posted on Wed 23 Aug 2017 4:43 PM
Guinea-Bissau Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (24 August), the Council will receive a briefing from Modibo Touré, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). Ambassador Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, and Ambassador Mauro Viera (Brazil), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) configuration for Guinea-Bissau, will also brief. Representatives of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, and Guinea-Bissau may also address the Council before members continue discussions in consultations.

Touré is expected to provide an update on Guinea-Bissau’s political crisis. The crisis has left Guinea-Bissau without a fully functioning government for two years, pitting President José Mário Vaz against his own African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), led by Domingos Simões Pereira. The Secretary-General’s latest report on Guinea-Bissau (S/2017/695) states that there has been no progress towards implementing the Conakry Agreement, which was brokered last October by ECOWAS to resolve the crisis. The report notes that in the absence of a settlement to the political crisis, there is a risk of the political and security situation deteriorating, especially as legislative elections planned for May 2018 approach.

The two sides maintain different interpretations of the Conakry Agreement, which continue to hinder its implementation and which members may be interested in discussing. Members will also have the opportunity to discuss the decisions on Guinea-Bissau taken at the ECOWAS summit on 4 June. At the summit, West African leaders extended the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) for an additional three months, after having previously announced that the force would withdraw when its mandate expired at the end of June. The leaders further reaffirmed their determination to impose, if needed, targeted sanctions against all those who obstruct the smooth implementation of the Conakry Agreement. Members may express concerns over the approaching date for the withdrawal of ECOMIB, which has been credited with providing a deterrent against would-be spoilers amidst the political instability.

Members will most likely be interested in hearing about the initiative of the women’s facilitation group for dialogue to get political leaders to discuss how to implement the Conakry Agreement. The group, created in May and consisting of women from ten different women civil society organisations, facilitated meetings starting in late June and during July between President Vaz and a number of key actors including Simões Pereira. While the initiative marked the first time the two leaders had spoken with each other in almost two years, it seems that there were no breakthroughs.

Rosselli’s briefing comes after he visited Guinea-Bissau from 13 to 15 June to assess the effectiveness of the Council’s sanctions measures (which are limited to a travel ban) and to discuss related political developments. Rosselli met with a range of interlocutors, including President Vaz, Simões Pereira, government officials, and other political and military leaders, as well as representatives of civil society and the international community based in Bissau. Rosselli also met the ten people, current and former members of the military, who remain sanctioned by the Council for their role in the 12 April 2012 coup. (One person who was sanctioned has since died.) On 31 July, the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee met, at which Rosselli provided a briefing on his mission.

At tomorrow’s session, Rosselli may highlight that a common view expressed during his visit is that the sanctions on military officials, imposed five years ago, are not targeting those responsible for the current problems, which have been created by the political class. Rosselli may suggest modifying the regime, including the possibility of delisting the members of the military, considering the military’s recent conduct. Some members appear open to such a proposal. Others are likely to be cautious about making changes, which requires consensus within the committee, concerned that it could be perceived in Guinea-Bissau as a weakening of the sanctions regime amidst a still fragile situation. The EU decided in June to continue to apply the asset freeze and travel ban sanctions that it had imposed on those who participated in the coup.

This afternoon, the 2048 sanctions committee members received the Secretary-General’s report (S/2017/715) with “recommendations on the continuation of the sanctions regime in the post-election environment,” as requested by resolution 2343, which renewed the mandate of UNIOGBIS in February. The report’s recommendations echo those of previous reports of the Secretary-General to the committee in 2015 and 2016, that the Council, inter alia, maintains the regime to signal to the entire population that measures are applicable to all spoilers, regardless of their political or institutional affiliation; adjusts the measures and designations as needed; and establishes a panel of experts. At present, the committee plans to discuss the report in September, when the Council is expected to review the sanctions measures, according to resolution 2343. September is also when the 90-day period given by ECOWAS for implementing the Conakry Agreement expires, and thus when ECOWAS may make a further decision regarding its threat of sanctions, if the agreement is not being implemented.

Earlier this week, the PBC met on Guinea-Bissau, with Viera briefing members of its Guinea-Bissau configuration on his 25 to 28 July visit to Bissau and Portugal. Briefings were additionally provided by Touré, Marc-André Franche of the Peacebuilding Support Office, and Fatimata Dijo Balde of the women’s facilitation group, who participated by video teleconference from Bissau.

In tomorrow’s briefing, Viera is likely to reiterate that political actors should engage in dialogue to implement the Conakry Agreement and the ECOWAS six-point road map of September 2016. He may commend the women’s facilitation group for having opened up an avenue of communication between political actors, as well as the conduct of the military, while drawing attention to the importance of supporting preparations for the May 2018 legislative elections and the role of ECOMIB.