With Guinea-Bissau facing political turbulence barely a year after the re-establishment of constitutional order, the top United Nations official there expressed hope today that political leaders would rise to their “historic responsibility” to preserve the gains made so far in the interest of the country and people.
Briefing the Security Council, Miguel Trovoada, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in that country (UNIOGBIS), said the political crisis had prevented President José Mário Vaz from participating in the meeting. The 15-member body also heard from the representative of Guinea-Bissau, as well as that of Brazil (Chair of the country configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission); Senegal, as Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and Timor-Leste, on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the activities of the Office (document S/2015/626) and providing an update on latest political developments, Mr. Trovoada recalled that previous reports to the Council had always underscored how Guinea-Bissau’s fragility was rooted in failure to address the underlying causes. The lack of dialogue had opened the door to further distrust and deepened antagonisms, which had led to the current situation.
Before dismissing Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira, President Vaz had, in a message to the nation, explained the sequence of events leading up to an emerging constitutional crisis, he said. The public pronouncement by other prominent leaders was a harbinger of what was to come. The dismissed Government was broad-based and had comfortable support in Parliament, while the new Prime Minister, Baciro Dja, was not the official nominee of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde.
Mr. Trovoada said he had been maintaining frequent contacts with senior leaders of the Government and civil society with a view to fostering dialogue. On the positive side, all those who had a role to play had proclaimed their firm determination to respect the Constitution and popular demonstrations were being conducted peacefully. During his meeting with leaders of the Armed Forces, they strongly affirmed their commitment to stay out of the crisis and submit to the democratic process. Given the recurrent crises and absence of lasting peace and stability in Guinea-Bissau, the international community must ensure that its support helped bring about the desired results.
Briefing the Council on the Peacebuilding Commission’s response to the crisis, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil) said he had chaired a meeting of the Guinea-Bissau configuration on 17 August, following which the Commission issued a statement expressing concern that recent political developments might undermine progress achieved so far, risk destabilizing the fragile political situation in the country and compromise economic progress. The Commission also called for the resumption of political dialogue in order to address the current tensions.
Mr. Patriota offered three comments. First, the current crisis carried the risk of having a negative impact on the already fragile economic situation, on the stability of the country and on its democratic gains. Guinea-Bissau was making good progress towards stabilization and development since the elections of 2014 and the round table held in Brussels in March 2015. The main goal should be to prevent the escalation of the political crisis from undermining the progress achieved so far, he said.
Second, the nature of the crisis illustrated that there might be space for debates on better delineating the spheres of competence of the President and the Prime Minister, so as to avoid it from becoming a source of instability and fragility in an otherwise promising environment. Third, different partners of Guinea-Bissau had been consistent in their engagement over the crisis. The role being played by the region, as well as the coherence demonstrated by international partners, would remain a key element to achieve any sustainable solution. Nevertheless, the political deadlock could only be overcome by Bissau-Guineans themselves through a constructive dialogue based on the full respect for constitutional provisions and the rule of law.
João Soares Da Gama (Guinea-Bissau) stressed that the people of his country had demonstrated calm and civility as the national Parliament sought necessary guidance from the Supreme Court to resolve the crisis. Although difficult, a way would be found out of the political crisis through constitutional means, he said, expressing hope that the military would continue with its position of neutrality.
He understood the frustration of partners and friends which had worked so hard to help consolidate democracy and sustain lasting peace and development. However, the country was counting on international engagement, he said, adding: “Do not give up on the people of Guinea-Bissau. The dreams and aspirations of youth and women, as mothers, for a better future of their children are at risk.”
While the people had the primary responsibility to resolve their internal differences, he went on, efforts in that direction could be compromised without continued and strong engagement of the international community. Such engagement in the search for a peaceful solution of the current situation would help restore confidence in the country, promote an environment conducive for the disbursement of pledged funds, and assist the implementation of reforms and strategic development programmes.
The Security Council had heard so many times that the fragility of Guinea-Bissau did not end with elections, a reality the current crises had borne out, he said, adding that the international community should do more to help consolidate institutions by working with all political stakeholders through open and frank dialogue.
Gorgui Ciss (Senegal), speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, said the situation in Guinea-Bissau remained “troubling”. A consensus agreement was needed to preserve the country’s stability. Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current Chair of ECOWAS, had offered his good offices and had dispatched his Minister for Foreign Affairs to hold a dialogue with the parties. It was regrettable that those and other efforts on the part of ECOWAS had been insufficient to put an end to the crisis. Indeed, the situation remained delicate, he said, calling on the parties to show restraint in order to create an atmosphere conducive to peace.
He welcomed the responsible attitude of the Bissau-Guinean army, which had kept its distance from the political crisis. A resolution to that situation would only come from a nationally owned political process. He stressed that the current tensions should not eclipse the progress made by Guinea-Bissau in recent years in areas such as socio-economic development and the fight against impunity.
Recalling that a donor conference in Brussels in March had raised some $1.2 billion for the country, he called on partners to make good on those commitments. Many challenges remained for Guinea-Bissau; however, ECOWAS remained committed to helping the country emerge peacefully from the current crisis.
Sofia Borges (Timor-Leste), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, called on all stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau to engage in constructive political dialogue. “Statesmanship is required to defuse the current political crisis within the full respect of the Constitution and rule of law, as well as in the spirit of inclusion,” she said. While it was the sole responsibility of the country’s authorities to resolve the political crisis, it was crucial that the process adhered to constitutional norms. It was also paramount to the country’s continued stability that reforms initiated were pursued, especially those of the security and justice sectors and the fight against impunity.
She called on the international community’s continued support of Guinea-Bissau and its people through the implementation of the State reforms and development plans, while stressing that the key responsibility for achieving a stable environment of political and institutional cooperation rested on the national stakeholders. She noted the Community’s recent decision to deploy to Guinea-Bissau a joint mission of the President of the Council of Ministers and the Community’s Executive Secretary in the near future.
The meeting opened at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:48 a.m.