|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6766th Meeting (AM)
World Community ‘Cannot Afford to Be Divided’ in Engagement with Guinea-Bissau
Following 12 April Coup, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Guinea-Bissau’s Foreign Minister, Peace-building Configuration Chair,
Angola’s Foreign Minister, Commissioner from West African States Also Speak
Following the 12 April military coup in Guinea-Bissau, it was critical for all international partners of the troubled West African country to agree on a joint international response to facilitate a peaceful restoration of constitutional order there, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning.
“The international community cannot afford to be divided in its engagement in Guinea-Bissau,” Joseph Mutaboba, who is also head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said as he introduced the Secretary-General’s special report on the crisis, which voices deep concern at the intransigence of the military junta (see Background). Also briefing the Council this morning was the Guinean Foreign Minister, Mamadú Saliu Djaló Pires.
The representative of Brazil, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, also briefed in her capacity as Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, as did Georges Rebelo Chikoti, Minister for External Relations of Angola, on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries and Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Since the report’s release, Mr. Mutaboba said, Interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior had been released, meeting a key condition laid down by the former ruling party to engage in talks. The Secretary of State for Ex-Veterans was also set free. However, several Government officials were still in hiding or taking refuge in diplomatic compounds and their safe return was important for any return to constitutional order.
Meanwhile, he said, ECOWAS was leading a mediation process, with the Gambia, on behalf of the organization, hosting a meeting on 29 April of Guinea-Bissau stakeholders, including the military junta, the former ruling party (known as the PAIGC), the forum of opposition political parties, the five candidates contesting the results of the first round of presidential elections, as well as an inter-faith facilitation group. The ECOWAS mediation proposed the immediate restoration of constitutional order followed by a 12-month transitional period for political reform, during which the military junta would hold the portfolios of Interior and Defence.
The talks stalled, however, with parties disagreeing on key issues such as who should be interim President. In addition, Mr. Mutaboba notes, proposed portfolios for the junta and other measures could be seen as not meeting ECOWAS’ “zero tolerance” criteria, as well as the Security Council’s call for the restoration of constitutional order. There was also a lack of clarity on proposals to complete the disputed electoral process. Subsequently, on 3 May, ECOWAS leaders reaffirmed their “zero tolerance” policy towards coups in the sub-region and offered a further package of proposals for Guinea-Bissau.
In the meantime, also with the aim of a swift return to constitutional order, UNIOGBIS had met with the military junta a number of times, and the junta assured him of its participation in the ECOWAS mediation process. Overall, he said, the coup was unpopular in the country and there was mounting anxiety over the social and economic consequences of the crisis, which included the delay of civil servants’ salaries and the disruption of the cashew trading season. In addition, human rights violations remained unabated, including restrictions of freedom of expression, intimidation and arbitrary arrest. He noted the targeted sanctions imposed by the European Union on six members of the junta.
Reaffirming the United Nations’ strong condemnation of the coup and support for the ECOWAS-led mediation, he said that any sustainable solution must be inclusive. He pledged to work with national actors to foster dialogue among all segments of society.
Taking the floor next, Foreign Minister Djaló Pires welcomed what he called the “solid positions” taken by the Security Council and ECOWAS, the European Union, the Portuguese-speaking community and others in condemning the coup. He said, however, that atrocities continued to be committed by the junta in the capital and the interior of the country, affirming that some leaders remained in hiding and that political assembly was forbidden, and adding that organized political groups were stealing cattle, public funds were being pillaged and the home of the Prime Minister continued to be looted.
While supporting ECOWAS’ role, he said that some of its proposals, in particular by not endorsing the continuation of the electoral process, nor the return of the legitimate authorities serving until 11 April, and the endorsement of the election of a new bureau for the National Assembly, seemed to encourage coups instead of combating them and differed from the position of much of the international community. Among sine qua non conditions for legitimacy to return in Guinea-Bissau were the effective restitution of power to the elected leaders that were serving until the coup and the removal and prosecution of the junta leadership, he said.
Other conditions included the dispatch of a joint force involving the United Nations, ECOWAS, the African Union and the Portuguese-speaking community, with a mandate to protect civilian authorities, guarantee completion of the election process and actively support security-sector reform. He also called for the compulsory and immediate removal of the current military leadership for having been the protagonists in all the military uprisings in the last 14 years. He said that his position was shared by the majority of people in the country.
Mr. Rebelo Chikoti of Angola, representing the Portuguese-speaking community, said that the community and its member States only recognized authorities in Guinea-Bissau that resulted from constitutional and democratic legitimacy, and it supported the views of that legitimate leadership. In that vein, he called upon the Council to make all efforts towards the immediate restoration of constitutional order. The community also appealed to the Council to impose targeted sanctions on military personnel involved in the coup, and expressed its support for sanctions already imposed by the European Union and those foreseen by ECOWAS.
He reiterated the Community’s support to the request made by the legitimate Government of Guinea-Bissau for the establishment and deployment of a comprehensive stabilization force, and said it was urgent that the Council deliberate on that proposal. After various actions aimed at achieving bilateral solutions, including the establishment of the Angolan Technical Assistance Mission and others, it was now time for an “eminently multilateral approach” to support the stabilization of Guinea-Bissau, under the auspices of the Security Council. The community also proposed the urgent establishment of a “Contact Group for the Crisis in Guinea-Bissau” under the coordination of the United Nations.
