Discord over Prime Minister’s Appointment, Interpretation of Accord Highlighted
Any breakthrough in the institutional crisis gripping Guinea-Bissau would be short-lived if the structural causes of instability were not addressed, the senior United Nations official in the West African country told the Security Council today, urging national actors to implement the Conakry Agreement signed last year to surmount the political impasse.
Modibo Touré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) called for a more sustained and well-coordinated approach going forward. National authorities must focus on reviewing the Constitution and revising both the electoral law and those governing political parties in preparation for the 2018 legislative elections.
Further, he called on Guinea-Bissau’s international partners to press for implementation of the six-point road map brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the subsequent Conakry Agreement. In the absence of a fully functioning Government, it was essential that the United Nations and international financial institutions coordinate efforts towards mitigating risks and socioeconomic vulnerabilities, including through business-for-peace initiatives.
Lewis G. Brown II (Liberia), Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, said the failure to implement the Conakry Agreement and contentious non-consensual appointment of the Prime Minister were issues of grave concern. To help resolve the crisis, the President of Liberia had led a mission to Guinea-Bissau in November 2016. Its outcome, a final communiqué signed by key stakeholders, focused on the swift and consensual appointment of a Prime Minister and the formation of an all-inclusive Government.
“The message that we bring today is simple,” said Mauro Vieira (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, calling upon all parties to agree on steps that would enable implementation of the six-point road map and the Conakry Agreement. While the overall situation remained stable, local authorities must place the best interests of the people above all other considerations, he stressed.
Soares Sambú, Political Diplomatic Adviser and Special Envoy to Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea-Bissau, reiterated the Government’s commitment to scrupulously uphold the Conakry Agreement, noting that it had acted to include all signatory parties in order to extend the political base. Despite differences among signatories over interpretation of the Agreement, and the persistent “blockage attitude” by Parliament’s Permanent Commission, the Government believed there was still space for discussion and had respected all dialogue mechanisms.
Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) said the Security Council was fully aware of the difficult political environment and the enormous challenges ahead. However, it was the primary responsibility of authorities in Guinea-Bissau to lead the way, he said, urging UNIOGBIS to help find a sustainable solution.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 10:49 a.m.
MODIBO TOURÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said that on 5 January, the Government had dismissed all regional governors as well as the Mayor of Bissau, and appointed new officials to various institutions. On 20 January, the decision to rotate security personnel at the National Assembly had prompted swift condemnation as “illegal” by the Permanent Commission of the National Assembly. On 8 February, the Bureau of the National Assembly had rejected a request by the Prosecutor General for the lifting of parliamentary immunity for the President of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Caboe Verde (PAIGC). On 13 February, the African Union Peace and Security Council, convening in Addis Ababa, had expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Guinea-Bissau and progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement.
As a result of the worsening institutional crisis, a more sustained and well-coordinated approach would be needed, he said, urging Guinea-Bissau’s international partners to continue pressing for implementation of the six-point road map brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Conakry Agreement. Indeed, any political breakthrough would be short-lived if the structural causes of instability were not addressed, making it critical for national actors to implement the Agreement’s provisions relating to review of the constitution. He urged national authorities to revise the electoral law, as well as the laws governing political parties, in preparation for the 2018 legislative elections.
Despite the political crisis, however, Guinea-Bissau’s economic performance had been remarkable, he said. The economy had expanded by an estimated 5 per cent in 2016, reflecting the impact of another bumper cashew nut harvest. On the social front, the Government had paid several months in salary arrears, particularly in the health and education sectors. Furthermore, the Organizing Commission for the National Conference had held an international symposium — a welcome step towards peace and reconciliation that had lifted the agenda of truth telling, transitional justice and peaceful conflict resolution into the political conversation, and raised the voice of the people.
