Permanent Representative Calls for Continued International Support as Regional, Other Stakeholders Urge Statesmanship
Although Guinea-Bissau’s two-week political stand-off in early June was over, thanks to the international community’s intervention, post-electoral gains would suffer a setback if the political crisis there dragged on, the senior United Nations official in the West African country told the Security Council today.
“The peaceful resolution of this stand-off may have helped avert a potentially serious crisis,” said Modibo Touré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), cautioning, however, that further challenges loomed ahead.
He told the 15-member Council that its attention to the matter was of utmost importance. Warning that positive economic growth, increased revenues and commitment to key reforms in defence and security, justice and public services could erode. In a country heavily reliant on official development assistance (ODA), the current suspension of funds from international and regional development banks create financial pressure that could hinder State operations.
Recalling that the 26 May decree by President José Mário Vaz appointing Baciro Dja as Prime Minister had triggered the stand-off, he said members of the dismissed Cabinet led by Carlos Correia had refused to leave Government Palace, claiming that the appointment was neither in accordance with the Constitution, nor with the Supreme Court’s decision of 8 September 2015. The prolonged impasse over the new Cabinet — the fourth since legislative elections held in May 2014 — had come close to confrontation as security forces strengthened their presence at Government Palace following a 48-hour ultimatum issued by the Prosecutor General on 3 June, he said.
He went on to state that the 4 June death of Carmen Pereira, a historical figure of Guinea-Bissau’s liberation struggle and a staunch Government supporter had compounded an already tense situation. The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde had initiated legal proceedings challenging the President’s recent appointments, he continued. The director of the national radio, dismissed by the Cabinet on 3 June, had filed a case with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Mr. Dja’s appointment.
He told the Council that, in an attempt to defuse tensions, he had met with President Vaz, the dismissed Prime Minister Correia and the Presidents of the opposition and ruling parties to appeal for restraint, political dialogue and respect for the rule of law. After intense negotiations among civil society and religious leaders, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mission in Guinea-Bissau and UNIOGBIS, the remaining members of the dismissed Cabinet and their supporters had peacefully vacated Government Palace on 9 June, ending the two-week stalemate.
Consultations in Bissau involving national and regional leaders, as well as international partners had led to ECOWAS extending its Mission for another year, he said, adding the extension had been undertaken with the understanding that the international community would provide funding, as appropriate. He told the Council that he had met with President Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire, and in the days ahead, he would also meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the new ECOWAS Chair, and with President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. While focusing on a sustainable political solution for Guinea-Bissau, support must continue for its people, particularly the most vulnerable, he emphasized, noting that strikes in the health and education sectors during March and April had seriously affected the school year and deprived citizens of key preventative medical services, including maternal and child health care.
Also briefing the Council was Ovídio Manuel Barbosa Pequeno, Special Representative and Head of the African Union Liaison Office in Guinea-Bissau, who noted that the security situation in the country remained calm and the armed forces had not interfered in the political crisis. The African Union stood ready to support political dialogue, which would enable the country to realize greater political stability, socioeconomic development and consolidation of the rule of law.
Fodé Seck (Senegal), speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, welcomed the preventive steps undertaken by the Security Council to resolve the impasse, among them its adoption of resolution 2267 (2016) extending the mandate of UNIOGBIS for another year, its dispatch of a presidential delegation to Bissau for consultations with stakeholders, and its issuance of press statements of deep concern at the country’s instability. He hailed the tireless efforts of ECOWAS, the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-language Speaking Countries and the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, saying that working together would help them restore cohesion and political stability in Guinea-Bissau.
Maria Helena Lopes de Jesus Pires (Timor-Leste), spoke on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-language Speaking Countries, calling upon all stakeholders to engage in constructive, inclusive political dialogue, and to respect both democratic principles and the Constitution. “Statesmanship is required to move the country forward,” she said, emphasizing that it would enable Guinea-Bissau to achieve greater political stability, socioeconomic development and consolidation of the rule of law. While acknowledging that the armed forces had displayed remarkable professionalism by not interfering in the political crisis, she said it was deeply concerning that instability had forced international partners to delay the disbursement of pledges made in March.
João Soares da Gama (Guinea-Bissau) said the recent Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government and the decision by the Presidents of Guinea, Senegal and Sierra Leone to visit his country had been crucial in bringing peace, security and stability to the subregion. “We are well aware that the political and institutional crises have been isolating our country,” he said, adding that continued international support might help to resolve the impasse. In that regard, a well-coordinated diplomatic process, such as a meeting of the Guinea‑Bissau International Contact Group, would be a step forward. The persistent crises were undermining implementation of financial commitments undertaken by development partners in March 20015, he noted. “We need your coordinated support to bring stability to the country,” he said, emphasizing the necessity of making the encouraging results of the Brussel Round Table Conference a reality. Among other positive notes, the armed forces had remained out of the present crises, he noted, expressing hope that they would maintain that republican position.
The meeting began at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 11:40 a.m.
* The 7713th Meeting was closed.