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Consultations and Press Statement on Guinea-Bissau

On Thursday (5 September), Council members were briefed and held consultations with José Ramos-Horta, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). Following the consultations Togo, the penholder on Guinea-Bissau, indicated that it would like to have Council members issue a press statement on developments in Guinea-Bissau. The draft text was circulated late Friday with initial comments requested from Council members by 2:00pm today (9 September).

In consultations, Ramos-Horta suggested that while the pace of political progress has been slow it is moving in the right direction. The signing of a transitional pact, the creation of a more inclusive transitional government, and the setting of 24 November as a date for national elections are seen as positive signs. (However, Council members are aware that due to administrative and technical issues plus a current lack of financing, the elections could be delayed.) At the media stakeout following consultations, Ramos-Horta stated that while a short delay would not pose fundamental problems, a significant delay could “destabilise the political situation, undermining the efforts we have achieved so far.”

During the consultations Ramos-Horta also informed Council members that Transitional President Serifo Nhamadjo has said that he will send letters to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting UN assistance with the establishment of two international commissions of enquiry regarding political crimes and organised crime and drug trafficking. Ramos-Horta characterised this as an encouraging indicator of political will on the part of the transitional authorities. Ivan Šimonović, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, during a visit to the country from 7 to 11 July, had identified impunity as the principal obstacle to maintaining stability and protecting human rights in Guinea-Bissau.

The draft press statement, which Council members may agree on later today or tomorrow, urges timely, credible, transparent and fair elections. It also notes political progress such as the establishment of a more inclusive transitional government, the creation of a national commission for planning and strategic coordination, and the revision of the electoral code. In addition, the draft statement also stresses that it is imperative for the elections scheduled for 24 November to be held within the transitional period established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), i.e. during 2013. The draft press statement also welcomes the pledge of electoral financing by the EU and invites other international partners of Guinea-Bissau to also contribute.

Council members also welcome the peacekeeping and security sector reform efforts of ECOWAS and reiterate the importance of civilian control over the defence forces. Another area covered by the draft press statement is anti-drug trafficking initiatives taken by UNIOGBIS and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It is possible that Council members may wish to add further language requesting additional funding for UNODC. (Currently there is just one UNODC staff member in Guinea-Bissau.)

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