Council Visiting Mission
Expected Council Action
During February, Security Council members are expected to undertake a visiting mission to Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea are co-leading the mission.
Background and Recent Developments
The visit to Guinea-Bissau comes ahead of legislative elections scheduled for 10 March which were delayed twice last year amidst a political crisis that has now lasted three and a half years. (For more on Guinea-Bissau and the mandate renewal of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau [UNIOGBIS], see the brief on Guinea-Bissau.)
The visit to Côte d’Ivoire will take a retrospective look at the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) which closed in 2017, 13 years after it was established and six years after post-electoral violence in 2011 led to the deaths of approximately 3,000 people.
At a 5 December 2018 Council debate on post-conflict reconstruction chaired by Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, the Security Council discussed Côte d’Ivoire’s successful emergence from the crisis. According to President Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire based its post-conflict strategy on what it calls three processes: the restoration of the economy; security sector reform along with the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former fighters; and reconciliation. Annual gross domestic product growth from 2012 to 2017 surpassed 8 percent. Over 65,000 combatants were disarmed and reintegrated, facilitated by the creation of two million jobs since 2012.
On 6 August 2018, the government granted amnesty to 800 individuals for offences related to the 2011 post-electoral crisis. This included pardoning former first lady Simone Gbagbo, who had been sentenced in March 2015 to 20 years in prison. In September 2018, ICC judges began a review of whether Simone Gbagbo could still be tried at the ICC. On 15 January, the ICC acquitted former President Laurent Gbagbo and his supporter, politician and former Minister for Youth Charles Blé Goudé, of responsibility for crimes committed during the post-electoral violence. On 18 January, ICC appeals judges delayed the release of Gbagbo and Goudé until the completion of an appeal of the ruling, which could come as soon as 1 February.
Côte d’Ivoire has faced challenges, including mutinies that broke out in 2017 in several cities among elements in the military who demanded better pay and working conditions. There are political tensions ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and the country also remains alert to the threat posed by terrorist groups in the region.
Guinea-Bissau has been in political crisis since August 2015, barely more than a year after restoring constitutional order following a 2012 coup d’état. Council members visited Guinea-Bissau in March 2016, stressing that the situation needed to be resolved through dialogue, and in accordance with national laws and the constitution. In October 2016 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brokered the Conakry Agreement to resolve the crisis and advance reforms to reduce future instability.
Last February, ECOWAS imposed sanctions against 18 individuals, including the son of President José Mário Vaz, for obstructing implementation of the Conakry Agreement. These sanctions were lifted in July 2018 following the appointment of a “consensus” prime minister (in the words of the Conakry Agreement), Aristides Gomes, the formation of an inclusive government, and Vaz’s decision to schedule legislative elections for 18 November 2018. Due in part to logistical challenges with voter registration, these elections did not take place as scheduled, and on 20 December 2018, Vaz issued a decree setting 10 March as the new date for the legislative elections.
At a 22 December ECOWAS summit, West African leaders threatened to impose sanctions on those who obstruct the current electoral process. Council members issued a press statement on 27 December 2018, stressing that legislative elections should take place prior to the presidential election foreseen in 2019. There had been, and remains concern that the government, and in particular President Vaz, would like to combine the legislative elections with the presidential election to be held later this year, thus delaying the legislative elections even further. The statement by Council members followed a 21 December Council briefing and consultations on the electoral process and a special report of the Secretary-General that proposed reconfiguring UNIOGBIS and ending the mission by 31 December 2020.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue during the visit to Côte d’Ivoire will be to consider the experience of transitions from mandated UN missions to non-mission settings. In addition to government representatives and civil society, Council members plan to meet with the UN Country Team, and possibly the country teams of Liberia and Sierra Leone, to discuss their recent transitions and understand current challenges. The visit also provides an opportunity to demonstrate support for the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) which was requested by the Council to make available its good offices, as necessary, to the Ivorian government and the UN Resident Coordinator following UNOCI’s closure. UNOWAS has taken on similar responsibilities in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The Guinea-Bissau part of the visiting mission is meant as a conflict-prevention initiative. The continued delay in the legislative elections has undermined constitutional provisions and risks provoking further political instability. Council members may reiterate to authorities and political actors the need to conduct credible elections and refrain from further delays. They may also stress to the parties the need to complete the constitutional review before the presidential election. The review of the constitution, a process set out in the Conakry Agreement, is intended, in particular, to clarify the powers of the president and prime minister, disputes over which are one of the causes of the current political crisis.
The mission will also provide an opportunity for members to assess the situation on the ground ahead of decisions they may take regarding the Secretary-General’s proposals to reconfigure and draw down UNIOGBIS when the Council renews its mandate later in February. Likewise, it will contribute to members’ considerations regarding the future of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, established following the April 2012 coup d’etat.
Côte d’Ivoire has been interested in sharing lessons of its successful emergence from conflict, and as UNOWAS penholder it is supportive of the work of the regional office, which has worked closely with ECOWAS. In general, members view UNOWAS as an effective conflict-prevention tool. Regarding Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea (which chairs the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee) has taken a broader interest in the situation and is eager for the Council to play a more active role in helping the country emerge from the current political crisis. Council members remain concerned that political instability could be exploited by drug traffickers and terrorist groups in the region.
Côte d’Ivoire is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau and UNOWAS.
UN DOCUMENTS ON CÔTE D’IVOIRE AND GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolutions|
|28 April 2016S/RES/2284||The Council extended the mandate of UNOCI for a final period until 30 June 2017, after which the mission would be terminated.|
|6 December 2018S/2018/1086||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the strategic review of UNIOGBIS.|
|29 October 2018S/2018/958||This was the special report of the Secretary-General per S/PRST/2017/8.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|21 December 2018S/PV.8438||The Council was briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brooke Zerihoun and the Peacebuilding Commission’s chair of its Guinea-Bissau configuration, Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil) on UNIOGBIS.|
|5 December 2018S/PV.8413||This was a Council debate on “Post-conflict reconstruction and peace, security and stability”.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|27 December 2018SC/13650||Council members issued a press statement expressing concern regarding the status of preparations for legislative elections, which they stressed should take place prior to the presidential elections foreseen in 2019.|