|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7070th Meeting (PM)
Credible Elections Key to Restoring Constitutional Order in Guinea-Bissau,
Special Representative Tells Security Council
Progress in restoring constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau following the 2012 coup d’état remained “frustratingly slow” amid electoral delays and a generalized climate of fear, the United Nations senior official in the West African country told the Security Council today, stressing that the onus was now on the transitional Government to ensure the timely holding of presidential and legislative elections next year.
“The holding of credible, peaceful elections on 16 March 2014 should remain the key priority in ensuring a rapid return to constitutional order,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Guinea-Bissau, Jose Ramos-Horta, presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau (document S/2013/680) and his report on the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) (document S/2013/681).
Lengthy consultations among national stakeholders on the voter registration system, electoral budget and timeline had significantly delayed the preparations, he said, including the mobilization of resources. Moreover, the human rights and security situation continued to deteriorate, with increased cases of intimidation, threats and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, as well as ongoing military interference in State affairs.
In a 19 September joint letter to the transitional President, he and the Special Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had expressed concern over human rights violations and the climate of fear created by unlawful behaviour of the defence and security forces. “The transitional authorities must ensure that those responsible for these unlawful acts are brought to justice,” he stressed.
Detailing progress, he said the transitional Government had announced on 31 October that digital voter registration would take place, both in Guinea-Bissau and in the diaspora, from 1 to 22 December, while the overall registration period would be modified to run from 1 to 31 December. On 15 November, the President announced that general elections would be held on 16 March 2014, indicating that their costs would be covered by pledges from key international partners.
He went on to say that the transitional Prime Minister had established a coordinating committee for the electoral process. On 5 November, an electoral mission from Timor-Leste arrived in Bissau to advise the technical electoral support office over a four-month period, while the Timorese Government had pledged $6 million for the voter registration process and donated 100 electoral kits. International pledges now exceeded the budget prepared by the transitional Government.
On the political front, he said parliamentarians would discuss the amnesty bill for the 2012 coup leaders, the public finance management transparency code and the 2014 State budget during their first ordinary session, which opened on 18 November and was to end on 18 December. The amnesty bill — proposed by the transitional Government with the support of the Social Renewal Party — had been rejected by the National Assembly in September.
As for the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau, he said electoral delays had negatively impacted its work, as most of its attention had focused on responding to immediate political, security and human rights challenges. But it had made progress in establishing two regional offices — in the north-central region of Bafatá and the southern region of Buba.
Following that briefing, Fernando Delfim da Silva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, said the initial timetable approved by ECOWAS had not been upheld, which had led to the postponement of the elections. The Economic Community had shouldered a large portion of the budget necessary for their holding. China and the European Union had also supported the country in its process towards the restoration of constitutional order, in keeping with the demands of the international community and the aspirations of the people of Guinea-Bissau. In addition, Timor-Leste had provided “invaluable” support by assisting with the voter registration process.
He went on to say that elections would be only the first stage of a long process. Legitimate institutions were needed to tackle challenges ahead. Despite the magnitude and complexity of those issues, Guinea-Bissau was a country where, one day, everyone would be able to live in peace — a vision that required international support. Reforming the security and defence sector was a priority, but there were other challenges too, such as combating drug trafficking and creating an environment conducive to human rights. The country was also undergoing a social crisis as a result of the sanctions that had been imposed. “We understand those measures,” he said, “but the effect of the sanctions exceeded political considerations.” He urged that they be lifted.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), speaking in his capacity as Chairperson of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that recent episodes of violence and intimidation were a reminder of the fragility of the security situation. The elections themselves — while an essential prerequisite for sustained stability — would not provide a comprehensive answer to the numerous challenges facing the country. The Commission could play a central role in generating international support for reforms under a democratically-elected national leadership, with strong emphasis on capacity-building for State institutions. At the same time, steps were needed to help the economy. “Guinea-Bissau has the potential to become an African success story,” he said.
António Gumende (Mozambique), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, said electoral delays continued to cause suffering to the people of Guinea-Bissau. While there had been positive developments — such as the announcement of the voter registration process and the scheduling of elections for March — he hoped that, with the support of ECOWAS, Timor-Leste, Nigeria and the European Union, the transitional authorities would respect those commitments and hold free and fair elections.
“Further postponements would be unacceptable to the international community,” he said, applauding the efforts of the Special Representative. Electoral results must be implemented fully and the transitional authorities must do their best to ensure that elections were conducted in a peaceful environment that allowed all political actors to participate. Expressing concern over the recent violence against human rights activists, he said the international community must support the future legitimate authorities “to break, once and for all, the cycle of violence in that country.” They must be given the technical and financial help they needed.
Rounding out the discussion, Youssoufou Bamba (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, said that while there had been a number of positive developments since the adoption of resolution 2103 (2013), there was still much more to do in order to re-establish security in Guinea-Bissau. ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had shown their commitment to the country by extending the mandate of the ECOWAS security mission in the country for another 12 months, until 16 May 2014. To support the electoral process, the Economic Community would make a $19 million contribution to fund presidential elections in March 2014.
ECOWAS also planned to send two formed police units to support its mission in Guinea-Bissau, he said, urging that logistical and aerial support that had been requested to ensure the calm conduct of elections be made available. Recalling that the European Union, Guinea-Bissau Configuration and the Economic Community of Central African States all had pledged support, he stressed the need for shared work to begin to draw up a road map for security sector reform, and justice reform, to ensure long-term stabilization.
The meeting began 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:45 p.m.
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