What's In Blue

Posted Fri 6 Dec 2013

Guinea-Bissau Presidential Statement

The Security Council is set to adopt a presidential statement on Guinea-Bissau on Monday (9 December). Togo, as penholder on Guinea-Bissau, expressed its intention to seek a presidential statement last week and circulated a first draft on 30 November. It was put under silence procedure on the evening of 4 December (Wednesday). However, although Morocco and Rwanda objected to wording in the final paragraph regarding conditions for future reengagement with Guinea-Bissau, a compromise was found late in the afternoon of 5 December allowing for consensus on the draft.

The draft presidential statement follows the Council’s briefing and consultations last week with Special Representative José Ramos-Horta. It seeks to send a strong message to Guinea-Bissau stakeholders on the need to hold timely and credible national elections, now scheduled for 16 March 2014, and to warn potential spoilers. It also encourages ECOWAS to move forward with its previously announced intention to strengthen its mission in Guinea-Bissau, known as ECOMIB.

This draft presidential statement seems to be a response to the Council’s concern that agreed timeframes for restoring a democratically elected government in Guinea-Bissau have been missed twice in the past year, as well as a response to the Secretary General’s latest report (S/2013/680) that outlined a deterioration in security and human rights conditions that could affect the conduct of free and credible elections.

The draft presidential statement urges the transitional authorities in Guinea-Bissau to ensure no further delays or postponements of the elections, deplores continued interference by the military in civilian affairs, and condemns the increase in human rights violations and several incidents of violence in the past three months. It also warns those individuals who might interfere with the efforts to restore constitutional order that the Council is prepared “to consider further measures”, including targeted sanctions.

As highlighted at the briefing by Ramos-Horta last week, more than sufficient funding has been pledged by the international community for the elections (budgeted to cost $19.3 million), and the draft statement urges the timely disbursement of the pledges. In light of the deterioration in the security and human rights situation in the run-up to the elections, the Secretary-General, through his latest report, called for strengthening ECOMIB with the deployment of two additional formed police units, totaling three hundred additional police, as proposed by ECOWAS in May. The Council welcomes in the draft presidential statement the plans of ECOWAS to reinforce the mission. At last week’s briefing, Cote d’Ivoire, speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, called for logistics and air support to ECOMIB in order to guarantee security during the elections. It seems that the Council has taken note of this and included in the draft statement a call for ECOWAS, its member states and international partners to offer further support to ECOMIB.

The draft presidential statement also contains two paragraphs on the Council’s concern over drug trafficking in Guinea Bissau, and the need to address the problem through support to the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Guinea-Bissau and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as well as considering the regional and holistic dimensions. It also takes into account concerns raised during last week’s briefing and consultations on the social and humanitarian conditions in the country that could potentially impact the elections, along with tensions between the main political parties.

One meeting at expert level was held on Tuesday (3 December). Overall, there was little disagreement among members on much of the substance of the draft text, although there were some differences over specific language. During the negotiations, the US raised concerns that the initial language warning of sanctions for those who may undermine the elections was going beyond the mandate of resolution 2048. These concerns were accommodated through a more restrained paragraph with a specific reference to resolution 2048 added.

Stronger divisions among members emerged over the final paragraph which welcomes future Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) reengagement with Guinea-Bissau. Some members preferred language specifying that PBC reengagement would occur once there is a democratically elected government, which is in line with what Ambassador Antonio Patriota (Brazil) has indicated as the current chair of the Guinea-Bissau PBC configuration. However, Morocco and Rwanda objected to the Council putting what could be interpreted as a condition that PBC reengagement be contingent on restoring constitutional order. They further pointed out that the draft presidential statement also refers to Patriota’s intention to visit Guinea-Bissau in January which in itself represents a level of reengagement ahead of the elections. The text ultimately agreed upon by all members removed the reference to a democratically-elected government and instead welcomes the plans to reengage “once appropriate conditions” are met.

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