Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is expecting a briefing on Guinea-Bissau. This will be an oral update from the Secretariat, which the Council requested in its 28 February resolution extending the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for a year.
Key Recent Developments
Rare progress has emerged towards resolving the two-and-a-half-year political crisis in Guinea-Bissau and starting preparations for legislative elections.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed targeted sanctions on 4 February on 19 individuals allied with President José Mario Vaz for obstructing implementation of the October 2016 Conakry Agreement on ending the political crisis. These included Vaz’s son, Fernando Vaz; members of the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), which is the main opposition party in the National Assembly; and the dissident members of parliament from the majority African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).
Following the imposition of the sanctions, two mediation processes were undertaken. Discussions were held between the PAIGC and PRS, reportedly facilitated by Angola, to gain agreement on names for a new consensual prime minister. Similarly, the Catholic Archbishop of Bissau brought together the two parties to discuss holding a plenary session of the National Assembly, which has not met since January 2016, so as to appoint four new members of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), whose terms had expired, and to extend the mandate of the current legislature, which was expiring on 23 April, until legislative elections could be organised.
ECOWAS, aware of these mediation efforts and an apparent agreement among the PAIGC and PRS on a new prime minister, deployed a ministerial mission to Bissau on 11 April led by Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dussey. Three days later, on 14 April, the mission reported on developments at an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS heads of states and government in Lomé, Togo. In addition to Vaz, the National Assembly president and representatives of the PAIGC and PRS were invited. At the summit, Vaz agreed to name Aristides Gomes as prime minister and to set 18 November as the date for legislative elections. An ECOWAS communiqué announced the agreement, which also endorsed extending the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) to 30 June 2018.
On 16 April, Vaz dismissed Prime Minister Artur Silva, whom he had appointed in January, and subsequently issued decrees appointing Gomes as the new prime minister and establishing 18 November as the date for legislative elections. On 19 April, the plenary of the National Assembly convened, taking decisions to appoint the CNE President and its executive and deputy secretaries and to extend the mandate of the current legislature.
Staying abreast of these developments, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement on 17 April to welcome the breakthroughs. Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau Modibo Touré briefed Council members in consultations under “any other business” via video teleconference on 19 April. Members issued press elements following the meeting, which expressed full support for ECOWAS’s sustained efforts and underscored the importance of swiftly forming an inclusive government and taking other steps for conducting timely and credible elections and implementing the Conakry agreement.
On 25 April, Vaz issued a decree announcing a new inclusive government comprised of 18 ministers and eight secretaries of state, who were sworn in the following day.
Key Issues and Options
While there have been recent positive developments, challenges remain in carrying forward the Conakry Agreement and organising the legislative elections that will require close attention amidst what is still likely to be a difficult political situation. An immediate need is updating the voter registration, which should be done annually but has not occurred since 2014. This includes obtaining the funds required for the registration (estimated to cost $800,000 to $1 million) and for the overall organisation of the elections (an estimated $7.1 million). The Guinea-Bissau government is expected to contribute $4.5 million but may not have these resources available until after the cashew harvest. Other critical provisions of the Conakry Agreement on which progress is needed include adopting the government programme (akin to the government budget), agreeing to a stability pact, passing electoral law reforms, and conducting a constitutional review.
A further issue is progress in realigning the work of UNIOGBIS following the re-prioritisation and streamlining of its tasks during the mission’s February mandate renewal in resolution 2404. A UN technical assessment mission deployed to Guinea-Bissau in March to assist with this reorganisation.
The Council, as it has done, may seek to politically support further ECOWAS initiatives. Another option in addressing some of these issues is issuing a statement at the time of the Council meeting that encourages Bissau-Guinean stakeholders to continue to implement the Conakry Agreement’s provisions while encouraging donors to support outstanding funding needs for the legislative elections.
Council and Wider Dynamics
On Guinea-Bissau, the Council tends to follow the lead of ECOWAS, seeking to support its decisions or agreements. 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. Council members’ concerns over the course of the political crisis have included the possibility that 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.
The mandate renewal of UNIOGBIS in February this year revealed some emerging differences. The US—frustrated by the lack of any progress at the time and in line with its position to seek the drawdown of long-standing UN operations—pushed for only a six-month renewal. Other members opposed this, in part to avoid creating uncertainty about the mission’s future amidst the need to support the upcoming elections. These differences, though, led to removing some of UNIOGBIS’s mandated tasks and pushing up the time-frame of a proposed Secretary-General’s assessment to consider a future UN presence, which will now be submitted to the Council in nine months as opposed to a year. Resolution 2404 also established a more frequent reporting cycle during 2018 in response to some members’ concerns about elections taking place in a politically fragile environment. The UN’s oral update in May is a result of this provision. During the negotiation, Russia sought more neutral language on how the Council referred to the ECOWAS sanctions, as it objects to sanctions not established by the Security Council, and does not view the political crisis as a threat to international peace and security that would warrant Council sanctions.
Côte d’Ivoire is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau. As a West African country, it requested the Council’s April briefing following the ECOWAS summit. Equatorial Guinea chairs the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, which was established in 2012 after the country’s last coup d’état.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolution|
|28 February 2018 S/RES/2404||This resolution extended the mandate of UNIOGBIS for an additional year.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 February 2018 S/PV.8194||This was the adoption of resolution 2404 and explanation of vote.|
|14 February 2018 S/PV.8182||This was a briefing from Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of UNIOGBIS Modibo Touré.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|21 February 2018 SC/13218||This was a press statement taking note of ECOWAS’ decision to sanction 19 individuals for obstructing implementation of the Conakry Agreement.|