Security sector reform vital to stability in Guinea-Bissau, says UN report

Army veterans in Guinea-Bissau on their way to being demobilized in 2009 (file)

3 March 2010 – Security sector reform remains the most crucial element to ensuring stability in Guinea-Bissau, according to a new United Nations report released today, which calls on the international community to support the country’s efforts towards this goal.

In his latest report on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office there, known as UNIOGBIS, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls security sector reform the “centrepiece” of priority stabilization goals in the West African nation.

“I urge national authorities and international partners not to lose sight of the holistic nature of security sector reform and to ensure that international assistance addresses not only defence sector needs but also the needs of the security and justice sectors,” he writes.

He says he is encouraged that the national authorities are taking measures to pave the way for creating the legal framework for the reforms, while highlighting the need for sustained international support for the country’s efforts.

“In these times of global financial crisis and competing priorities, I reiterate my earnest appeal to the international community to generously support the efforts of Guinea-Bissau to restructure and ensure the creation of a comprehensive security sector that is effective, financially sustainable and capable of meeting present and future challenges, including the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking.”

Last November, the top UN envoy in Guinea-Bissau warned that the prospects for political stability in the country appear to be good but are threatened by drug trafficking and organized crime.

“Although there seems to be a downward trend in the trafficking of cocaine through West Africa over the past few months, drug trafficking and organized crime remain a significant challenge for stability in Guinea-Bissau and the sub-region,” Joseph Mutaboba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNIOGBIS, told a meeting of the Security Council.

The Secretary-General adds in his report that the UN is expanding its efforts towards reforming policing and internal security in the country, and urges all partners to join forces with the world body to allow the international community to ‘deliver as one’ in this critical area.

He also lauds the progress that has been made on the political and economic fronts in Guinea-Bissau, where a series of political assassinations in 2009 had threatened security and stability. Malam Bacai Sanhá won the presidential elections that were held in June and July.

“President Sanhá’s call for change towards a culture of positive peace to replace the polarization and divisiveness that have hampered efforts to heal and rebuild Guinea-Bissau society is encouraging,” Mr. Ban states, urging the Government and the National Assembly to continue to “foster synergies for national dialogue” with society as a whole to achieve genuine and lasting reconciliation.

Commending the efforts made towards improving economic and fiscal management, the Secretary-General says it is encouraging that the Government has made economic and fiscal reform a national priority since economic recovery is a key component for any viable strategy to reduce instability.

He adds that recent developments signal a “clear commitment and willingness” on the part of international financial institutions, the UN Peacebuilding Commission and other international partners to collaborate with the Government.

Guinea-Bissau is one of four countries currently on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission – along with Burundi, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic (CAR) – which was established in 2005 to help countries emerging from conflict make an irreversible transition from war to sustainable peace.

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