Guinea-Bissau: Consultations on the deteriorating post-electoral situation
Today (4 March), Security Council members are going to discuss the deteriorating situation in Guinea-Bissau in consultations under “any other business” with Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. Niger requested the session, which will follow this morning’s Council briefing and consultations on South Sudan. As penholder on Guinea-Bissau, Niger plans to propose a draft press statement to express support for the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) mediation efforts and call on the parties to respect the legal and constitutional framework to resolve the crisis.
The situation in Guinea-Bissau has been tense since the 29 December 2019 second round presidential election. While Umaro Sissoco Embaló was announced as the winner by the National Electoral Commission (CNE), candidate Domingos Simões Pereira of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) claimed irregularities and fraud and challenged the results by appealing to the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ). The STJ has issued several orders for the CNE to conduct a recount of tally documents, which it seems the CNE has not fully complied with. Secretary-General António Guterres suggested last month, while attending the AU summit in Addis Ababa, that the UN was waiting for the completion of the ongoing legal process to recognise a new president.
In the past few days, the situation has worsened. On 27 February, a swearing-in ceremony was held for Sissoco Embaló at Hotel Azalai in Bissau, since the National Assembly refused to swear him in until the legal challenges were resolved. Outgoing President José Mário Vaz and other political allies of Sissoco Embaló attended, as well as senior members of the military, including retired general Antonio Indjai who remains listed under Security Council sanctions for leading the 12 April 2012 coup d’état. Most international community representatives did not attend, with the exception of the ambassadors of Senegal and The Gambia. Prime Minister Aristides Gomes issued a statement saying that a coup d’état was underway. Meanwhile, the National Assembly swore-in Cipriano Cassamá, the president of the parliament, as the country’s interim president, based reportedly on an article of the constitution that foresees the appointment of an interim president in case of a vacancy in the head of state position.
Sissoko dismissed Gomes on 28 February, and on 29 February appointed Nuno Gomes Nambian as Prime Minister. These developments were followed by the military reportedly surrounding or occupying government institutions, including the Supreme Court of Justice, which is still considering the latest PAIGC challenge to the CNE’s compliance with its order. The military has also reportedly prevented Gomes from entering his office, while Cassamá has resigned, citing death threats and threats to his family.
ECOWAS has appeared to be somewhat divided during the post-electoral stalemate. Earlier in February, West African leaders welcomed, during an extraordinary session on the margins of the AU Summit, conclusions of one of the CNE verification processes that ECOWAS had monitored. An ECOWAS communiqué released yesterday on the latest developments—its second since 27 February—“strongly condemns these assaults and other actions that are contrary to shared democratic values and principles within the ECOWAS community area. These actions undermine the established constitutional order and expose all its perpetrators to sanctions”. It further expressed concern about the military’s interference in the political situation and called on it to remain neutral.
In a statement yesterday evening, Secretary-General Guterres said he was following with concern the institutional crisis in Guinea-Bissau provoked by the ongoing electoral dispute, and encouraged all stakeholders to await the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The Security Council just renewed the mandate of UNIOGBIS on 28 February, continuing to endorse a Secretary-General’s drawdown plan for the mission’s completion by 31 December. In the mandate renewal, the Council expressed concern at the political situation and called on political stakeholders to refrain from actions and statements that could disrupt the political process, escalate tensions or incite discrimination, hatred or violence—albeit without specifically referring to the unfolding developments since 27 February. It stated the Council’s readiness to take appropriate measures in response to further developments, while also requesting a Secretary-General’s report later this year, to be submitted to the 2048 Sanctions Committee, with recommendations to continue, adjust or suspend the sanctions regime. Completing the electoral cycle has been cited over the past year as a benchmark for the reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS, and similarly the election and transition to a new president as benchmarks to consider possibly ending the sanctions regime that was established after the 2012 coup.
Sori-Coulibaly last briefed the Council on 14 February. At the time, she recalled that the continued engagement of the Security Council and broader international community would be essential due to the tensions over the electoral outcome, while commending Guinea-Bissau for completing the electoral cycle, and focused much of her remarks on transition planning for the mission drawdown.