Expected Council Action
In February, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), which expires on 28 February. Before this, the Council is expected to hear a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNIOGBIS Rosine Sori-Coulibaly.
Key Recent Developments
Developments in Guinea-Bissau have revolved around holding presidential elections following four years of political crisis.
On 28 October 2019, only weeks before the 24 November election, President José Mário Vaz dismissed Prime Minister Aristides Gomes and his government. The following day, Vaz appointed Faustino Fudut Imbali as the new prime minister, despite Gomes’ refusal to step down. The move risked delaying the election. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called the action “illegal” in a ministerial communiqué on 29 October. ECOWAS recalled its decision from 29 June 2019, which said that although Vaz’s term had expired on 23 June, he should remain president until the election but that the Gomes administration should handle all government affairs. Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki issued a statement also expressing full support for the government of Gomes.
Sori-Coulibaly briefed Council members in consultations on the crisis on 31 October 2019. On 4 November, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing “full support to the communiqués of ECOWAS and the AU” and stressing the “urgent need to hold the presidential elections on 24 November as agreed”.
At an ECOWAS extraordinary summit in Niamey on 8 November 2019, West African leaders demanded the immediate resignation of Imbali and his government, “failing which individual sanctions will apply”. ECOWAS also threatened sanctions against those who used the army or security forces to impose illegal actions or who undermined the electoral process and political stability. It further decided to reinforce the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), deploying a 140-member formed police unit from Togo. Imbali resigned that same day.
The presidential election was held on 24 November 2019, contested by 12 candidates. The leader of The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Domingos Simões Pereira, won 40.13 percent of the vote. Placing second with 27.65 percent was Umaro Sissoco Embaló of the Movement for Democratic Change (MADEM-G15), a party formed by PAIGC dissidents in 2018 that has frequently allied with Vaz and the traditional opposition Party for Social Renewal. Vaz ran as an independent, having clashed with his party (the PAIGC) during the past four years, and received only 12 percent of the vote. As no candidate won a majority, a run-off election was scheduled for 29 December 2019 between Simões Pereira and Sissoco Embaló.
On 4 December 2019, third-place finisher Nuno Gomes Nabiam, leader of the United People’s Assembly-Democratic Party of Guinea-Bissau (APU-PDGB), signed a political pact with Sissoco Embaló in Dakar, Senegal, to support the latter’s candidacy. The move created an internal dispute within APU-PDGB, which is part of the PAIGC-led coalition government of Aristides Gomes.
In the run-off election held on 29 December, Sissoco Embaló won 53.55 percent of the vote, compared to Simões Pereira’s 46.45 percent. International observer missions, including from ECOWAS and the AU, said the election was fair. Simões Pereira, however, alleged fraud, saying that at some polling stations, votes exceeded the number of enrolled voters. The PAIGC challenged the results in the Supreme Court of Justice. On 24 January, the court ordered a new count of voter tally documents, which the election commission agreed to do on 28 January following civil society mediation. ECOWAS and several other international partners, meanwhile, have recognised Sissoco as the incoming president.
Guinea-Bissau recorded its largest drug interdiction on 1 September 2019, seizing 1.8 tonnes of cocaine and arresting seven Bissau-Guineans, three Colombians, one Malian and one Mexican. This surpassed its previous largest interdiction of nearly 800 kilos in March 2019. Investigations into the shipment compounded tensions in the lead- up to the presidential election.
The chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee for 2018–2019, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea), visited Guinea-Bissau from 27 to 30 October 2019 to encourage the timely holding of the election, dates which coincided with Vaz’s decision to dismiss Gomes. The Council’s 4 November presidential statement recalled that its possible consideration of ending the sanctions regime (established following the April 2012 coup d’état) would depend on orderly conduct by the defence and security forces and political actors. It also recalled that the Council would consider taking appropriate measures against those who undermined Guinea-Bissau’s stability in accordance with its previous resolutions.
Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)
The PBC’s country configuration chair, Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), visited Guinea-Bissau from 22 to 24 October 2019 to encourage a timely and peaceful election. On 13 November, the configuration met to consider developments and electoral preparations. A 15 November press statement by the configuration called on stakeholders to hold elections as scheduled and reaffirmed the PBC’s commitment to support political and institutional reforms, as outlined in the October 2016 Conakry Agreement and the government’s strategic development plan for 2015-2025.
Key Issues and Options
The UNIOGBIS mandate renewal is a key issue, particularly assessing whether conditions on the ground and with transition planning for a follow-up UN presence are right for closure of the mission by the end of 2020. When the Council renewed UNIOGBIS’ mandate last year, it endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his December 2018 special report for UNIOGBIS’ reconfiguration and prospective completion by December 31, 2020. Regarding transition planning, this requires close consultation with national authorities, but it is not clear if the PAIGC can maintain its governing coalition, which risks renewing gridlock over forming a government and complicating such planning.
Uncertainty remains over the outcome of the presidential election. Important upcoming national processes include the constitutional review—particularly to clarify or amend the division of powers between the president and prime minister. ECOWAS heads of state and government have charged the ECOWAS Commission with providing technical support to accelerate implementation of constitutional reforms after the election and called for a referendum on the constitutional reform during 2020. Completing the electoral cycle, constitutional review, and security sector reforms were the key components of the Conakry Agreement that ECOWAS brokered in 2016 to resolve the political crisis and address root causes of Guinea-Bissau’s instability.
Transnational criminal activities, particularly drug trafficking, remain a key issue, and there are concerns that terrorist groups in the region could also potentially exploit Guinea-Bissau’s political instability.
One option for the Council is to renew UNIOGBIS’ mandate until 31 December 2020 while requesting the Secretary-General to provide an update later this year on progress in handing over UNIOGBIS’ tasks to the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the UN country team and other entities. The update could also identify capacity or financial gaps that may exist following UNIOGBIS’ closure. Another option is holding an informal interactive dialogue with the PBC and relevant stakeholders on transition preparations and requirements.
A related issue is ending the sanctions regime, which members may consider when renewing UNIOGBIS’ mandate or waiting until UNIOGBIS’ new mandate concludes. The Council could encourage, in the upcoming mandate renewal, holding of the national conference for reconciliation, another pending process important for addressing past crimes and violence, and, potentially, the links between organised crime and politics.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council closely followed developments ahead of the first round of the presidential election, holding three meetings in consultations during October and November 2019, issuing one press statement, and adopting a presidential statement. On Guinea-Bissau, the Council has tended to follow ECOWAS’ lead, seeking to support its decisions, often prompted by the West African Council member.
Members appear to agree on the goal of ending UNIOGBIS. The mission and its predecessor mission have been present since 1999, and members have noted the absence of violence and ECOWAS’ leading role in recent years. During last year’s mandate negotiations, some members stressed the importance of assessing the situation on the ground when determining to end UNIOGBIS, with a key benchmark being the presidential election.
Niger is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau. Ambassador Moncef Baati (Tunisia) is the new chair of the 2048 Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU
|Security Council Resolution|
|28 February 2019S/RES/2458||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNIOGBIS for one year.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|4 November 2019S/PRST/2019/13||This presidential statement expressed full support to the communiques of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU issued following the dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes on 28 October.|
|Security Council Letter|
|30 October 2019S/2019/851||This was a letter from the chair of the PBC Guinea-Bissau configuration, Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), sharing observations from his 22 to 24 October 2019 visit to Guinea-Bissau.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|16 October 2019SC/13989||This press statement reiterated the imperative need for the presidential election to be held on 24 November 2019.|