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Guinea-Bissau Briefing and Consultations

On Tuesday (30 August), the Security Council will have a briefing followed by consultations on Guinea-Bissau. Briefings are expected from Modibo Touré, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), and Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador Luis Bermúdez of Uruguay, which chairs the 2048 Guinea-Bissau sanctions committee. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil) will also brief as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) Guinea-Bissau country configuration.

The Secretary-General’s 2 August report (S/2016/675) documents the continuing political crisis in the country. The Supreme Court ruled on 15 July, in a 7 to 3 decision, that President José Má Vaz’s latest appointment of Baciro Dja as prime minister was “not unconstitutional”. As part of its decision, the Court highlighted that due to the change in the “status quo” in the National Assembly, Vaz had been unable to receive guarantees from the Party for African Independence of Guinea and Cade Verde (PAIGC) that it could maintain parliamentary stability. For this reason, he asked the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), the party with the second highest votes in the 2014 elections, to present him with a proposal for a new government. The latest struggle in the political impasse revolves around organising a parliamentary session to adopt the government programme and budget.

Touré is likely to elaborate on recent developments, while highlighting the socio-economic consequences of the year-long political crisis, which has affected government services. On 15 August, the president of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States Commission (ECOWAS), Marcel Alain De Souza announced following a visit to Guinea-Bissau that the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), credited with deterring military interference, would withdraw within a year, citing ECOWAS resource restraints. Touré is likely to encourage the international community to remain committed to the country despite frustration over efforts to end the impasse. He may highlight the urgency of an ECOWAS presidential mission to Guinea-Bissau and call for organising a meeting of the International Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau (ICG-GB). These were actions that ECOWAS heads of states agreed to at their 4 June summit, but which have not materialised.

Members are likely to express support for regional efforts and engagement, and to call for the deployment of the presidential mission. Some members may note the opportunity to bring leaders together to discuss the crisis next month in New York with the start of the General Assembly, which Vaz is expected to attend. They may reiterate concerns over the risk of military interference given the country’s history, despite the restraint so far demonstrated. Members may also raise focus on the broader implications of the crisis, particularly the possibility that drug traffickers and terrorist groups may be able to exploit the situation; the latter risk was flagged for the first time in the Secretary-General’s report.

Bermúdez will deliver a statement on behalf of the 2048 sanctions committee. The Committee met on 19 August to discuss the Secretary-General’s 16 August report on Guinea-Bissau sanctions (S/2016/720), which was presented ahead of a review of the sanctions next month. The report concludes that the Secretary-General’s recommendations from last year regarding the sanctions (S/2015/619) “remain valid and relevant”. It recommends maintaining the sanctions regime as a signal to spoilers regardless of political or institutional affiliation, and adjusting the measures and designations as necessary; establishing a panel of experts; establishing benchmarks to lift sanctions; and reviewing current individuals subject to travel ban sanctions for their role in the 2012 coup to determine whether they still meet the designation criteria.

At the 2048 Sanctions Committee meeting, there seemed to be more openness to considering the proposals compared to last year when the crisis had just begun. This year’s discussion followed a year of political impasse, and active efforts from the Council including a visiting mission in March, which do not seem to have had much impact on the situation.

While it is unlikely that the Council would make new designations at this stage, members asked the Security Council Affairs Division, which presented the report, questions about its proposal for a panel of experts, such as its composition and possible mandate. As outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, the panel could provide information for more effective and targeted sanctions, as well as support the Committee for the review of individuals who may be eligible for delisting. Its creation in itself could send a signal that the Council is closely monitoring developments. It is one of the only sanctions regimes without an expert or monitoring group. The threat posed by the terrorism in the region and the risk that extremism groups could take advantage of the current situation provides greater momentum to consider the proposals.

It seems that much will depend on how far Senegal, as penholder on Guinea-Bissaue, is willing to push for the recommendations. Considerations that may influence Council action include concerns that establishing the panel could be viewed as enhancing the sanctions and that all the actors have been acting legally and within the constitution. During tomorrow’s meeting, members may be interested in Touré’s views regarding the proposals.

The PBC’s Guinea-Bissau configuration was briefed on 22 August by Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman about his visit in July to Guinea-Bissau. The configuration issued a statement on the situation on 26 August. Patriota is likely to highlight key points from Feltman’s briefing and from the statement, including the importance of international and regional engagement and ECOMIB. He is further expected to highlight the socio-economic consequences, as it is the poorest in the country who are suffering the most due to the political impasse. In this regard, Patriota may appeal to donors to honour their pledges, and to national stakeholders to resolve the impasse and adopt a budget to give donors confidence to provide money. Patriota may recall that addressing Guinea-Bissau’s problems is a long term endeavour, which eventually must include the constitutional review to clarify the powers of the president and prime minister.

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