|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
press conference by Secretary-General’s representative and head of United Nations
Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau
As authorities in Guinea-Bissau struggled to ensure social and political stability following a wave of high-profile political assassinations, the situation was “calm, but extremely fragile”, the top United Nations envoy in the country said today as he urged the international community to step up its support for planned reforms in “every sector, because every sector has critical needs”.
At a Headquarters press conference immediately after his closed-door consultations with the Security Council, Joseph Mutaboba, Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), said Council members had been “receptive” to his assessment of the troubling social, political and military situation in the West African country. With presidential elections scheduled for 28 June, he expected that the Council would send a “strong political message” to the country.
Elections had never been a problem in Guinea-Bissau, he stressed, warning, however, that the Council and the wider international community would have to be vigilant to ensure calm following the vote. Guinea-Bissau is reeling from the assassinations in early March of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and Chief of Staff Tagme Na Waie, as well as the killing of both presidential campaign frontrunner Baciro Dabo, Minister for Territorial Administration, and Helder Proenca, a leading Member of Parliament and former Defence Minister, in the early hours of 5 June.
UNOGBIS was coordinating the activities of international election monitors to ensure the vote was credible and transparent, Mr. Mutaboba said, echoing the Secretary-General’s call on citizens to demonstrate the same sense of civic responsibility they had shown during elections in 2008. He called on candidates from all parties to respect the outcome of the vote and to resort to legal means in the event of any disputes that might arise.
He went on to say that the Security Council had been receptive to the Secretary-General’s recommendation to transform UNOGBIS into a United Nations integrated support office as a means to address adequately a raft of challenges facing Guinea-Bissau, and to help the Government implement much-needed reforms in the defence and security sectors, promote the rule of law and human rights, and enhance political dialogue and national reconciliation efforts.
Acting on the Secretary-General’s proposal and supporting Sunday’s critical elections might be the international community’s last chance to provide desperately needed support to Guinea-Bissau, he said, calling for scaled-up assistance to every sector in order to ensure stability, peace and socio-economic development. “If we fail, the country and the wider region will all suffer.”
Mr. Mutaboba said he was confident that the Security Council would endorse the proposed transformation of UNOGBIS into an integrated mission. In the meantime, it would continue to carry out its duties, helping the authorities to work for political and national reconciliation, and to prevail against organized crime and drug trafficking, while curbing the spread of small arms and light weapons.
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