Tomorrow afternoon (10 October), Security Council members will hold consultations on Guinea-Bissau. Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) Rosine Sori-Coulibaly is expected to brief via video-teleconference. Equatorial Guinea requested the consultations for Council members to hear about the situation from Sori-Coulibaly, ahead of a visiting mission later this month by the 2048 Sanctions Committee (chaired by Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea) and the 24 November presidential election. Council members may issue a press statement supporting the decisions of the 7 October joint mission to Bissau by the AU, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN.
The upcoming election will be held in a polarised political environment following more than four years of political crisis. President José Mário Vaz’s five-year mandate officially ended on 23 June, but he has remained the head of state with reduced powers. A successful election, however, would still represent the first time since independence in 1974 that a president has completed a full term.
Sori-Coulibaly is likely to highlight the mistrust among political actors. There are concerns over intentions of some stakeholders to delay the election by breaking up the governing coalition led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) since the party’s popular leader and reformer Domingos Simões Pereira is considered likely to win. Presidential candidate Nuno Nabian, whose United People’s Assembly (APU/PDGB) is part of the governing coalition, recently formed an alliance with opposition party, the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), to unite the Balanta ethnic group, which has strong links with the military, in support of Nabian’s candidacy. Opposition parties have criticised the government for failing to present its “government programme” within the required constitutional timeframe; it is now scheduled to be discussed next week in the National Assembly. There are also tensions, possibly linked to some of the political maneuvering, over investigations that have led to two major drug interdictions this year, including 1.8 tonnes of cocaine seized in September.
Tomorrow’s consultations follow the 7 October joint mission to Bissau by the UN, represented by Special Representative Mohammed Ibn Chambas of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, the AU, the CPLP and ECOWAS. In a communiqué, the joint mission delivered a strong statement underlining that the presidential election must be held during 2019, including the 24 November first round, and if necessary, the second round run-off on 29 December.
The joint mission further stressed that the current government should remain in place, to focus on organising the election. It addressed the controversy over updating the voter registration, stating that without consensus on correcting errors (which prevented around 24,000 voters from participating in the 10 March legislative elections), the voter registration from the legislative elections shall be maintained and used. It further called for the government and donors to fulfil their financial commitments to the holding of the election.
This will be Sori-Coulibaly’s first briefing to Council members since her appointment to head UNIOGBIS on 29 July. She has been engaging with stakeholders to make sure elections are held as scheduled. Tomorrow’s meeting could provide members an opportunity to discuss her strategy in this regard, including how upcoming visits by the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau configuration, Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), and the 2048 Committee mission can be used to support these and wider efforts of the AU, CPLP, ECOWAS and the EU that with the UN form the Group of Five in Guinea-Bissau.
Regarding the sanctions committee mission, Ambassador Ndong Mba visited Guinea-Bissau in his capacity as committee chair in June 2018 and co-led a Council visiting mission with Côte d’Ivoire, penholder on Guinea-Bissau, this past February ahead of the legislative elections. Under Ndong Mba’s chairmanship, the committee has discussed the prospect of ending the sanctions regime. Sanctions were imposed following the 2012 coup d’état and continue with a travel ban on ten individuals from the military. This year’s annual report of the Secretary-General on the Guinea-Bissau sanctions said that the sanctions remain a useful deterrent to potential spoilers in light of the current political situation. The report indicates, however, that a peaceful election and transfer of power could be a benchmark for the Council to consider ending the regime. The committee discussed the report on 11 September, one day after the Council’s six-month briefing on Guinea-Bissau.
The sanctions committee recently agreed on the terms of reference for its upcoming mission. The chair is expected to encourage the holding of free and fair elections, and to note that if the election and post-electoral transition go well, the committee will examine the possibility of ending the sanctions. In June, an ECOWAS threat to sanction individuals obstructing political progress appeared to break the stalemate on forming the new government, and ECOWAS’ imposition of sanctions in February 2018 (which were subsequently lifted) broke a previous stalemate in the political crisis.
Nineteen persons have submitted their candidacies for the presidential election, which the Supreme Court will confirm by 15 October. These include Vaz, running as an independent due to his falling out with the PAIGC. Umaro Sissoco is the candidate for the second largest party in parliament, Movement for Democratic Change (MADEM G-15), formed last year by PAIGC dissidents. Carlos Gomes Júnior, who had been expected to win the 2012 presidential run-off election before the April 2012 coup, is also running.
In February, when the Council extended the mandate of UNIOGBIS for a year, it endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the prospective completion of UNIOGBIS’ mission by 31 December 2020.