February 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2017
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Guinea-Bissau

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), which expires on 28 February. Also, Modibo Touré, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Guinea-Bissau, is expected to brief the Council. In addition, it is likely that Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), the chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), will brief the Council.

Key Recent Developments

Guinea-Bissau’s political crisis has continued despite the intensified meditation efforts of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS). The impasse has pitted President José Mário Vaz against his own African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) led by Domingos Simões Pereira, leaving the country without a functional government. 

On 10 September 2016, at the end of a high-level mediation mission to Guinea-Bissau by Guinean President Alpha Condé and President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Bissau-Guinean political actors agreed to a six-point roadmap. According to the roadmap, the sides should establish an inclusive dialogue process, form an inclusive consensus government to serve until the 2018 elections and conduct various governance reforms, including reform of the constitution to redefine the respective roles of the executive, parliament and judiciary. It also envisions implementing Guinea-Bissau’s security sector reform programme and gradually demobilising the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) after the formation of a Bissau-Guinean contingent to take over its functions protecting state institutions and officials. 

ECOWAS-hosted talks between Bissau-Guinean political leaders, along with civil society and religious leaders, were held from 11 to 14 October 2016 in Conakry, Guinea. On 14 October, the parties signed the ten-point Conakry Accord, which outlined in more detail plans for implementing the roadmap.

Since then, implementation of the accord has floundered as the sides have been unable to agree to a consensual prime minister and government, the starting point for taking forward the rest of the agreement. Vaz first delayed appointing a new prime minister despite having submitted three possible candidates to Guinea-Bissau’s parliamentary parties at the Conakry talks. Following the intervention of ECOWAS chair Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who went to Guinea-Bissau on 5 November 2016, Vaz dismissed Prime Minister Baciro Djá’s government on 14 November. Four days later, he appointed Umaro Sissoco Embalo as prime minister. The PAIGC claimed the appointment violated the roadmap and the Conakry Accord as Sissoco, a close confidant of Vaz, did not represent a consensual choice. A new government was finally announced on 12 December 2016. This was Guinea-Bissau’s fifth government since August 2015. It is composed of members of the country’s second-largest party, the Party for Social Renewal, three smaller parties in the National Assembly and two dissident members of the PAIGC.

At an ECOWAS summit in Abuja on 17 December 2016, West African leaders reaffirmed their deep concern over the inability of political stakeholders to reach a lasting and consensual solution, according to the summit communiqué. They also reaffirmed that the Conakry Accord remains the only framework for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, urged Vaz to comply with its provisions and called on all parties to strictly respect and comply with the agreement’s tenets. West African leaders also reiterated that ECOMIB should withdraw on 30 June 2017, directing the ECOWAS Commission to commence in the first quarter of 2017 operations for its gradual withdrawal. As of the end of January 2017, Guinea-Bissau’s National Assembly had not approved the government programme, leaving the state without a budget now for more than a year.

The Council kept abreast of developments during a 20 October 2016 briefing from Touré in consultations. Afterwards, members issued a press statement welcoming the Conakry agreement and encouraged Vaz to nominate the consensual prime minister as soon as possible. The Secretariat submitted a confidential note to Council members on 21 December 2016, stating its views that the PAIGC’s approval of a prime minister remains a precondition for complying with the Conakry Accord and resolving the impasse.

Developments in the PBC

Vieira became chair of the PBC’s Guinea-Bissau configuration in November 2016, replacing Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil). Previously, on 19 September 2016, the configuration issued a statement expressing support for the 6-point roadmap.

Key Issues

The political crisis and how the Council can further support efforts to resolve the impasse is the key issue.

Related to this is renewing UNIOGBIS’s mandate and considering any changes to its configuration.

Risks posed by the crisis, such as drug-trafficking, regional terrorist groups taking advantage of the situation, possible military interference and the deterioration of socio-economic conditions, represent ongoing concerns.

The future of ECOMIB is likely to be an important consideration.

Options

When renewing the mandate of UNIOGBIS, the Council could further prioritise the mission’s good offices functions.

In the resolution, the Council could state its willingness to consider imposing sanctions against individuals or groups that continue to impede implementation of measures to end the political impasse, in particular by violating or ignoring the Conakry Accord.

Council Dynamics

Senegal has performed the role of keeping the Council’s attention on Guinea-Bissau. As its neighbour, Guinea-Bissau’s stability has long been of paramount importance to Senegal, in particular to avoid the resurgence of conflict in its Casamance region. More broadly, members remain concerned about the risk of Guinea-Bissau’s military interfering, which would undo the international community’s efforts since the 2012 coup to stabilise the political situation. They are further concerned that the political stalemate or a deterioration of the situation could lead to an increase in transnational crime, such as drug trafficking and piracy, or be exploited by terrorist groups in the region.

There has been frustration that the Council’s actions, which included a visiting mission in March 2016, and the region’s close engagement with the country have been unable to end the stalemate. For some members, though, as long as this remains an internal non-violent political dispute, it is not necessarily an issue for the Council.

There have been diverging views among members over the disbursement of donor funds. Countries that made pledges at the Brussels conference in 2015 have withheld distributions, noting that conditions have greatly changed since then and do not trust that funds will not be diverted for the personal benefit of Vaz and his associates. The $1.5 billion pledged also represents some of the international community’s potential leverage. Some members, though, believe more should be done to disburse funds that can help the general population. The 2048 Committee’s consideration last year of the Secretary-General’s 16 August 2016 report reviewing the Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime demonstrated limited support for using sanctions as a tool in the crisis, beyond maintaining existing measures, which are viewed as having been a contributing factor in deterring military interference. It seems that the willingness of some members to further consider the possible use or threat of sanctions would depend, in large part, on Senegal’s championing this.

A dynamic that has played out over the last two years has been the efforts by several elected members to reduce references in the UNIOGBIS resolutions to drug trafficking. The P5 have opposed such changes. For that reason, last year’s resolution renewing UNIOGBIS called on the Secretary-General to include in his reporting an assessment of progress towards combatting drug trafficking so that members would have a common understanding of the problem, and hopefully avoid such a debate this year.

Senegal is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau. Uruguay chairs the 2048 Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU


Security Council Resolutions
26 February 2016 S/RES/2267 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNIOGBIS for one year.
Security Council Meeting Records
30 August 2016 S/PV.7764 This was a briefing on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
Security Council Press Statements
20 October 2016 SC/12560 Council members welcomed the initiative that brought together political leaders, civil society and religious leaders and welcomed the Conakry agreement that resulted from these talks.
4 September 2016 SC/12504 This was a press statement expressing serious concern over the political impasse, urging national actors to abide by the constitution and the rule of law and to engage in dialogue to find a solution.