09/07/2003
Press Release
SC/7812



Security Council

4785th Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON MISSION TO WEST AFRICA, INCLUDING VISITS

TO GUINEA-BISSAU, NIGERIA, GHANA, CÔTE D’IVOIRE, GUINEA, SIERRA LEONE


Mission Head Notes Unity of Liberian Civil Society Groups,

Political Parties in Calls for International Involvement in Country


The Security Council this morning was briefed on its mission to West Africa, from 26 June to 5 July, in support of peace efforts in the subregion.


The mission, which visited Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, had originally been scheduled to visit Liberia as well.  However, the present conflict in that country led it to travel instead to Accra, Ghana, where the parties to the Liberian peace talks were gathered.


The head of the Council’s mission, Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom), had been struck by the unity of the Liberian civil society groups and political parties in their calls for international involvement in their country, and in that regard, he emphasized that the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) needed international support.


When questioned about Liberian President Charles Taylor, he said his consistent response had been that the mission agreed with the Special Court for Sierra Leone that there should be no impunity for human rights abusers.  Nevertheless, it was not for the Security Council to get involved in the region’s specific political questions.


Regarding Côte d’Ivoire, he said the mission had delivered an unmistakable message that the strict implementation by all parties of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, leading to the holding of free and fair elections in 2005, was the only acceptable path in the eyes of the international community.


In Sierra Leone, he had been told that, despite encouraging progress, there was still a long way to go on the path to self-sufficiency.  In that regard, the Council would need to examine and make decisions regarding the continued presence of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in that country.


Regarding the region as a whole, problems still loomed large, he said.  In spite of the considerable resolve displayed by the region’s governments and ECOWAS, they were still constrained by limited resources.  In that regard, he stressed that West Africa could not be asked to sort out its own problems without international funds and stronger links to the global community.


The mission’s visit to Guinea-Bissau had been a joint venture between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council Working Group on Guinea-Bissau.  The head of that portion of the mission, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico, said the two bodies had the opportunity to observe jointly the difficult circumstances in Guinea-Bissau, and to strengthen cooperation and coordination mechanisms, leading to a true partnership between the two councils.


There was a critical political situation in the country, with post-conflict reconstruction moving with difficulty and in an uncertain fashion, which required a clear commitment on the part of the national authorities and the support of the international community.  The mission left with the assurance that elections would be held in October, that the authorities would fully respect the result of those elections, and that the authorities would work with the assembly, once it was constituted, to promulgate the constitution.


The meeting, which started at 10:12 a.m., was adjourned at 10:52 a.m.


Background


The Security Council met this morning to hear an oral report on the Council’s mission to the West African subregion from 26 June to 5 July, by the head of the mission, Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom.


Statements


JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said his mission had focused on five principal themes:  Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, the post-conflict situation in Sierra Leone, and the ability of the United Nations to help bring West Africa out of the lowest levels of the human development lists.  Acknowledging that the mission had been postponed a bit, he said the change in schedule –- because of recent developments in West Africa, the United States President’s visit to the continent, and the timing of the African Union Summit in Maputo -– had actually made the mission more effective.


Regarding Côte d’Ivoire, he said the mission had delivered an unmistakable message that the strict implementation by all parties of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, leading to the holding of free and fair elections in 2005, was the only acceptable path in the eyes of the international community.  In spite of disturbances during his visit to Abidjan, he said he felt encouraged by President Gbagbo’s dedication to national reconciliation and amnesty measures and by the fact that representatives of the Forces armées nationales de Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the Forces nouvelles had continued their dialogue after meeting with the mission.


Turning to Liberia, he said the mission had tried not to interfere with negotiations promoted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  It had, however, stressed to all parties that they must negotiate a ceasefire and prioritize the people of Liberia over any factional concerns.  The humanitarian conditions in Liberia, after all, were among the worst in the world.  Declaring that he had been struck by the fervent unity of Liberian civil society groups and political parties calling for international involvement in their country, he emphasized that the efforts of ECOWAS needed international support.  However, he also maintained that the implementation of a ceasefire and a basic peace agreement between the parties would be necessary for the deployment of an international force.


When questioned about Liberian President Charles Taylor, he said his consistent response had been that the mission agreed with the Special Court for Sierra Leone that there should be no impunity for human rights abusers.  Nevertheless, it was not for the Security Council to get involved in the region’s specific political questions.


In Sierra Leone, he had been told that, despite encouraging progress, there was still a long way to go on the path to self-sufficiency.  In that regard, the Council would need to examine and make decisions concerning the continued presence of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in that country.


Regarding the region as a whole, problems still loomed large, he said.  In spite of the considerable resolve displayed by the region’s governments and ECOWAS, they were still constrained by limited resources.  In that regard, he stressed that West Africa could not be asked to sort out its own problems without international funds and stronger links to the global community.  Declaring that United Nations engagement in the region was steadily improving, he, nevertheless, insisted that communication between United Nations missions and with the West Africa Office could be better.


Before concluding, he lauded the Council’s cooperation with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  There was, after all, a definite link between security and development that needed further exploration.  He also expressed satisfaction with Anglo-French cooperation in Africa.  However, he added that, whereas it was good that the whole Council had been represented on this mission to West Africa, it might be better in the future to have a smaller group in order to carry out more delicate negotiations.


ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico), head of the mission’s visit to Guinea-Bissau and Chairman of the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone, said the mission’s visit to Guinea-Bissau was special in that it was a joint venture between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council Working Group on Guinea-Bissau.  The two groups had the opportunity to observe jointly the problems and difficult circumstances of Guinea-Bissau, and to strengthen cooperation and coordination mechanisms, leading to a true partnership between the two councils.


In doing so, he said, both bodies found a “broad horizon” for complementary work between them, especially in dealing with economic issues, peace and development, and security in Africa.  The mission had encountered a country in the midst of a serious social crisis affecting the majority of the population.  There was also a critical political situation in the country, with post-conflict reconstruction moving with difficulty and in an uncertain fashion.


All of that, he said, required a clear commitment on the part of the authorities, as well as the support of the international community to the political process, which should lead to elections.  Due to a combination of social and economic factors, the mission found risks, which, if not dealt with properly, could lead to the breakdown of institutions.  The conditions for peace and security were closely linked to the political process and economic and social development.  What happened in Guinea-Bissau would influence the rest of the region.


He was convinced that it was important to strengthen the partnership between Guinea-Bissau and the international community, on the basis of the criteria established by the ECOSOC Working Group, which implied an active commitment by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and donor countries.  That active commitment could not lead to improvement without clear signs on the part of the authorities that they were moving forward on the political process.  In speaking with various groups in the country, he saw a society eager to overcome its setbacks, and willing and ready to build understanding and harmony.


The mission aimed to send a clear message -– that the political process had to move forward, and that elections must be held in the near future.  It had emphasized the need for a participatory political process.  A clear commitment would also be needed from the international community and donor countries.  The mission had left being assured that the elections would be held in October.  Since then, the election date had been announced for 12 October.  Also the mission was given clear signs that the authorities would fully respect the result of the elections.  In addition, it had obtained certainty that once the assembly was constituted, the authorities would work with the assembly to promulgate the constitution.


Guinea-Bissau was at a crossroads, he stated.  If it did not move forward, the country risked going backwards, with implications for the entire region.  The international community must support the process to prevent a catastrophe.  The Council must be vigilant and not passive.  The mission recommended that the Council and the Secretariat be in ongoing communication to support the society and authorities of Guinea-Bissau in the political process.


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