February 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2018
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Guinea-Bissau

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council expects a briefing by the Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), Modibo Touré. Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, is also likely to brief.

The Council is expected to renew the mandate of UNIOGBIS, which expires on 28 February, for a further 12 months.

Key Recent Developments

Guinea-Bissau has remained mired in a political crisis that has left the country without a fully functioning government for almost two-and-a-half years. 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. There has been little progress toward implementing the October 2016 Conakry Agreement brokered by the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), which includes naming a consensus prime minister and electoral reforms ahead of legislative elections, currently proposed for 10 May.

On 25 October 2017, 18 political parties, including the PAIGC, announced the formation of the Collective of Democratic Parties United Against Dictatorship. The Collective pledged to organise demonstrations until Vaz implemented the Conakry Agreement and to oppose the organisation of the next legislative elections under the current government, headed by Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló, whose November 2016 appointment by Vaz, the PAIGC has argued, did not comply with the Conakry Agreement. The Collective organised protests from 27 to 31 October 2017 in Bissau. During a demonstration of several thousand supporters of the Collective on 16 November 2017, police used tear gas, and several people were injured and arrested.  

An ECOWAS high-level mission visited Bissau on 2 and 3 December 2017 to assess the implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the September 2016 Bissau Six Point Roadmap, which had been the basis for the Conakry Agreement. Its findings on the failure to advance the Conakry Agreement were considered at the 16 December 2017 summit of ECOWAS heads of state and government in Abuja, where West African leaders requested Guinean President Alpha Condé and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé to hold talks with all stakeholders within one month. They further threatened “collective or individual sanctions” on those hampering implementation of the Conakry Agreement.

On 12 January, Sissoco submitted his resignation. Vaz issued a presidential decree on 16 January, accepting the prime minister’s resignation. An ECOWAS mission—led by Togo’s Foreign Minister, Robert Dussey, who chairs the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, and the Secretary General of the Presidency of Guinea Naby Youssouf Kiridi Bangoura, representing the ECOWAS Mediator for Guinea-Bissau—deployed on 17 January. On 22 January, the main opposition political party, the Party for Social Renewal, the 15 dissident PAIGC members of parliament, and those of two smaller parties, which are all close with Vaz, announced that they rejected ECOWAS mediation in the crisis. They described ECOWAS as “tendentious and partial…which without any evidence, wants to impose by force a name that was not adopted consensually by all subscribers to the Conakry Agreement”.

Also in recent developments, On 18 January, former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior, ousted in the 12 April 2012 military coup, returned to Guinea-Bissau after more than five years in exile. Gomes Júnior has since declared himself “the sixteenth member” of the group of 15 PAIGC dissidents.

The Council presidential statement of 13 September 2017 “called on the Guinea-Bissau leadership to implement the Conakry Agreement of 14 October 2016, including by appointing a consensus Prime Minister as required by the Agreement”. In a 30 January presidential statement on the West Africa and Sahel region, the Council called for the Conakry Agreement’s implementation “without further delay”, commended ECOWAS engagement, and expressed its “readiness to consider supporting further measures it could take in this regard”.

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission

The Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) last met on 6 December 2017. Touré briefed via video teleconference on the political situation. Deputy Special Representative and Resident Coordinator David McLachlan-Karr briefed on developments regarding the 2018 legislative elections and on Peacebuilding Fund-supported projects in the country. The ECOWAS Permanent Observer to the UN, Tanou Koné, provided an overview on the recent ECOWAS high-level mission.

On 11 December 2017, the configuration issued a statement reiterating its full support for the Bissau Roadmap and the Conakry Agreement, stressing the importance of free and fair elections in accordance with the constitution, calling on the international community to support this process, and urging the parties to respect the right to demonstrate peacefully.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 10 December 2017, Guinea-Bissau launched the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, composed of 43 national organisations working to provide protection to organisations and individuals targeted by civilian or military power. The head of the human rights section of UNIOGBIS and representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guinea-Bissau, Mireya Peña-Guzman, attended the launch and welcomed the initiative.

Key Issues and Options

Progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement, including appointing a consensus prime minister and forming a new government, remains a key issue. Related to this are the approaching legislative elections that the National Electoral Commission (CNE) has proposed be held on 10 May; several steps in the Conakry Agreement were envisioned to be completed prior to elections. Also tied to the ability to hold elections are issues related to the voter registration process and the appointment of a new CNE president. 

A recurring issue is the future of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), the approximately 400-member force, which ECOWAS has repeatedly said it intends to withdraw because of the financial burden of maintaining it.

In renewing the mandate of UNIOGBIS, the Council may reaffirm its call on the parties to implement the Conakry Agreement and express its continued support of ECOWAS mediation efforts.

The Council may further reiterate its desire for UNIOGBIS to prioritise its political capacities in support of the Special Representative’s good offices and political facilitation role and to streamline its management structure, expressed in last year’s mandate resolution when it endorsed the recommendation of a December 2016 UN strategic review of the mission.

Council and Wider Dynamics

On Guinea-Bissau, the Council tends to follow the lead of ECOWAS, seeking to support decisions or agreements that it reaches. On the ground, representatives in Bissau from ECOWAS, the AU, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the UN and the EU—collectively referred to as the P5 in Guinea-Bissau—often act together to defuse tensions. Concerns for Security Council members include 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. Members also commonly express concern about the risk of Guinea-Bissau’s military interfering in the political situation, given the country’s history.

Regarding the renewal of UNIOGBIS, some permanent members may seek opportunities to reduce its budget, questioning its impact. For last year’s renewal the Council supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to shift resources from programmatic activities that had become idle due to the political stalemate towards reinforcing the mission’s political capacities, yet, until very recently, there have been few signs of progress in the situation.

Côte d’Ivoire is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau. It succeeds Senegal, which as a neighbouring country was active in keeping Council attention on Guinea-Bissau during the past two years. Equatorial Guinea chairs the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee.

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 Presidential Statements
30 January 2018 S/PRST/2018/3 This was a presidential statement on the West Africa and Sahel region, which called for the Conakry Agreement’s implementation without further delay.
13 September 2017 S/PRST/2017/17 This was a presidential statement calling on the leadership of Guinea-Bissau to implement the 14 October 2016 Conakry Agreement.
Security Council Meeting Record
24 August 2017 S/PV.8031 The Council received a briefing from Modibo Touré, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNIOGBIS, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on developments in the country and the activities of the mission (S/2017/695).