What's In Blue

Posted Thu 17 May 2012

Negotiations on a Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Resolution

Negotiations on a draft resolution on Guinea-Bissau introduced by Portugal on Monday (14 April) continued today but it appears that some issues of contention remain. The draft seeks to impose targeted sanctions on leaders of the Military Command which seized power in Guinea-Bissau on 12 April. Discussions continued today between Angola, Morocco, Portugal, South Africa, and Togo in an attempt to try and resolve differences, but at press time it was unclear if they had reached a point where the draft resolution could be tabled for adoption before Council members leave for their mission to West Africa tomorrow evening.

It seems the draft resolution seeks both an assets freeze and a travel ban on members of the military. It appears that some members may not be keen to impose a full assets freeze at this point. In addition, the draft resolution is said to set up a sanctions committee, empowering it to review the measures in the resolution and to determine, on a case-by-case basis, when the measures could be suspended or lifted.

The key sticking point appears to be how to refer to the government which was toppled in the military coup. It seems that some African Council members, in line with the position of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), object to language that suggests that the former government were the “legitimate authorities” and that they should be reinstated. ECOWAS, which has been mediating the post-coup crisis in Guinea-Bissau and has already imposed sanctions on the Military Command, has taken a strong stand on this issue and it appears that Council members who are also in ECOWAS are finding it difficult to back down on this. (As part of its mediation, ECOWAS has also held several meetings with the Military Command and has just sent in several hundred Nigerian troops to replace the Angolan MISSANG force which had been assisting Guinea-Bissau’s security sector reform programme.)

Another point that may still be under discussion is whether a Special Envoy is needed to harmonise the different positions of bilateral and multilateral players on this issue and develop a comprehensive strategy.

In the last week the Council has continued to follow the situation in Guinea-Bissau closely. On 11 May, Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), briefed Council members on Guinea-Bissau and Mali. During the briefing Djinnit voiced alarm at the resurgence of coups and unconstitutional seizures of power in West Africa.

On 8 May, Council members agreed on a press statement (SC/10640) condemning the Guinea-Bissau coup following a 7 May briefing by Joseph Mutaboba, head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), and the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission configuration for Guinea-Bissau, Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti (Brazil), and an interactive discussion with Foreign Ministers of Guinea-Bissau and Angola and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security.

The press statement expressed “deep concern at reports of looting, and human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment during detention and violent repression of peaceful demonstrations” under the rule of the Military Command. It affirmed that those responsible for such violations must be held accountable and expressed “deep concern at a possible increase in drug trafficking as a result of current instability.” In the statement, Council members called on ECOWAS to pursue its efforts to implement its zero-tolerance policy against the “unconstitutional takeover of power”, in coordination with the UN, the AU and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, and enable the restoration of the constitutional order.

Council members leave tomorrow night for a visit to West Africa which will include a stop in Abidjan where they will have a high-level meeting with ECOWAS. It is possible that some Council members may prefer to wait until after this meeting to adopt any draft resolution on Guinea-Bissau. There may also be interest from some members in the outcome of the ECOWAS Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting on Saturday (19 May) where the political and security situation in both Guinea-Bissau and Mali will be discussed.

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