What's In Blue

Posted Thu 25 Feb 2016

Mandate Renewal of UNIOGBIS and Guinea-Bissau Political Crisis

Tomorrow (26 February), the Security Council will adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office for Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for a year. Senegal circulated an initial draft on 19 February. Following an expert level meeting on 22 February and two rounds of negotiations, the draft resolution is about to go into blue. This year’s mandate renewal comes amidst a political crisis in Guinea-Bissau and ahead of a Council visit to the country early next month.

Negotiations on the Draft Resolution

The draft resolution maintains UNIOGBIS’s current mandate. This includes retaining the priority areas of its mandate: good offices in support of political dialogue; support to security sector reform; and coordination and mobilisation of international assistance. At last year’s renewal, the Council reinforced and prioritised these three areas of the mandate, particularly the Special Representative’s good offices role, in recognition of the tensions between the country’s key political leaders which escalated last August into the current political crisis.

Another significant element is that the draft resolution urges bilateral, regional and international partners to consider providing financial support for sustaining deployment of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB). The force is widely perceived as having served as an effective deterrent to military interference by the Guinea-Bissau armed forces over the last six months, a particular concern in light of the country’s history of military coups. In meetings this month, Senegal has highlighted that ECOWAS’ difficulties in financing ECOMIB could mean that the mission may not be able to continue after its mandate ends in July.

Initial negotiations on the text appeared to be smooth, and following Monday’s expert level meeting, Senegal placed the draft under silence procedure. However, Uruguay broke silence yesterday, proposing that the language on drug trafficking be reduced and streamlined, contending that the resolution places too much emphasis on an issue that received little attention in the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2016/141). Uruguay’s proposals were supported by Angola, Egypt, Japan and Venezuela.

The P5 were against the extensive changes that were proposed, pointing out that the country’s political impasse was contributing to an increase in organised crime, according to Special Representative Miguel Trovoada, and that drug trafficking remained a problem. It seems that one permanent member made the argument that trying to negotiate changes to the draft text at this stage would make it difficult to get agreement before the mission’s mandate expires.

Last year’s negotiation on the UNIOGBIS text saw similar divisions when Angola suggested reducing the language on drug trafficking as the scale of this problem had declined. It is a point that the chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Antonio Patriota (Brazil), has made within the PBC, previously expressing concern that the resolution’s emphasis on drug trafficking last year was no longer warranted and unfairly stigmatised the country.

Following a second expert-level meeting, a few of the references to drug trafficking were consolidated. Language was added that requests the Secretary-General to include in his report an assessment of progress made in combatting drug trafficking.

Recent Council meetings on Guinea-Bissau

Earlier this month, on 4 February, the Council received a briefing from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé Brooke Zerihoun under “any other business” on the latest developments in Guinea-Bissau’s political crisis. Senegal requested the meeting amidst the impasse in the National Assembly over the expulsion of 15 representatives from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), who had abstained on the vote for the government’s national programme and prevented its adoption. The situation continues to pit President José Mário Vaz against the majority of the members of his own political party, including PAIGC party leader Domingos Simões Pereira, who was Prime Minister until Vaz dissolved his government last August. On a positive note, the military has refrained from intervention, though members are aware that it could still get involved if the crisis continues.

Members were unable to agree to a press statement circulated by Senegal after Russia objected to mentioning the EU among regional organisations involved in efforts to resolve the crisis. It seems that Russia’s objection may have largely been related to some members’ opposition to naming regional organisations in Russia’s sphere of influence, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, Commonwealth of Independent States, and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, in a press statement being discussed at the same time on the UN’s Regional Office for Central Asia.

Most recently, the Council discussed Guinea-Bissau on 17 February at its six month briefing with Trovoada (S/PV.7624). The Special Representative gave a somber assessment of the country’s political stalemate, expressing concern over its increasing complexity and the entrenchment of political leaders. The situation was delaying the disbursement of the greater part of the $1.2 billion in donor funds pledged last year for the country’s Terra Ranka development programme, and beginning to affect basic social services. Patriota also briefed, stressing the importance of coherent messaging from international and regional actors, and noting that Guinea-Bissau represented an opportunity for the Council and PBC to apply joint leverage to achieve a solution to the impasse.

Just before this briefing, Council members had shelved plans to go to Guinea-Bissau as part of their upcoming mission to West Africa. But during the consultations that followed, members decided to reinstate the visit. Trovoada said he thought the mission would be timely, noting that since August 2015, the Council had given the country very little attention. It seems a further consideration was the signal it would send if the Council bypassed Guinea-Bissau while going to nearby Mali and Dakar.

Following the meeting, the Council president read out agreed press elements that expressed concern over the tensions within the PAIGC and national institutions and called on political leaders to resume dialogue.