|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6743rd Meeting (AM)
In Guinea-Bissau, Security Sector Reform, Election of Successor President Crucial
to Consolidating Democracy, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Guinea-Bissau’s Representative Says Country in Midst of Critical Electoral Phase
Following Former President’s Death, Affirms Reform of Security Forces Top Priority
Security sector reform and speedy, credible elections in Guinea-Bissau were critical for national and international efforts to restore constitutional order following the death of President Malam Bacai Sanhá in January, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning.
“SSR (security sector reform) remains the cornerstone reform without which democracy and stability cannot be consolidated,” said Joseph Mutaboba, who is also the Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), citing the military incident on 26 December 2011 as representing the depth of the security sector problem. “The leadership of the new President, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, will be crucial,” he stated.
Mr. Mutaboba was joined in his briefing by Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, Chair of the Guinea-Bissau country-specific configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, and João Soares Da Gama, representative of Guinea-Bissau. In his statement, Mr. Mutaboba said that the loss of President Sanhá, whom he called “a moderating force with considerable influence on the country’s fractious political and military actors”, was a blow to all peacebuilding plans and programmes, he said.
He also recalled the December 2011 events, which consisted of an attack on the general staff armoury, followed by detention of multiple suspects and the death of two police staff. A national conference in the wake of those events had been planned, but had been postponed indefinitely following the President’s death. Technical preparation, however, continued. Most of 2012 would be now taken up by presidential elections, which had already started and could be completed by the end of May, when a new President should be sworn in, followed by a crucial national congress scheduled for July and legislative elections by the end of the year.
He said wide-ranging consultations had been held by interim President Raimundo Pereira in late January, leading to a consensus to hold presidential polls on 18 March, with international partners pledging contributions to cover the budget of $4.9 million. Challenges to the date and subsequent candidates, as well as 20 February violence by youths claiming they were disenfranchised, had shaken the process, but the campaign was peaceful and the first round of polling had been held in an orderly manner on 18 March, with 154 observers from a range of partners unanimous in their assessment that the polls had been free, fair and transparent. On the negative side, the killing of a former military intelligence official on that day was being investigated, turnout had been only 55 per cent and a coalition of five candidates had claimed fraud.
In any case, he said, on 21 March the National Electoral Commission had said that a run-off would be held on 22 April between Carlos Gomes Junior and the second-place candidate, Koumba Yala, as no one had obtained over 50 per cent of the vote.
Turning to security sector reform, a core area of concern of UNIOGBIS, he said that consultations on a road map had been stalled between the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Government of Guinea-Bissau. UNIOGBIS continued to support the Government on resource mobilization for the five-year special pension fund for members of the defence and security institutions, with African partners pledging significant amounts along with the Peacebuilding Fund. The related demobilization effort was delayed, however, because of the political transition.
On police reform, he said UNIOGBIS continued to provide technical support for community policing, training, vetting, certification, prevention of gender-based violence and combating child trafficking. Similar efforts were ongoing with respect to the justice sector, while refurbishment of military barracks, provision of equipment and prospective training plans were being undertaken with Angolan assistance. He updated the Council on investigations and prosecutions into assassinations of military officials over the past three years.
Concerning drug trafficking, he said there had been progress in the functioning of the West Africa Coast Initiative’s transnational crime unit, but the full implementation of the 2011-2014 national plan had been impeded by financial constraints. On implementation of the United Nations Joint Strategic Workplan, he said about 78 per cent of selected indicators were either on track or likely to be achieved by 2017, and a United Nations Development Assistant Framework had been signed on 22 February between the Organization and the Government, which would contribute to addressing the challenges of peacebuilding and development during the period from 2013 to 2017.
Ambassador Ribeiro Viotti said the fact that the institutions of Guinea-Bissau had been able to maintain political stability and sustain economic growth despite two potentially destabilizing events — the attack of 26 December 2011 and the death of President Sanhá – showed that the country had made “great strides” towards sustainable peace since the Council had last met on it in December. She hailed the national authorities and people of Guinea-Bissau for handling those difficult events with political maturity and in full respect of their Constitution.
She also paid tribute to the national leadership for its actions when faced with the unexpected challenge of dealing with presidential succession — officials had opted for steering the process in an inclusive and consultative manner. As a result, Interim President Raimundo Pereira had scheduled the polls within 60 days of the former President’s death, notwithstanding the huge logistical and financial challenges that decision entailed.
Turning to the work of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, she said that panel had endeavoured to extend immediate support to the country “in such a delicate juncture”. It had met on 6 February to exchange views and to promote support and resource mobilization for the elections, which she affirmed had been declared free, fair and transparent in their first round. “The international community’s timely and generous response has demonstrated confidence in Guinea-Bissau during these challenging times,” she said, stressing that it was crucial for all stakeholders, especially the two run-off candidates and their supporters, to demonstrate political maturity, maintain a peaceful environment and refrain from any action that could stoke tensions. It was important that all electoral grievances be resolved through legally established channels, in full respect of the rule of law.
She stressed that the configuration had not lost sight of other peacebuilding priorities, including security sector reform. The launch of a pension fund for the Armed Forces and security forces remained one of the highest priorities for peace consolidation and stability. She also highlighted Guinea-Bissau’s remarkable strides in macroeconomic management and economic revitalization. This month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s fourth review of the country’s performance had concluded that it had made progress in stabilizing the economy, reaching a growth rate of 5.5 per cent and meeting most structural benchmarks.
“We, the international community must continue to support Guinea-Bissau so that such achievements can help create a virtuous cycle of stability and growth,” she said, urging that sustained efforts also be geared towards other peacebuilding priorities, key among which were capacity-building to strengthen the justice sector, consolidate the rule of law and fight drug trafficking, as well as initiatives that addressed social challenges including critical shortcomings in the delivery of basic social services.
Mr. Soares Da Gama of Guinea-Bissau agreed that his country was in the midst of a critical phase of elections, following the demise of its former President. From the national point of view, organization of the first round of elections had been very difficult, due to the short time frame and the financial burden. Nevertheless, the authorities had persevered and had met the mid-March deadline for holding the polls, which were declared free, fair and transparent.
He affirmed that, following the poll, five candidates had gone before the National Election Committee to contest the vote and the second runner up – Koumba Yala, who had received only 23 per cent of the votes — had declared that he would not participate. Yet, just last week, the National Election Committee had declared that the challenge posed by the five candidates was without merit. The Supreme Court was now set to rule on the matter. Notwithstanding the tense atmosphere, he hoped the decisions would be respected, that goodwill would prevail and that the second round of voting would take place.
He also affirmed that reform of the defence and security sectors was the Government’s number one priority. In that context, the Government hoped to swiftly move ahead with the launch of the pension fund, which would allow the demobilization and reintegration of some of those forces. That would require international partners to come forward with promised resources. The country had also made other progress in such areas as economic growth. National dialogue remained another of the Government’s priorities. As such, the National Conference on Reconciliation would take place upon the election of the new President. That would allow the people of the country to express their opinions, and together, forge a definitive peace.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:47 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record