31/03/2005
Press Release
SC/8350


Security Council

5157th Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL URGES COMMITMENT TO PEACEFUL ELECTORAL PROCESS IN GUINEA-BISSAU


In Presidential Statement, Council Also Strongly Condemns Any Attempt

To Incite Violence or Impede Efforts towards Peace, Stability, Development


The Security Council this afternoon urged all political actors in Guinea-Bissau to show unequivocal commitment to a peaceful electoral process, leading to peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections, and strongly condemned any attempts to incite violence and to impede ongoing efforts towards peace, stability and social and economic development. 


In a statement read out by its President, Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg (Brazil), the Council also expressed its growing concern at recent political developments in the country, particularly the decision by the “Partido da Renavação Social” to select ex-President Koumba Yala as its presidential candidate.  Such decisions challenged the Transitional Charter and had the potential to jeopardize the successful conclusion of the transitional process and forthcoming presidential elections.


The Council also expressed its deep concern at the fact that peace efforts had not yet generated sufficient social and economic benefits for the population that could discourage the use of force. 


In addition, the Council called on Guinea-Bissau’s international development partners to cooperate fully with the Government, which had been fully engaged in the implementation of the Transitional Charter and in efforts to promote transparency and good governance. 


Further, the Council welcomed the initial measures taken regarding reforming the Armed Forces and the promotion of reconciliation among the military.  It further encouraged full inclusiveness and renewed commitment to such reconciliation, and development of constructive civilian-military relations based on the Armed Forces as an institution subordinated to the elected civilian authorities. 


The meeting began at 5:36 p.m. and ended at 5:42 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as S/PRST/2005/14, reads as follows:


“The Security Council recognizes some progress made in some areas in Guinea-Bissau, including the electoral process and urges all political actors in the country to show unequivocal commitment to a peaceful electoral process, leading to peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections, by refraining from inspiring or promoting any sort of ethnic or religious hostilities, particularly with a view to obtaining political gains.  In this regard, the Council strongly condemns any attempts to incite violence and to impede ongoing efforts towards peace, stability and social and economic development.


“The Security Council expresses its growing concern at recent political developments in Guinea-Bissau, in particular the decision by the “Partido da Renovação Social” -- PRS -- to select ex-President Koumba Yala as its presidential candidate.  Any decision, such as this, which challenges the Transitional Charter, has the potential to jeopardize the successful conclusion of the transitional process and forthcoming presidential elections.


“The Security Council expresses also its deep concern at the fact that peace efforts have not yet generated sufficient social and economic benefits for the population that could discourage the use of force.


“The Security Council stresses, at the same time, the urgent need for international support to the electoral process.  It recalls previous appeals for increased international assistance to Guinea-Bissau, including to the forthcoming presidential elections, as part of an urgently needed peace-building strategy in that country.


“The Security Council calls upon Guinea-Bissau’s international development partners, including all concerned agencies of the UN system, to cooperate fully with the Government of Guinea-Bissau, which has been fully engaged in the implementation of the Transition Charter and in efforts to promote transparency and good governance.  It welcomes, in this regard, the holding on 11 February 2005, in Lisbon, of the “Meeting of Guinea-Bissau’s Partners to prepare for the Roundtable Conference” and stresses the importance of strong participation in the Donor Roundtable Conference scheduled for October 2005.


“The Security Council welcomes initial measures taken by the Chief of General Staff regarding the process of reform of the Armed Forces and the promotion of reconciliation among the military.  The Council further encourages full inclusiveness and renewed commitment to reconciliation in the Armed Forces, and development of constructive civilian-military relations based on the Armed Forces as an institution subordinated to the elected civilian authorities.  In accordance with its mandate in resolution 1580 (2004), it reaffirms UNOGBIS’s role in encouraging and supporting national efforts to reform the security sector.”


Background


The Secretary-General’s latest report on developments in Guinea-Bissau and the activities of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office there (UNOGBIS) notes that the country has improved noticeably since his last report (document S/2004/969), dated 15 December 2004, despite tremendous challenges.  The State is still floundering and unable effectively to address the basic needs of the populace, accomplish military reform or build a common vision among national stakeholders on how to foster peace, justice and reconciliation.  The old sources of conflict persist.  Forthcoming presidential elections, now scheduled for 19 June, will formally end the transition set in motion by the Political Transition Charter and mark the full restoration of the constitutional order.  However, if poorly prepared and managed, the elections could be an additional source of tension and further instability.


