What's In Blue

Posted Mon 25 Nov 2013

Guinea-Bissau Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (26 November), the Security Council expects to receive a briefing from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Guinea-Bissau Jose Ramos Horta on the two reports of the Secretary-General on the restoration of constitutional order (S/2013/680) and on the activities of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea (UNIOGBIS) (S/2013/681). Also briefing will be Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil) as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) country-specific configuration for Guinea-Bissau, as well as possibly representatives of ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. The briefing will be followed by consultations.

It appears that the briefing and consultations would focus largely on preparations for the national elections, which had been scheduled for 24 November, but were postponed on 15 November until 16 March 2014. There is also likely to be some discussion of potential options for strengthening the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB).

At press time, it appears Togo, as the penholder on Guinea-Bissau, will pursue a presidential or press statement supporting the reinforcement of ECOMIB with two additional police units (approximately 300 police total) and sending a strong signal to potential spoilers regarding the importance of holding free and credible elections in an environment free of intimidation. At press time, a draft of this statement had yet to be circulated, and adoption would likely not occur before late this week or early next week. (The reinforcement of ECOMIB would be consistent with the May announcement by the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff to enlarge ECOMIB, which has yet to be done).

The Council will be particularly interested in the developments highlighted in the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the restoration of constitutional order, mandated by resolution 2048 following the 12 April 2012 coup. The latest report is seen by Council members as being a much less positive assessment from Ramos-Horta than any of his previous reports since taking on the role of Special Representative in January 2013. The report, which was published on 19 November, depicts an “increasingly volatile” security situation and a “deteriorated” human rights situation, warning that this threatens the holding of credible elections. Examples are provided of intimidation by security forces of the media and non-governmental organisations over the past three months, as well as instances of beatings and assaults, including of a UNIOGBIS national staff member, and attacks on Nigerians. The report also suggests that social tensions – due to a fragile humanitarian situation and delays in paying government workers – could also undermine holding credible elections.

For these reasons, the Secretary-General’s report urges ECOWAS to strengthen ECOMIB, tasked by the sub-regional organization to provide security and carry out security sector reform. The Secretary-General calls for the Council “to consider providing support for a reinforced ECOMIB,” both to ensure security for the electoral process and to assist a future elected government. Council members will seek clarification on the type of support that the Secretary-General seeks, which some members thought could be a reference to a logistical support package for ECOMIB.

During tomorrow’s briefing and consultations, Council members will likely express their disappointment that Guinea-Bissau is missing for the second time the deadline that it agreed to with ECOWAS for restoring a democratically elected government. (In June, presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for 24 November, while 31 December was the deadline for the end of the transitional period.)

Members may be interested in hearing about preparations to meet the new 16 March deadline for the elections. There appears to be some progress on this front. The Secretary-General’s report confirms that funding to hold the elections, budgeted at $19.3 million, is now secured, apparently removing an excuse used in the past by the transitional authorities to explain the delay in the elections. Furthermore, Timor Leste is providing an electoral support mission to focus on the voter registration process, which is now currently scheduled for 1-22 December. Nonetheless, in spite of this progress, one cause for concern among Council members is that Military Chief of Staff Antonio Indjai has made statements that call into question his commitment to fulfilling the political transition and staying out of politics after an elected government is established.

Council members will be interested in discussing with Ramos-Horta how they can provide him with a credible deterrent to military interference in civilian affairs. Along these lines, Council members are expected to seek clarification on ECOMIB’s current activities, both in terms of providing security, as well as its longer term security sector reform efforts. This information, lacking in the latest reports, would be considered critical by members in assessing how to provide further support to ECOMIB. Some Council members may also seek Ramos-Horta’s views on the declining humanitarian situation, and ways the Council can contribute to ameliorating this situation.

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