29 October 2009 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed cautious optimism over the progress of democracy in Guinea Bissau, where a series of political assassinations earlier this year threatened stability in the impoverished West African country.
In his latest report on the country to the Security Council, released today, Mr. Ban commended its people for the “peaceful and well organized” presidential elections in June and July, where Malam Bacai Sanhá won a run-off round against Mohamed Yalá.
But he noted that the record voter abstention rate points to the need for Guinea-Bissau’s political leaders to “foster dialogue and accountability towards their constituents, in order to reinforce democracy and regain the confidence of citizens.”
The period under review was dominated by the tension that followed the assassinations of presidential candidate Baciro Dabó and the former defence minister Helder Proença in early June on the eve of the official launch of the electoral campaign.
In March then president João Bernardo Vieira was also assassinated amid tensions between the Government and the military forces in a country marked by decades of civil conflicts, coups d’état and uprisings.
The Secretary General urged the successful completion of the ongoing investigations into those political assassinations, which will “assist in combating impunity and will contribute to justice and national reconciliation.”
“It will also improve the image of Guinea-Bissau and restore the confidence of the international community,” added Mr. Ban.
He also pledged the support of the UN Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), which will be succeeded on 1 January 2010 by the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).
The new office will be responsible for, among others, strengthening the capacity of national institutions, supporting the establishment of efficient law enforcement and helping to mobilize international assistance.
“There is a window of opportunity in Guinea-Bissau that must be seized,” added Mr. Ban, urging the country’s leaders to capitalize on the success of the elections and public optimism to also improve the country’s social and economic conditions.
Guinea-Bissau is one of the world’s poorest countries, and over the past year the cost of rice and other cereals have soared by as much as 30 per cent.
But the Secretary-General said there are also some encouraging signs, with stronger-than-expected sales of cashew nuts – the nation’s main export crop – ensuring that the forecast economic decline in Guinea-Bissau will not be as severe as anticipated.
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