He went on to emphasize that, in the absence of a fully functioning Government, the United Nations and international financial institutions must coordinate efforts to mitigate risks and socioeconomic vulnerabilities, including through business for peace initiatives. To tackle high unemployment, much more could be done to facilitate business development, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises targeting women and youth in agriculture, tourism and basic services. To that end, he was working to advance a partnership among UNIOGBIS, the United Nations country team, the World Bank and other interested partners to strengthen resilience and promote peace in Guinea-Bissau.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that, in view of major positive developments, the international community must remain united in supporting ECOWAS mediation efforts and providing all support needed for the Conakry Agreement’s full and effective implementation. The Peacebuilding Commission continued to identify measures to facilitate the full implementation of the six-point ECOWAS road map.
He said political will, constructive and consensual dialogue, coupled with courageous leadership, were needed now more than ever. Providing a snapshot of recent developments, including a recommendation of a mission exit strategy, he said peacebuilding and sustaining peace were a long-term engagement and a commitment to prevention. Per the 2016 peacebuilding architecture review, enhanced United Nations engagement should aim to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, addressing its root causes, ensuring national reconciliation and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development.
The Guinea-Bissau configuration, he said, would hold a meeting on 15 February to review the outcome of today’s Security Council meeting and elaborate initiatives to support progress, in consultation with ECOWAS and UNIOGBIS. Noting that the overall situation remained stable, he said local authorities must place people’s best interest above all other considerations. “The message that we bring today is simple,” he said. “All parties must swiftly agree on concrete steps that will enable the implementation of the six-point [ECOWAS] road map and the Conakry Agreement.”
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said the security situation remained calm, yet Guinea-Bissau’s porous borders remained vulnerable to threats, including terrorism and trafficking. With the Council fully aware of the country’s difficult political history and the enormous challenges ahead, UNIOGBIS must continue its important work of helping to find a solution. However, it was the primary responsibility of the authorities in Guinea-Bissau to lead the way, he emphasized, pointing out that the current Prime Minister’s appointment had not been carried out in compliance with the Conakry Agreement. Pressing challenges remained, he stressed.
SOARES SAMBÚ, Political Diplomatic Adviser and Special Envoy to Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea-Bissau, said the ECOWAS road map and the Conakry Agreement were guiding an inclusive dialogue while building and strengthening the political environment. The Government had seized that opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to scrupulously uphold the Conakry Agreement, and had acted to include the contributions of all signatories in order to extend the political base.
Despite differences over some signatories’ interpretation of the Conakry Agreement, the Government respected all dialogue mechanisms, he said. As such, the Government had handed over the programme to the President of the National Assembly for approval in view of the constitution. Irrespective of the persistent “blockage attitude” by the Permanent Commission of Parliament, a body in which the PAIGC held the majority, the Government considered that there was still space for dialogue and that the programme would be approved, on behalf of the supreme interest of the people.
LEWIS G. BROWN II (Liberia), Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, reiterated that bloc’s commitment to finding a lasting solution to the political impasse in Guinea-Bissau. Failure to implement the Conakry Agreement and the contentious non-consensual appointment of the Prime Minister were issues of grave concern. Further, the political stalemate had undermined socioeconomic development and threatened peace and stability, both in Guinea-Bissau and the wider subregion. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia had led a mission to Guinea-Bissau in November 2016, with the aim of advancing resolution of the crisis, he recalled. The outcome of that mission was the signing of the final communiqué focusing on several points, in tandem with the Conakry Agreement.
The communiqué focused on the appointment by the President of a consensual Prime Minister without further delay, and the formation of an all-inclusive Government, he continued. In mid-November 2016, Umaro el Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo had been appointed Prime Minister by President José Mário Vaz, but his appointment had not been unanimously accepted because Mr. Embalo had not been a consensus candidate. That had led to the current setback. Emphasizing that Guinea-Bissau must now have its development Plan endorsed by Parliament, he said that if that failed to happen, the Prime Minister would have to resign, a prospect that was raising tensions between the Speaker of Parliament and the Executive Branch. Meanwhile, ECOWAS would continue to call on all parties and stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau to support ongoing peace efforts in order to pass the development agenda, which would trigger the release of donor funding critical to meeting people’s needs.