posted on Thu 27 Feb 2020 11:22 PM
Guinea-Bissau: UN Mission Mandate Renewal

On Friday (28 February), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) until 31 December. At the end of this year UNIOGBIS is thus likely to close, after being present in Guinea-Bissau, along with its predecessor mission (the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau) since 1999. Niger, as the penholder on Guinea-Bissau, circulated a draft resolution at the end of last week. Negotiations were held on the text on 24 and 26 February. The draft resolution was put in blue after passing a silence procedure on 27 February.

Last year’s resolution 2458 endorsed the Secretary-General’s plan from his December 2018 special report on Guinea-Bissau for a phased reconfiguration of UNIOGBIS and its prospective completion by 31 December 2020. During this year’s mandate discussion, there remained consensus among Council members over the timeline for the mission’s transition and completion. According to the draft mandate, UNIOGBIS should further continue to operate as a streamlined good offices special political mission, and prioritise: (a) support for full implementation of the October 2016 Conakry Agreement, facilitating inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation and strengthening democratic governance, particularly for several urgent reforms; and (b) providing support, including technical assistance, for expediting and completing the review of the constitution.

There apparently was some discussion among members over how to express concern about the current tense political situation and risks on the ground. Nearly two months after the 29 December second-round run-off in the presidential election, a key benchmark for UNIOGBIS’ reconfiguration, the outcome of the race is still unclear. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) claimed there were irregularities and the Supreme Court of Justice has issued several orders for the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to conduct a recount of tally results. The PAIGC claims that the CNE has not satisfactorily complied with these orders. Today an inauguration ceremony was held for Umaro Sissoco Embaló, the winner of the election according to the CNE, at Hotel Azalai in Bissau, as the parliament has refused to swear him in until the legal challenges are resolved.  This move, described by the Prime Minister as a coup, is likely to further increase tensions. The draft resolution expresses concern at the political situation and calls on political stakeholders to refrain from actions and statements that could disrupt the political process, escalate tensions or incite discrimination, hatred or violence. It states the Council’s readiness to take appropriate measures in response to further developments.

A difficult issue during negotiations was how to refer to the Guinea-Bissau sanctions regime. Travel ban sanctions exist on 10 individuals associated with the military, who were involved in the 12 April 2012 coup d’état. Constitutional order was restored in 2014 following elections, and the military did not interfere during the last five years of chronic political instability. The Secretary-General’s August 2019 annual report on Guinea-Bissau sanctions recommended maintaining these for a limited period, taking into account the political situation in the country, as a deterrent to potential spoilers. In the event of a peaceful presidential election and transfer of power, the Council and the 2048 Guinea-Bissau sanctions committee may wish to consider reviewing the sanctions list, according to the Secretary-General’s report, which seemed to suggest that these could be benchmarks to begin ending the sanctions.

Russia, supported by China, was the main proponent seeking to reflect the possible termination of the sanctions. Russia stated at the 14 February briefing on Guinea-Bissau that “the time has come for addressing the lifting” of the sanctions, which it said had achieved their objective long ago.

European members, in particular, did not want to prejudge the possible direction of the upcoming annual Council review of the sanctions. They held the view that sanctions have been an effective incentive in influencing the military’s behavior, a point made in the Secretary-General’s reporting. It was thus important not to undermine this incentivising effect, especially considering the current political situation. In addition, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened on 21 February to impose sanctions on those who do not contribute to Guinea-Bissau’s political normalisation, so some members felt that language suggesting the sanctions’ termination would undermine ECOWAS’ position. Other differences apparently included the timing of the Secretary-General’s annual report on the sanctions, and whether it should go to the 2048 Committee or the Council.

In the draft in blue the Council commits to reviewing the sanctions measures, based on a Secretary-General’s report with recommendations, as it has in previous UNIOGBIS mandate renewals. But new compromise language was added indicating that the recommendations and the Council review can consider various outcomes, including to continue or suspend the sanctions regime. The report should be submitted within five months to the 2048 Committee, with the Council review to take place in six months.

In addition, the Secretary-General is requested to submit a report within five months on the implementation of this resolution and the drawdown and transition of UNIOGBIS.

Regarding the drawdown, during this month’s Council briefing and consultations the remarks of Special Representative and head of UNIOGBIS Rosine Sori-Coulibaly focused largely on transition planning for the transfer of residual tasks to the UN country team, ECOWAS, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and other partners. This included Sori-Coulibaly calling on national stakeholders to enhance their involvement in the transition process, noting that an assessment of UN country team capacities against national peacebuilding priorities will be undertaken to identify capacity gaps, and highlighting that funding is needed for the country team to support critical peacebuilding tasks after UNIOGBIS’ departure.

Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho (Brazil), as chair of the PBC’s Guinea-Bissau configuration, also briefed, underscoring the PBC’s commitment to coherent and coordinated support for national efforts to address root causes of instability during the transition process and for providing a platform to promote shared analysis and understanding of continued challenges. Costa added that the PBC would seek to mobilise international support to address likely financial needs.

The draft resolution appears to echo some of these points. This includes requesting the Secretary-General to conduct comprehensive capacity mapping of the UN country team and other partners, and encouraging the PBC to follow closely and support the UNIOGBIS transition process and long-term peacebuilding efforts.