Urging national stakeholders to create an environment conducive to peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections, the Secretary-General says that the proposal to have the Parliament grant a blanket amnesty to all involved in military actions from 1980 to 2004 raises concerns among large segments of the population, including civil society organizations.  The need to address this issue with a view to understanding the wider implications of such a measure on peace, security, justice and the rule of laws has been conveyed to the authorities.


In the light of the work that remains to put the peace-building process on a steady forward-looking track, the Secretary-General recommends that, within the framework of its revised mandate, UNOGBIS focus on promoting political dialogue with a view to generating a self-sustainable consensus-building process on critical national issues, including electoral matters, the role of transitional justice approaches to consolidating peace and national reconciliation, the promotion of the rule of law, and security sector reform.  It should also focus on developing, as a first priority, stable civil-military relations through a profound reform of the armed forces as an institution subordinate to democratic civilian authority and promoting implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons as an urgent priority.  The UNOGBIS should also concentrate on advancing a comprehensive and integrated United Nations peace-building strategy and adjusting the use of available human and financial resources, as well as seeking supplementary resources to respond more effectively to the requirements of its revised mandate.


On the political situation, the report notes that the country has remained peaceful, although the political situation is still difficult and complex.  The Government has been engaged in preparing for the presidential elections, the holding of which, within the time-frame stipulated in the Political Transition Charter, is a key benchmark for the full restoration of constitutional normalcy.  However, the slow pace of electoral preparations, combined with the demands by most political parties for a completely new voter register, is likely to have an impact on the election date.  Since some 20 political parties have challenged the accuracy of the 2004 voter register and demanded a new registration exercise, the National Election Commission and political parties have agreed to carry out an in-depth revision of the register involving the issuance of new voting cards.  Agreement on this critical measure helped reach a subsequent consensus on the date of elections, which means that the timetable set out in the Political Transition Charter will not be strictly observed.


Turning to economic and social aspects, the report says the economy improved slightly in 2004 with an increase in the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate to 4.3 per cent, thanks, in particular, to a successful cashew harvest.  In spite of this, the Government remains unable to pay the backlog of civil service arrears from 2003, domestic debt or salaries for January 2005.  Progress has been made towards improving control of the public administration payroll, and probes are continuing into corruption allegations.  The parliamentary inspectorate against corruption reported on 16 February that it had submitted to the Office of the Public Prosecutor three cases of embezzlement from the State totalling some $420,000.


The country is still coping with a locust invasion that started in December 2004, which has affected crops, including the important cashew crop, according to the report.  An early emergency response was provided with the assistance of Libya, Portugal and Senegal and the technical support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  The health and education sectors continue to suffer from inadequate infrastructure and a shortage of financial and human resources.  However, the school year is proceeding normally, with an increase in teachers’ salaries and a higher number of school inspectors.


Regarding military and security aspects, the report states that the Chief of General Staff, General Tagme Na Waie, carried out a series of sensitization meetings in all regions and barracks to promote the reconciliation of the different military factions, although the members of the military hierarchy removed from their posts after the 6 October 2004 mutiny have not yet resumed active duty.  However, they are at their residences and their movements are not restricted.


The report says that UNOGBIS has continued to encourage the military leadership to initiate reform and, in this connection, General Tagme has stated his commitment to the reform process on several occasions.  Three committees have been set up within the General Staff to examine the Defence Act and military regulations; retirement for members of the armed forces; and physical deployment of the armed forces.  At the 11 February 2005 donor mini-conference in Lisbon, Brazil committed itself to an initial contribution of $500,000 for security sector reform.  As requested by Security Council resolution 1580 (2004), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is ready to channel these and any future funds through its existing Crisis Prevention and Recovery Thematic Trust Fund, specifically its Security Sector Reform and Transitional Justice service line.


According to the report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has continued to provide administrative and financial management support to the demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration programme, which is in its last phase.  To date, among the 7,182 beneficiaries, 2,406 have already been reintegrated and 2,031 are expected to be reintegrated by June 2005.  Since the programme will not be able to complete all the reintegration activities, it is applying for an extension to December 2005.


With regard to demining, progress towards the elimination of mine-related risks continues under the supervision of the UNDP-supported national mine-action coordination authority.  By February 2005, the two national mine-clearance non-governmental organizations, Humaid and Lutcam, had removed 2,545 anti-personnel mines, 64 anti-tank mines and 40,439 pieces of unexploded ordnance, and had cleared 789,075 square metres.  The European Union has pledged €600,000 to support Humaid.  In 2005, demining activities are expected to focus on Bissau, the capital.


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