What's In Blue

Posted Thu 27 Aug 2015

Briefing and Consultations on Guinea-Bissau’s Political Crisis

Tomorrow morning (28 August), the Security Council will have its biannual briefing, on Guinea-Bissau which will be followed by consultations. Miguel Trovoada, the Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), will present the Secretary-General’s 13 August report on the activities of UNIOGBIS (S/2015/626) and brief on the situation in the country, particularly the ongoing political crisis. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) Guinea-Bissau country configuration, will also brief. Representatives from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries and ECOWAS are expected to make statements, as is Guinea-Bissau’s ambassador João Soares Da Gama.

Council members were last briefed on Guinea-Bissau’s political crisis by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun on 14 August. This briefing took place shortly after President José Mário Vaz dismissed the government of Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira. Tensions between the country’s two leaders have existed for some time, in part due to disagreements over interpreting the constitution and the president’s role in decision making, but the situation worsened this month. Following the Council’s 14 August meeting, it issued a press statement urging Guinea-Bissau’s leaders to seek dialogue and consensus in resolving the crisis, and underscoring the importance of the non-interference of security forces in the political situation (SC/12007). Earlier that week, on 12 August, Council members had issued a press statement welcoming ongoing efforts of regional and international actors to encourage dialogue (SC/12005).

Trovoada will likely update members on political developments, and on regional and international efforts to resolve the political stand-off. On 15 August, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which is the party of both Vaz and Simões Pereira, renominated Simões Pereira as prime minister. Vaz, however, appointed and swore-in Baciro Dja as prime minister on 20 August. Since this decision, Guinea-Bissau’s National Assembly has held two special sessions (22 August and 24 August), condemning Vaz’s appointment of Dja, and noting in a statement on 22 August that Dja “was not proposed by the party which won the last legislative elections, in this case the PAIGC.” In a resolution adopted on 24 August, the National Assembly expressed its intention to pursue legal means to dispose of Dja, including through the Supreme Court.

Regional actors, particularly ECOWAS, have been involved in seeking to resolve the crisis. In addition to the engagement of the presidents of Senegal and Guinea, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently appointed former president Olusegun Obasanjo as a special envoy to mediate in the crisis. Obasanjo met with Senegal President Mackey Sall, who is the current chairman of ECOWAS in Dakar, but has yet to visit Guinea-Bissau. It seems that Buhari was not pleased with Vaz’s decision to appoint a new prime minister ahead of Obasanjo’s visit to Guinea-Bissau, and issued a statement noting that this development “has worsened the political situation.”

At the moment, there is much uncertainty about the political situation. It seems that Trovoada and some Council members may highlight that the political turmoil, unless resolved, risks jeopardising the $1.2 billion pledged for Guinea-Bissau during a donors roundtable in March to support the government’s 2015-2020 development plan.

On 17 August, the PBC’s Guinea-Bissau country configuration met to discuss the situation, issuing a press statement the following day. Patriota will likely reiterate a number of the elements highlighted in the configuration statement, including the importance of political leaders resuming dialogue and seeking to resolve the current standoff within the framework of the constitution and the country’s laws. Patriota may point out that one positive development is that the military has stayed out of the crisis. Members may seek Trovoada’s assessment on the impact of the political crisis on the security situation. They may also ask about any contingency plans of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau.

Members are also likely to discuss other options to support efforts to resolve the crisis. They may note that the Council’s last two press statements have been ineffective. When the Council issued its press statement on 12 August after its initial 10 August briefing on the crisis, Council president Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu (Nigeria) read out the press statement, which called on political leaders to resume dialogue, only moments before Vaz announced his decision to dissolve the government. Some members may suggest the need for the Council to speak out more strongly, through a presidential statement or resolution emphasising that the president cannot act alone, and highlighting the importance of political stability in order to not risk losing the funding pledged by donors. Following a suggestion by Angola at the Council’s last meeting on Guinea-Bissau, members have also been considering the possibility of dispatching a visiting mission made up of some Council members to the country, and may want to get Trovoada’s views on the benefits of such a mission.

In addition to recently receiving the Secretary-General’s bi-annual report on the activities of UNIOGBIS, Council members have also been discussing within the Guinea-Bissau 2048 Sanctions Committee a Secretary-General’s report assessing progress since the restoration of constitutional order and recommendations on continuing the sanctions regime (S/2015/619). In his report, the Secretary-General concluded that the sanctions, which consist of a travel ban currently applied to eleven individuals involved in the 12 April 2012 coup, remain a valuable tool for deterring potential spoilers given the country’s fragility, which has been highlighted by the current crisis. The Sanctions Committee discussed the Secretary-General’s recommendations with the Secretariat on 11 August, ahead of an anticipated Council review of the Guinea-Bissau sanctions in September required by resolution 2203. Among the Secretary-General’s recommendations were the establishment of a two-person panel of experts, and benchmarks for eventually ending the sanctions. Some members may seek Trovoada’s assessment as to whether it would be helpful at this time for the Council to follow up on these recommendations. It seems some members do not believe that discussing the sanctions would be constructive while this crisis is ongoing.