Expected Council Action
In December, the Council is expected to receive a briefing and hold consultations on Guinea-Bissau.
The mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) expires on 28 February 2019.
Key Recent Developments
For the second time this year, Guinea-Bissau failed to hold legislative elections in accordance with its electoral calendar. The elections had been scheduled for 18 November, the date set when they were postponed in April.
On 30 August, Special Representative José Viegas Filho briefed the Council, focusing on preparations for the elections. Guinea-Bissau’s Prime Minister Aristides Gomes participated, stating that the government was “sparing no effort” to hold legislative elections as scheduled for 18 November. A week later, a Council press statement encouraged national stakeholders to work together for the November 2018 legislative elections, stressing that inclusive and credible elections were essential for reform efforts spelled out in the Conakry Agreement and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) six-point road map, which were brokered by ECOWAS in 2016 to resolve the continuing political crisis.
The updating of the voter census was originally slated to start on 23 August and run until 23 September. The process did not get underway until 20 September, however, because of delays in the delivery of biometric voter registration kits to Guinea-Bissau, a large number of which had still not been received by November. On 22 October, the government announced that the voter census would be extended until 20 November, two days after the scheduled date of the legislative elections. ECOWAS, the AU and the UN subsequently issued a joint communiqué on 25 October calling for renewed efforts to ensure that the 18 November legislative elections would be held on time and under the requisite conditions of transparency, regularity and credibility. President José Mário Vaz has so far said that he would decide on a new date for the elections only once the registration process was complete.
On 20 November, the government announced an additional 15-day extension of the voter census until 5 December. Two days later, the government indicated that the process could extend beyond this date. It said that the 20 November announcement referred to the extension of voter registration officials’ contracts, and that the process would continue until it reached “as many voters as possible”.
Earlier in the month, on 5 November, an ECOWAS delegation travelled to Guinea-Bissau, led by Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama in Nigeria’s capacity as the chair of ECOWAS. The delegation met leaders of Guinea-Bissau’s political parties, election officials, Prime Minister Gomes and President Vaz, as well as representatives in Bissau from ECOWAS, the AU, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), the UN and the EU, collectively referred to as the “P5” in Guinea-Bissau. According to Onyeama, it was agreed that legislative elections must be held this year. On 15 November, Vaz met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja to further discuss preparations for the elections.
By 11 November, 57.5 percent of the estimated 886,292 voters had been registered, according to UNIOGBIS, which also said donors had disbursed over $8 million to a fund for the elections managed by the UN Development Programme, exceeding the projected election budget. A total of $1.23 million in pledged funds had still not been disbursed. On 21 November, Gomes announced that 74 percent of estimated voters had been registered. These figures do not include diaspora voters.
The 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee met on 31 August to consider the Secretary-General’s annual report on progress made with regard to the stabilisation and restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau. Kelvin Ong, Chief of the Security Council Subsidiary Bodies Branch in the Security Council Affairs Division, gave an overview of the findings and recommendations. David McLachlan-Karr, Deputy Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau, joined the meeting via video teleconference from Bissau to provide an update on the situation in the country. A press release with a factual summary of the meeting was issued on 11 October.
Key Issues and Options
The organisation of the legislative elections is a key focus of the upcoming Council briefing and consultations. If they are not held by the end of the year, this could violate the country’s constitutional provisions regarding the tenure of the current legislature and might deepen its political crisis. In addition to the logistical delays in updating the voter census, there are concerns about the government’s commitment to timely elections, especially on the part of Vaz, who according to the Secretary-General’s August report on Guinea-Bissau is believed to want to conduct the legislative elections simultaneously with the presidential election in May 2019. Other processes that should occur before the presidential elections, according to the Conakry Agreement, include concluding a stability pact and undertaking a review of the constitution.
How the Council can support ECOWAS mediation efforts to implement the Conakry Agreement remains a key issue. In this regard, one option is adopting a presidential statement reiterating the Council’s support for ECOWAS and the need for legislative elections to be organised without further delay. Such a statement could note that the Council looks forward to the decisions on Guinea-Bissau during the 22 December summit of ECOWAS heads of state and government, or, if adopted following the summit, support any decisions that are taken.
Other issues include initial discussions on an assessment from the Secretary-General on UNIOGBIS, with options for a possible reconfiguration of the UN presence in Guinea-Bissau and reprioritisation of tasks. This report is due to the Council by 28 November and is likely to set off early thinking around the forthcoming mandate renewal of UNIOGBIS in February.
Drug trafficking remains an ongoing issue of concern. Over the course of the political crisis, Council members’ concerns have included the possibility that a deterioration in 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. Despite the military’s having refrained from interfering in the political situation over the past three years, members remain attentive to this risk given Guinea-Bissau’s history, including a military coup after the 2012 presidential elections.
Council and Wider Dynamics
On Guinea-Bissau, the Council tends to follow the lead of ECOWAS, seeking to support its decisions or agreements. ECOWAS maintains the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau, a 600-person military contingent that has been credited with deterring interference by the armed forces in the political crisis. Earlier this year the regional body sanctioned 19 individuals close to Vaz, including his son, which seemed to trigger several positive breakthroughs in the political crisis, and then lifted the sanctions in July. In Bissau, representatives from ECOWAS, the AU, the CPLP, the UN and the EU often act together to defuse tensions.
The Secretary-General’s assessment is expected to provide options for continuing UNIOGBIS, and other possibilities for a UN presence. The US has questioned the usefulness of the mission.
Côte d’Ivoire is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau. It has collaborated with the Netherlands on Council products. Equatorial Guinea, chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, has said that after the presidential elections it plans to revisit the question of whether to maintain the sanctions regime imposed in 2012 following the coup.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolution|
|28 February 2018S/RES/2404||This resolution extended the mandate of UNIOGBIS for an additional year.|
|28 August 2018S/2018/791||This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on progress in Guinea-Bissau’s stabilisation and restoration of constitutional order.|
|16 August 2018S/2018/771||This was the Secretary-General’s report on Guinea-Bissau and the activities of UNIOGBIS.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|30 August 2018S/PV.8337||This was briefing on Guinea-Bissau.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|7 September 2018SC/13492||This press statement encouraged national stakeholders to work together for the November 2018 legislative elections.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|11 October 2018SC/13537||This was a press release on the 31 August meeting of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee.|