Expected Council Action
In August, the Council expects a briefing on Guinea-Bissau from the Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), Modibo Touré, and the chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay). Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), is also likely to brief.
Also in August, the 2048 Sanctions Committee is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s report on the Guinea-Bissau sanctions ahead of a possible Council review of the sanctions in September, as stipulated by resolution 2343.
Key Recent Developments
August will mark two years since Guinea-Bissau entered a political crisis that 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.
Recent months saw a rise in tensions in Guinea-Bissau. On 23 February, protestors in Bissau called for Vaz to step down. Subsequently, a number of demonstrations occurred, with some reports of excessive use of force by security personnel against demonstrators.
From 23 to 24 April, a high-level ministerial mission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) went to Bissau, led by Liberian Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara. The mission’s final communiqué called for the “immediate implementation of all decisions in line with the letter and spirit of the Conakry Agreement”. The agreement, brokered last October by ECOWAS, laid out a series of actions for resolving the crisis before the 2018 legislative elections, including the naming of a consensual prime minister who has the confidence of the president, and carrying out constitutional reforms to clarify, inter alia, the roles of the president and prime minister. The mission recommended imposing targeted sanctions if no progress was made towards implementing the Conakry Agreement within 30 days.
At a 4 June summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, the authority urged all stakeholders to comply with the provisions of the Conakry Agreement, giving Bissau-Guinean leaders an additional three months to implement the agreement. In line with that, West African leaders extended the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) for an additional 90 days. ECOWAS had previously announced in April that this 500-member strong force, which has been deployed in the country since the April 2012 coup, would be fully withdrawn by 30 June. The authority affirmed its determination to institute, if needed, targeted sanctions against all those who obstruct the smooth implementation of the Conakry Agreement.
Efforts have been made recently to try to break the political impasse. Starting in late June, Francisca Vaz (no relation to the president) of the Women’s Peace Forum mediated several bilateral meetings between President Vaz and key stakeholders, including one with Simaes Pereira on 10 July.
Council members met on Guinea-Bissau on 11 May when Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed in consultations on the outcome of the high-level ECOWAS mission. A Council press statement following the meeting called on relevant stakeholders to strictly respect and comply with the Conakry Agreement, and expressed members’ readiness to take necessary measures to respond to a further worsening of the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
Sanctions Committee-Related Developments
From 13 to 15 June, Ambassador Rosselli visited Guinea-Bissau to obtain information about the implementation of the sanctions measures. Rosselli met with a range of interlocutors, including President Vaz, Simoes Pereria, government officials, other political and military leaders, and representatives of civil society and the international community based in Bissau. Rosselli also met the ten people, current and former members of the military, who remain sanctioned by the Council for their role in the 12 April 2012 coup. (One other person who was sanctioned has since died.)
The general view conveyed in his meetings was that the sanctions, which are limited to a travel ban, have had a positive role, a finding that the Secretary-General has shared over the last two years in his reports to the 2048 Sanctions Committee. However, the individuals who are sanctioned are no longer those responsible for the recent problems, which are caused by current political leaders.
Developments in the PBC
A meeting of the country-configuration for Guinea-Bissau was held on 10 May. Touré briefed the configuration via video teleconference. A press release issued several days later by the configuration reiterated its full support for the Bissau Six-Point Roadmap and Conakry Agreement as the framework for the resolution of the crisis. At press time, Ambassador Viera planned to visit Guinea-Bissau from 25 to 27 July.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 8 June, a report on the right to health in Guinea-Bissau jointly published by UNIOGBIS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was released. Despite improvements in the country, the report concluded that comprehensive reform of the health care system is needed. Political instability and endemic poverty, along with deficits in participation and accountability, and lack of access to food, education, safe drinking water and sanitation, continue to lead to violations of the right to health, particularly with regards to maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and health care for people living with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. In comments accompanying the release of the report, the High Commissioner warned that the poor general health of a population can “be a strong driving factor for a whole host of human rights deficiencies and violations in a country”, while Special Representative Touré emphasised that the “realization of the right to health has a strong link with the peacebuilding process in Guinea-Bissau”.
A key issue for August’s session continues to be how the Council should support ECOWAS efforts to break the political impasse and begin the implementation of the Conakry Agreement. This includes whether and how sanctions could be used against those who obstruct implementation of the Conakry Agreement, and if ECOWAS decides to impose sanctions.
Related issues include the risk of military interference given Guinea-Bissau’s history and the future of ECOMIB, which is credited with playing a deterrent role during the crisis but which ECOWAS says it cannot continue to finance. Concerns of Council members also include the possibility that drug traffickers, other organised crime, or terrorist groups in the region will exploit the situation or its possible deterioration. The impact of the political impasse on humanitarian conditions and on the civilian population more generally, as government services have been reduced and donors have withheld distribution of funds during the two-year long crisis, is a further issue.
Within the 2048 Sanctions Committee, members will further be considering whether to delist currently sanctioned individuals. A consideration that may make committee members reluctant to remove individuals from the sanctions list is that it could be perceived in Guinea-Bissau as a lessening of the sanctions regime, which is not a signal members want to send.
The Council could issue a statement further expressing support for ECOWAS’s mediation efforts and the decisions at its 4 June summit, while reaffirming members’ readiness to take necessary measures in case of a deterioration in the situation.
The 2048 Sanctions Committee is likely to delist the one deceased individual. It may consider delisting the other ten sanctioned persons as well as recommendations in the Secretary-General’s expected report to the Committee on the sanctions regime. In his previous reports to the Committee in 2015 and 2016, the Secretary-General recommended maintaining the sanctions regime. The Committee never acted on most of his other recommendations, such as establishing a Panel of Experts.
Another option for the Council is expanding the sanctions to include an assets freeze that could be imposed, in addition to the existing travel ban, on new individuals who the Committee may decide to designate. Such action or the possible imposition of sanctions, however, are more likely to be considered in September when the Council may conduct a review of the sanctions measures and the 90-day period given by ECOWAS expires.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council’s approach has been to support ECOWAS’s efforts in resolving the crisis in Guinea-Bissau. Following ECOWAS decisions, Senegal has frequently called for Council sessions to update members on developments, which in turn has been followed by Council statements expressing support for the regional body’s mediation efforts.
Any Council push now regarding sanctions would likely depend on ECOWAS. Without ECOWAS acting, most members would probably not be willing to sanction new individuals. It is generally felt, nevertheless, that ECOWAS is unlikely to move forward with its threat of sanctions since, for example, a number of ECOWAS members would be uncomfortable with imposing sanctions on a current head of state. Since 2015, in its resolutions renewing UNIOGBIS, the Council started expressing its intention to review the sanctions measures. So far, it has maintained the status quo.
Senegal is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolution|
|23 February 2017 S/RES/2343||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNIOGBIS for another year.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|11 May 2017 SC/12818||This was a press statement on the situation in Guinea-Bissau in which Council members called on relevant stakeholders to comply with the Conakry agreement and the ECOWAS road map.|