|21 September 2015 SC/12054||This was a press statement taking note of the appointment of Carlos Correia as Prime Minister and commended the respect for the constitution and the rule of law demonstrated by the Bissau-Guinean actors.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 August 2015 S/PV.7514||This was a briefing on Guinea-Bissau.|
|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.|