Ms. Viotti of Brazil said that the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission also strongly condemned, from the outset, the forcible seizure of power from the legitimate Government of Guinea-Bissau. National stakeholders should solve their disputes through political dialogue and never by the use of force, she added, maintaining that the first step towards further national reconciliation in the country should be the respect for the rule of law and constitutional order, and the engagement and consideration of different international partners, especially regional partners, should be sustained. The recent release of the interim President and Prime Minister was an important development and should be seen as an opportunity to keep the momentum towards the restoration of legality.
She said that, meanwhile, it was of utmost importance to continue coordinating efforts and speaking with a “single voice”, underscoring that the international community would not, under any circumstances, tolerate such actions as were taking place in Guinea-Bissau. She noted that tangible results had been obtained by the Peacebuilding Commission, as shown by the holding of democratic elections; indeed, in spite of all the difficulties imposed by years of conflict, Guinea-Bissau had started, with the cooperation of the international community, to create a positive trend that would establish a virtuous cycle of political stability and economic development.
Finally, Ms. Suleiman of ECOWAS said that for years, Guinea-Bissau had stood as a major challenge for her region. The permanent stand-off between the over-politicized military and the perpetually bickering political class had transformed a beautiful country with great potential into a virtual failed State. “This trend cannot be allowed to continue,” she said. Unfortunately, ECOWAS’ efforts towards the speedy restoration of constitutional order, including its demand for a 12-month transition period, had so far had “mixed results”. ECOWAS Heads of State had, therefore, adopted a sanctions package and a contact group was set up to follow up on the summit’s decisions.
In a main breakthrough, on 27 April, efforts to secure the release of the President and the Prime Minister had succeeded, she noted, saying that after a further summit on 3 May and a mission for further discussions, ECOWAS believed that progress through its approach was being made and a solution would soon be found. However, the constitutional order present in Guinea-Bissau before the coup could not be restored immediately, as the PAIGC was demanding, if civil war was to be avoided, she stressed. Nor would ECOWAS accept the proposals of the junta and its allies, as that would be tantamount to rewarding the plotters. A compromise was needed. ECOWAS would continue to work in cooperation with the African Union, the United Nations and other partners towards the maintenance of peace and security, as well as the restoration of the rule of law. “It will require resolve,” she said, as well as the continued understanding of the international community. In that regard, she added, support would be required, particularly for the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force; estimates of assistance needed would be available soon.
The political paralysis and drug culture in Guinea-Bissau today symbolizes the fragility that threatened the subregion’s efforts to entrench democratic culture and promote growth and development, she said. The international community had a responsibility and an opportunity to transform the situation. “And the time is now.”
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11:13 a.m., at which time the Council went into consultations on Guinea-Bissau, as previously agreed.
The Security Council had before it the Special report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Guinea-Bissau (document S/2012/280), submitted pursuant to Presidential Statement of 21 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/15), by which the Council requested a report by 30 April 2012 on efforts towards the re-establishment of constitutional order in the West African country, following the events of 12 April 2012.
He recalls that on the evening of that date, elements of the armed forces of Guinea-Bissau carried out a coup d’état, followed the next day by a communiqué announcing the detention of the Interim President, Raimundo Pereira, the Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Júnior, and the Armed Forces Chief of General Staff, General Antonio Indjai. The President of the Supreme Court, the President of the National Electoral Commission and three Cabinet Ministers remain in hiding in the country, while the whereabouts of the Prosecutor General remains unknown. These events, he adds, occurred against the backdrop of strained relations between the military and the political leadership of the country, as well as mounting tensions arising from the rejection by five of the nine presidential candidates of the outcome of the first round of the election, held on 18 March.
In the report, the Secretary-General says he remains deeply concerned that, despite the international community’s condemnation of the coup and its calls for the immediate return to civilian rule, the military junta remains intransigent and the political, security, human rights and socio-economic situation in the country is worsening. At the same time, he welcomes the continued engagement of the African Union, the Portuguese-speaking community and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in resolving the crisis. He calls on all national stakeholders, including the coup leaders, known as the “Military Command”, and other parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties, to commit themselves to the ECOWAS-led mediation process. His Special Representative will continue to work closely with ECOWAS in this regard, he adds.
He says that the approach to addressing the crisis in the country must be phased and measured, commencing with inclusive dialogue and mediation, accompanied by targeted sanctions, as needed, to ensure the swift and peaceful return to civilian rule, and he fully supports the call by the Security Council for the international community to synchronize its efforts and to speak with one voice in finding a solution. Toward that end, he encourages all international partners to strengthen their cooperation with the Special Representative and the United Nations Integrated Office in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS) on the ground. He also encourages Guinea-Bissau’s international partners to remain committed for long-term engagement to help resolve the underlying causes of the crisis, while urging the immediate implementation of security sector reform.
The problem of drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau also needs to be urgently addressed, he adds, particularly since the political and military leadership have accused each other of being involved in the trade. He calls on Member States to reinforce their efforts in fighting this scourge at the points of production, transit and consumption, and on the basis of shared responsibility for effective results. Regional support, through ECOWAS, to complement national efforts will be crucial, he adds, welcoming the decision of ECOWAS Heads of State to urge the ECOWAS Commission to expedite action on the implementation of its operational plan on drug trafficking.
In addition, he says that any lasting solution to instability in Guinea-Bissau should include concrete actions to fight impunity and ensure that those responsible for political assassinations, including those committed in 2009, and other serious crimes, such as drug trafficking-related activities and breaches of constitutional order, are brought to justice. “It is time to put an end to the cycle of impunity in Guinea-Bissau and to establish a stable political environment conducive to socio-economic development and the realization of human rights in the country,” he concluded.
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