8337th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Guinea-Bissau

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30-Aug-2018 02:21:35
Timely, credible elections in Guinea-Bissau critical to retain fragile political progress, senior officials warn Security Council at 8337th meeting.

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Guinea‑Bissau, having made crucial strides towards overcoming its long‑standing political impasse, must hold free, fair and inclusive elections as scheduled in November or risk rolling back its fragile progress, senior officials briefing the Security Council emphasized today.

“The holding of timely and credible elections is of paramount importance at this juncture,” said José Viegas Filho, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea‑Bissau Bissau (UNIOGBIS). Citing an overall calm situation in the West African nation — which has been experiencing political upheaval for several years — he said the country’s authorities and political actors are currently focused on preparations for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November. While key provisions of the country’s 2016 Conakry Agreement have been met, a national dialogue towards the adoption of a “stability pact” is yet to be held, he said.

Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea‑Bissau, describing his visit to that country in June, said he met with national and regional partners to discuss ways to help Guinea‑Bissau emerge from gridlock. Underscoring the importance of international support ahead of the country’s elections, he listed several important reforms that are still needed — including major changes in Guinea‑Bissau’s security and justice sectors. Stressing that the goal of sanctions imposed against Guinea‑Bissau by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier this year is not to punish, pressure or change the country’s leadership but to support its stability, he also voiced concern over the critical challenges of drug trafficking and transnational crimes.

Mauro Vieira (Brazil), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Guinea‑Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, described tangible progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement and returning Guinea‑Bissau’s political life to normal. Recent important developments include the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister, the formation of an inclusive Government, the approval of a Government programme and the national budget, and the reopening of the National Assembly. He also outlined several core challenges still facing the country, including the limited time available to organize the November elections and update voter registration lists, the lack of proper coordination between and among Government entities and other partners, and an urgent need for cash to close the funding gap for voter registration efforts.

Elisa Maria Tavares Pinto of the ECOWAS Women, Peace and Security Network, briefing the Council via videoconference from Bissau, spotlighted women’s critical role in Guinea‑Bissau’s civil society. Emphasizing their historic aspirations and recent progress, she nevertheless cited obstacles that have long kept women from fully enjoying their civil, political, economic and other rights. Warning that the situation in the country remains fragile, she said young people face a lack of education and unemployment, while drug trafficking and clandestine migration impact women most. Today, for the first time, women’s groups, religious organizations, youth groups and others are working together to discuss solutions to Guinea‑Bissau’s political crisis. She also welcomed the country’s recently adopted gender parity bill, which sets a minimum 36 per cent women’s representation on candidate lists for legislative and local elections.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, welcoming positive recent political developments in Guinea‑Bissau as a “glimmer of hope in bringing the country out of its political crisis”, called on its authorities to continue to implement the Conakry Agreement and help bolster civil society engagement. Welcoming the recent ECOWAS decision to lift sanctions against certain individuals in Guinea‑Bissau, which will help ease tensions and reinforce conditions for a constructive dialogue between stakeholders, he warned against any delays in carrying out the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, UNIOGBIS should make any adjustments needed to help the country lay the foundation for peace and turn its attention to development and the fight against drug trafficking and transnational crime.

Ethiopia’s delegate, meanwhile, spotlighted the need to tackle the causes of Guinea‑Bissau’s political crisis. Noting that progress remains fragile, she stressed that developments must be followed closely and the holding of timely, credible legislative and presidential elections is crucial for consolidating peace and national reconciliation. She also pressed national, regional and international bodies to tackle the growing challenges of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

Echoing those sentiments, the representative of the Netherlands said the full implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the Bissau six‑point road map is the only way forward. While commending efforts by the newly formed Government to organize legislative elections, she recognized that “we aren’t there yet”. A draft of the stability pact has been circulated among political stakeholders, which will be the foundation of national round‑table dialogues, and she urged all relevant stakeholders to finalize that document as soon as possible before November elections. Among other things, she also expressed hope that ECOWAS will extend the mandate of its Mission in Guinea‑Bissau until at least the end of the presidential elections scheduled for 2019.

Aristides Gomes, Prime Minister of Guinea‑Bissau, recalled that six months ago the Council was considering the many challenges and seemingly insurmountable political impasse in his country. Today, however, “there is new hope in Guinea‑Bissau”, thanks largely to constant support from ECOWAS and other regional partners. Outlining some of the root causes of the recurrent political crises in his country, he cited the collapse of State institutions following independence as well as long‑standing fragilities and malaise, which are exacerbated today by the impacts of drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. Guinea‑Bissau requires an urgent return to regulation, which will help stimulate more growth and result in fewer political parties attempting to prey on State institutions.

Noting that important structural reforms will be possible following the November elections, he said it will also be necessary to reconsider the presence and configuration of UNIOGBIS at that time, leading to a more effective and efficient Office. Meanwhile, the signing of an inclusive stability pact will bring stakeholders together and allow them to join forces in a spirit of action. Asking Member States and other partners to support Guinea‑Bissau in developing a reliable and transparent electoral census — and to help it bridge broader financial gaps — he said that while Guinea‑Bissau’s remaining challenges are numerous, “they are not insurmountable” and “the crisis is not inevitable”.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Russian Federation, United States, Sweden, Poland, Kazakhstan, Peru, Kuwait, Bolivia, China and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:42 p.m.
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