Security Council members to discuss Guinea-Bissau under “Any Other Business”
Today (30 October), Security Council members will consider under “any other business” the unfolding developments in Guinea-Bissau. On 28 October President José Mário Vaz dismissed the government of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, less than a month before the already delayed presidential election scheduled for 24 November. Côte d’Ivoire requested the meeting on Monday, and is expected to propose a draft presidential statement. The discussion on Guinea-Bissau is anticipated to follow this afternoon’s consultations on Burundi.
Tensions have been rising in Guinea-Bissau ahead of the election. On 10 October, Council members held consultations with Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. The session was organised amidst concerns that some stakeholders intend to cause the collapse of the government installed after the 10 March legislative elections, and delay the election, as Domingo Simões Pereira, who leads the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), is considered likely to win. Also fueling the tensions have been investigations into two major drug interdictions this year, including the 1 September seizure of 1.8 tonnes of cocaine and arrests of several Bissau-Guineans, Colombians and Malians.
On 16 October, Council members issued a press statement reiterating “the need to support the current Government, formed following the legislative elections of 10 March 2019, and this Government’s mandate to manage governmental affairs and organize presidential elections”. The press statement also underlined the need for the election to occur on 24 November, and further “urged political parties with parliamentary representation to ensure the continuity of the current Government and to ensure that the presidential election takes place according to the planned schedule”.
Over the past week, the situation has become further polarised. On 23 October, Aristides Gomes announced that the government was launching an investigation into a purported coup d’état plot, and as evidence released an audio recording of presidential candidate Umaro Sissoco Embaló of the country’s second-largest party, The Movement for a Democratic Alternative (MADEM-G15). Opposition parties accused the government and the PAIGC of forging the recording to undermine Sissoco’s campaign. Vaz, who himself is running as an independent in the election, which has a field of twelve candidates, released a statement perceived as criticising Gomes, claiming any disruption of the “current order” would be the responsibility of the government. On 26 October, one protestor was killed during a demonstration in Bissau by opposition parties demanding the postponement of the election. Following this incident, Vaz issued a decree on 28 October dismissing the Gomes-led government and blaming it for “aggravating suspicions about the process of preparing for an election”.
Yesterday (29 October), the ministerial committee of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) released a communiqué calling Vaz’s dismissal of the government illegal. ECOWAS had brokered an agreement at its 29 June summit to resolve questions about Vaz’s status, as his five-year term had expired on 23 June. In the communiqué from the June summit, ECOWAS said that Vaz would remain as president until the presidential election, but with reduced powers, as the handling of government affairs should be fully undertaken by the new government, which was formed four days later. In yesterday’s statement, ECOWAS said it was “very concerned about the evolving political situation”, including information on an attempted coup and the creation of artificial obstacles to impede the electoral process. It reiterated its “full support for Prime Minister Aristides Gomes and his government”. ECOWAS also threatened sanctions against anyone who obstructed the upcoming 24 November election.
Yesterday Vaz appointed a new prime minister, Faustino Fudut Imbali, and he may soon appoint the rest of the government, despite Gomes’ insistence that he will not step down.
The Secretary-General released a statement this morning saying that he was “following with serious concern the unfolding developments”, and called on all political stakeholders to abide by the decisions of ECOWAS regarding the governance arrangements until the presidential election. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) has also issued a statement, reiterating its support for the Gomes-led government, and in a statement, The Guinean Human Rights League (LGDH) described Vaz’s actions as unconstitutional.
It seems that Côte d’Ivoire had been planning to propose a presidential statement, to be adopted closer to the upcoming election date. In light of the latest developments, however, Côte d’Ivoire is expected to circulate a draft, which may call on all stakeholders to show restraint and remain committed to peaceful elections as scheduled. It is likely to further seek to have the Council echo support for ECOWAS’ recent statements.
The chair of the Guinea-Bissau 2048 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea), has been in Bissau leading a delegation of the committee as part of a planned mission from 27 to 30 October. The committee was expected to encourage free and fair elections, and underscore that if the electoral process and post-electoral transition go well, the committee would examine the possibility of ending the sanctions regime established following the April 2012 coup d’état. Last week, the Peacebuilding Commission’s country configuration chair Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil) was in Guinea-Bissau, also to encourage a timely and peaceful election.