posted on WED 29 AUG 2018 6:17 PM
Guinea-Bissau Briefing

Tomorrow (30 August), the Security Council will have a briefing on Guinea-Bissau. The briefers will be the Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), José Viegas Filho; Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea), chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee; and Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). A civil society representative, Elisa Maria Tavares Pinto of the ECOWAS Women, Peace and Security Network, is expected to brief via video-teleconference. Prime Minister Aristides Gomes of Guinea-Bissau is also expected to participate. While consultations are scheduled, there is a possibility that all Council members will deliver statements in the public chamber, which may lead members to forgo the closed session. It seems that penholder Côte d’Ivoire is preparing a press statement.

This will be Viegas Filho’s first time addressing the Council since being appointed Special Representative in May. His briefing will be based on the Secretary-General’s 16 August report on Guinea-Bissau (S/2018/771). According to the report, the political consensus brokered this past April towards resolving a three-year-long political crisis remains fragile, while the organisation of legislative elections scheduled for 18 November has faced “serious technical and financial challenges”. Viegas Filho may sound a somewhat more positive tone during his briefing, however, as some of the politicised discussion over the voter registration process appears to have subsided, and voter registration kits have been ordered and should soon arrive in Guinea-Bissau. As noted in the report, the Bissau-Guinea government and UNDP have provided $2 million towards the $7.7 million elections budget, and there are now commitments from donors to provide the outstanding amount. Among other points, Viegas Filho may discuss counternarcotics efforts, which are covered in notably more detail in the current Secretary-General’s report compared to previous ones.

Ambassador Ndong Mba is expected to brief on his visit from 25 to 29 June to Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry, sharing his impressions from meetings with the Bissau-Guinean stakeholders and with Guinean President Alpha Condé, who is the mediator for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). On 31 July, ECOWAS removed the sanctions that it had imposed this past February against 19 individuals associated with President José Mário Vaz for obstructing implementation of the October 2016 Conakry Agreement, brokered by ECOWAS to resolve the political crisis. The sanctions seemed to trigger a breakthrough in the political impasse, as soon thereafter Gomes was appointed as a consensus prime minister, agreed to by the major political parties, and an inclusive government was formed. Ambassador Vieira is likely to brief on his recent visit from 25 to 27 July to Guinea-Bissau and Lisbon, and then on a 13 August PBC meeting on Guinea-Bissau.

Council members’ interventions are expected to contain a number of similar messages. They may welcome positive developments, such as the National Assembly’s approval in June of the government programme and the adoption for the first time since 2015 of a budget. However, they are likely to emphasise the need for vigilance and reiterate the importance of stakeholders furthering implementation of the Conakry Agreement, as progress since the breakthroughs in April around the formation of the government has been limited amidst continued political tensions. Members view the timely organisation of the legislative elections as critical. They may call on the government to redouble its efforts to keep to the current electoral timeline.

Members may note other provisions of the Conakry Agreement, such as the importance of adopting a stability pact and conducting the constitutional review and institutional reforms that would address underlying causes that have contributed to the current political crisis. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, the window between the completion of the legislative elections and the presidential polls in 2019 could provide an opportunity to move forward with constitutional reform. Members may stress the importance of inclusivity, including the participation of women and youth groups in discussions on the stability pact and constitutional review, while acknowledging Tavares’ participation in the meeting.

On Friday (31 August), the PBC will meet with Prime Minister Gomes. That same afternoon, the 2048 Committee is also to hold informal consultations. Representatives of the Security Council Affairs Division are expected to present the Secretary-General’s annual report to the Committee on progress in the stabilisation of Guinea-Bissau and the restoration of constitutional order. The report was circulated to Committee members earlier today (S/2018/791). Its recommendations echo those of the Secretary-General’s previous reports to the Committee: to maintain the regime to signal that measures are applicable to all spoilers regardless of their political or institutional affiliation, and that the Council is ready to adjust the measures and designations as needed; to establish a panel of experts; to develop benchmarks for lifting sanctions; and to review the designated individuals to determine whether they still meet the sanctions criteria. Prime Minister Gomes is expected to participate in the Committee meeting.

When Equatorial Guinea acceded to the chairmanship of the 2048 Committee this year, it expressed interest in ending the sanctions regime that targets 10 individuals with a travel ban for their role in the April 2012 military coup. As the recent Secretary-General’s report notes, while the military has refrained from interfering directly in the political crisis, the Council sanctions are broadly perceived in Guinea-Bissau as having served as a deterrent on the armed forces. It seems that the chair may revisit the issue of the sanctions regime’s future after the presidential elections in 2019.