What's In Blue

Posted Fri 27 Jul 2012

Possible Press Statement on Guinea-Bissau

This afternoon Security Council members may release a press statement on Guinea-Bissau which was put under silence procedure last night (26 July). It appears that there are expectations that Togo may have some amendments to the draft, but at press time it was unclear if agreement had been reached over a final text. (Portugal had initial bilateral discussions with Togo before sharing the draft among other Council members but it is unclear whether there have been further discussions since.)

Portugal introduced the draft after yesterday’s briefings on Guinea-Bissau by Joseph Mutaboba, Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), and Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti (Brazil), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) country-specific configuration for Guinea-Bissau, which were followed by consultations. Representatives speaking for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) also made statements at the briefing.

The draft press statement – which if adopted will be the first Council outcome on Guinea-Bissau since the adoption of resolution 2048 of 18 May and the creation of a sanctions committee- is expected to reiterate previous statements made by the Council for an inclusive and nationally-owned process to lead the country to full constitutionality.
It will also likely repeat the call for a clear timetable for the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections, in line with Guinea-Bissau’s legislation and international standards. It appears that the statement will also express Council members’ readiness to consider extending the current list of those sanctioned by resolution 2048. (The resolution imposed a travel ban on five members of Guinea-Bissau’s Military Command. On 13 June, the Council announced the appointment of Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki of Morocco as chair of the 2048 sanctions committee on Guinea-Bissau.)

Some of these points are likely to be contentious, since ECOWAS has effectively taken the lead on Guinea-Bissau since the coup on 12 April, and has since forged an agreement with the Military Command (which led the army takeover) on a number of issues, including a one-year transition process. ECOWAS has said it believes restoring the constitutional order immediately would lead to civil war. (On 23 May, the Military Command appointed a 27-member transitional government, including two army officers, under Prime Minister Rui Duarte Barros.)

Togo has sought to represent ECOWAS in the Council, and is likely to be uneasy with the threat of extending the sanctions list. It also appears that Togo is uncomfortable with the suggestion of any transition plan other than the one ECOWAS has brokered.

This reflects the strong difference in approach to the coup and its consequences between ECOWAS and CPLP, of which Portugal, Guinea-Bissau’s former colonial master, is a key player. Angola, which until recently was chair of CPLP, had maintained a Military Mission in Guinea-Bissau (MISSANG) since 21 March 2011 but withdrew it on 8 June as part of the deal brokered by ECOWAS, with the withdrawal likely affecting CPLP’s influence in Guinea-Bissau. During the CPLP’s Council of Ministers from 19-20 July – after which Mozambique replaced Angola as chair – there were strong indications that the group was still interested in pursuing an active role on Guinea-Bissau.

It appears that Council members may be trying to find a way to address these differences in the press statement by calling on the Secretary-General to consider the convening of a high-level meeting that would bring together the key international stakeholders on Guinea-Bissau, including the UN, AU, ECOWAS, EU and CPLP.

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