28 June 2011 While Guinea-Bissau has witnessed improvements on the political and security fronts, the authorities need to do more to consolidate the gains achieved and to address issues such as impunity, drug trafficking and organized crime, a senior United Nations official said today.
“The country is indeed at a crossroads,” Joseph Mutaboba, the Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said in a briefing to the Security Council.
The increased stability and the more positive political climate in the country remain fragile, he noted. “Consolidating them must continue to be the focus of our concerted efforts.”
He reported that, on the one hand, the political and security situation is improving; but on the other hand, the economic reforms are yet to be sustained by other key reforms, notably in the defence and justice sectors.
“In addition, there remain serious concerns regarding the lack of commitment by the national authorities to address impunity, drug trafficking and organized crime, despite the potential devastating impact for the country’s stability,” said Mr. Mutaboba, as he presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the activities of the UN Office.
UNIOGBIS was set up last year as a successor to the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), which had been in the country since 1999 as part of international efforts to help it recover from civil war in which thousands were killed, wounded or forced from their homes. In the years that followed, the country was still plagued by coups, coup attempts and, in 2009, the assassination of then president João Bernardo Vieira.
In his report, the Secretary-General states that the national authorities and Guinea-Bissau’s international partners have taken “commendable” steps towards enhancing political stability, and adds that continuous dialogue between these two actors is vital for enhancing peacebuilding and stability.
Mr. Mutaboba said that significant progress was made in recent weeks regarding the coordination of international partners involved in the security sector reform process. Developments include the deployment of the Angolan security sector reform support mission in the first quarter of 2011 and the recent deployment of a military assistance mission from Brazil, which intends to refurbish the former army headquarters.
On the political front, the UN’s efforts have focused on the preparations for the national conference and high-level dialogue involving the political leadership and paving the way for the revision of the constitution.
“The focus of UNIOGBIS, in coordination with partners, is to ensure that the national conference is more than an event and lives up to its promise of bringing about change, reconciliation and national consensus on critical changes in society,” said Mr. Mutaboba.
He noted that while there have been signs of improvement in recent months regarding the political dialogue at the top level of Guinea-Bissau’s leadership, “it has yet to be established if the President, Prime Minister and their respective advisers and teams have reached a sufficient level of confidence to address critical aspects of stability, such as how to handle the issue of the military leadership and how to fight impunity through decisive measures.”
He described as a “setback” the recent decision of the Prosecutor-General to transfer the case of the June 2009 political assassinations to the Military Court, given the challenges posed to the constitutional order by the military in recent years, and concerns over the independence and ability of the military to complete this process in a credible manner.
In a statement to the press following the meeting, the Security Council noted the progress made by the Government towards the maintenance of stability and the important steps taken in achieving economic reform and encouraged it to continue such efforts.
“The members of the Security Council stress the need for the authorities of Guinea-Bissau to intensify efforts to create the enabling environment for enhanced civilian control over the security forces of Guinea-Bissau, in particular the armed forces, and to make progress on security sector reform,” according to the statement, which was read out by Ambassador Nelson Messone of Gabon, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for June.
They reiterated their call on the security forces, in particular their senior officers, to abide by civilian control, and called on the Government and the security forces to participate fully in national efforts to implement current programmes for security sector reform on schedule to create “effective, professional and accountable” security forces that respect the rule of law.
Council members also called on the Government to ensure the prosecution “with full respect for due process” of those responsible for criminal acts, such as political assassinations and drug trafficking.
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