What's In Blue

Posted Mon 13 Jun 2016

Briefing and Consultations on Guinea-Bissau

Tomorrow (14 June), the Council will receive a briefing via video-teleconference from Modibo Touré, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). The AU Special Representative to Guinea-Bissau, Ovidio Pequeno, may also brief from Bissau. Following the briefing, Council members will continue discussions in consultations. As they have done recently after meetings on Guinea-Bissau, it seems that Council members may issue “press elements.”

Last week, Senegal requested this briefing to keep the Council up-to-date on Guinea-Bissau’s ongoing political crisis. Members last met on Guinea-Bissau in consultations on 26 May. Only hours before the start of that meeting, President José Mário Vaz appointed Baciro Djá as Prime Minister, triggering protests in the capital city of Bissau. Former Prime Minister Carlos Correia, whose government Vaz had dismissed on 12 May, denounced the appointment as a “constitutional coup”, and members of his cabinet refused to leave their offices in the governmental palace.

President Vaz had previously appointed Djá as prime minister in August 2015, but he resigned after the Supreme Court ruled the appointment unconstitutional. Djá’s second appointment occurred after Vaz reportedly received a proposal for a new government from the opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS), which has formed a coalition in the National Assembly with 15 dissident deputies from the majority African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Djá was sworn in the next day on 27 May.

Over the next two weeks, a stand-off ensued at the governmental palace as the National Guard surrounded the building with members of the former government inside, at one point preventing deliveries of water and food. Following negotiations mediated by the Bishop of Bissau and the international community, the stand-off came to an end on 9 June, with the former government and supporters of the PAIGC agreeing to leave the palace. A Supreme Court ruling is expected shortly on the constitutionality of Vaz’s latest appointment of Djá. Council members may welcome the end of the stand-off at the palace while expressing concern over the continued fragility of the situation.

Following the Council’s 26 May meeting on Guinea-Bissau, members issued “press elements” that highlighted the upcoming 4 June ECOWAS heads of state summit in Dakar as an opportunity to further address the political crisis. The summit resulted in several important decisions. The mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), due to expire at the end of June, was extended for an additional year. For months, ECOWAS has been warning that the force, which has been credited with deterring possible military interference, would have to withdraw without new donor funding. Ahead of the summit, the EU offered up to $10 million for ECOMIB’s continuation. Furthermore, ECOWAS will dispatch a presidential mission to Guinea-Bissau, constituted by the presidents of Guinea, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Council members are likely to be interested in details of the organisation of this mission, and to stress the need for it to deploy as soon as possible. An ECOWAS preparatory mission may visit Guinea-Bissau this week ahead of the presidential delegation.

A third important decision from the 4 June summit was for the ECOWAS Commission to begin consultations with the Community of Portugese Language Countries (CPLP) to organise a meeting of the International Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau (ICG). One challenge in international mediation efforts has been the multiplicity of actors: President Alpha Conde of Guinea as the ECOWAS mediator for Guinea-Bissau; Nigeria’s Special Envoy to Guinea-Bissau, former president Olusegun Obasanjo; Senegal President Macky Sall in his just-concluded role as chairman of ECOWAS; and other regional and international bodies including the UN (the Security Council, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and UNIOGBIS), the AU, the CPLP and the EU. A meeting of the ICG would bring together these actors to promote a better coordinated approach to the crisis.

During tomorrow’s meeting, members are likely to be interested to hear more from Touré about his efforts in the lead-up to the 4 June summit, when he engaged in shuttle diplomacy across the region with different heads of state to coordinate a common position among ECOWAS members.

Council members will probably commend the military for its continued non-interference in the crisis, although the possibility of military intervention remains a concern. In this regard, members may be interested in hearing more about ECOMIB’s capacity to address any security issues that may arise from the political stand-off.

As in the past, some members may note that the situation is an internal political conflict, in particular, a dispute within the PAIGC to which both Vaz and Djá belong. On the other hand, a number of members may highlight the need to follow the situation closely and to ensure that it does not deteriorate, given the potential for regional spillover effects related to drug trafficking and the growing threat of terrorism in West Africa.

It is further possible that some members will raise the issue of sanctions. Council travel ban sanctions remain in place against perpetrators of the April 2012 coup, and the designation criteria for imposing sanctions include actions undermining Guinea-Bissau’s stability. Some members may be interested in discussing the possibility of threatening sanctions to pressure actors to resolve the long-standing dispute peacefully.

The PBC remains engaged in Guinea-Bissau. The Guinea-Bissau country configuration received a briefing on 9 June from Touré. A statement by the country configuration issued after the meeting welcomed ECOWAS’ decision to extend ECOMIB’s mandate, dispatch the presidential delegation and initiate consultations for holding the ICG meeting, while stressing the importance of coordinating international diplomatic efforts.

Post-script: In addition to the briefings by Touré and Pequeno, Senegal addressed the Council on behalf of ECOWAS. Also making statements were Guinea-Bissau’s Ambassador João Soares Da Gama and Ambassador Maria Helena Pires (Timor-Leste) on behalf of the CPLP (S/PV.7714)

The next day, Council members issued a press statement encouraging national actors to abide by the constitution and the rule of law, and commended security forces for their non-interference in the political crisis. The statement further expressed support of the decisions taken at the 4 June ECOWAS summit and expressed members’ readiness to take necessary measures to respond to further worsening of the situation (SC/12405).