Better Coordinated, Sustained International Involvement Vital to Breaking Guinea-Bissau’s Persisting Political Crisis, Security Council Told

SC/12966
24 August 2017
8031st Meeting (PM)

Better Coordinated, Sustained International Involvement Vital to Breaking Guinea-Bissau’s Persisting Political Crisis, Security Council Told

Permanent Representative Calls Sanctions Excessive, Counterproductive

Only by fulfilling the minimum conditions of the Conakry Agreement could Guinea-Bissau make progress towards breaking its years-long political crisis, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today, calling for better coordinated, sustained international involvement.

Modibo Ibrahim Touré, who also heads the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said tensions had reached a new peak three months ago, leading the Group of International Partners [African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, European Union and United Nations] to publicly express concern over increasing inflammatory rhetoric and the threat of violent demonstrations. 

In recent weeks, he said, dialogue aimed at resolving the political impasse within the framework of the Conakry Agreement had resumed between the parties.  Looking ahead to legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 2018 and 2019, respectively, he said requisite measures must be taken to create an environment conducive to the holding of free, peaceful and credible polls. 

Uncertainty over how to resolve the political crisis could undermine the overall stable situation in Guinea-Bissau, said Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012), warning that ambiguity around the division of power between the President and the Prime Minister had created uncertainty. 

Further, international and regional efforts to find a solution appeared to have had no impact, he said, as no provisions in the Conakry Agreement had been implemented, in large part due to a lack of political will.  While there were no clear signs that substantive progress would soon be achieved, the security situation remained stable.  However, the patience of the army and the population could run out at any moment.

Stressing that the meetings he had held during recent visits to Guinea-Bissau and Portugal highlighted the complexity of the situation, Mauro Vieira (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the Conakry Agreement remained a fundamental reference point for most political actors — as well as the subject of conflicting interpretations.

He said one group believed there had been no agreement on who should have been appointed Prime Minister, while a second group believed that one name had in fact been agreed.  Some felt that the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde no longer controlled the National Popular Assembly, while others said that the 2014 elections had given that group a majority that could not be changed through the creation of a block of 15 dissident parliamentarians.  “I did not find those different positions moving closer together,” he said, noting, however, that leaders of the armed forces had reassured him of their strict respect for constitutional order.

Guinea-Bissau’s delegate, stressing that her country had lived in civil peace over the last five years, said civil servants had been paid regularly and the level of political agitation had been insignificant.  “We do not believe in the practicality of sanctions”, which appeared excessive and counterproductive, given the political context, she said, adding: “We have faith that Guinea-Bissau will overcome these institutional crises”.

Togo’s delegate recalled that his country’s President, as Chair of ECOWAS, had launched an urgent appeal for restraint and responsibility to ensure that a negotiated solution to the crisis could be found.  Guinea-Bissau was at a turning point.  It was up to all stakeholders to accelerate resolution of the dispute, and focus on economic development to meet the needs of the population.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Uruguay (in his national capacity) and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:04 p.m.

Briefings

MODIBO IBRAHIM TOURÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau and Head of United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said the Conakry Agreement and the road map of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were the main frameworks to resolve the crisis and help the country address the causes of political instability and institutional roadblocks.  The political situation in Guinea-Bissau had evolved since February.  Three months ago, tensions had reached a new peak, leading the Guinea-Bissau-based Group of International Partners to publicly express concern over increasing inflammatory rhetoric and the threat of violent street demonstrations.  In recent weeks, the tone of media coverage in the country had quieted down and dialogue aimed at resolving the political impasse within the framework of the Conakry Agreement had resumed between the parties.  In July, for the first time since the start of the crisis in 2015, bilateral discussions had taken place between the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the People’s National Assembly and leaders of the main political parties.

Next month, he said, the three-month mandate extension for the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) to enable Guinea-Bissau’s political actors to fully implement the Conakry Agreement would expire.  Resolving the crisis would require continued engagement and support, he said, adding that he believed that the essential conditions for the Agreement’s implementation existed.  As the sensitive electoral period approached, with legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 2018 and 2019, respectively, requisite measures must be taken to create an environment conducive to the holding of free, peaceful and credible polls.  Positive developments included the processes around national reconciliation.  While reform of the security sector had been slow, the process had seen the recent endorsement of an ambitious three-year Joint Programme on Justice, Police and Corrections.  Economic growth, meanwhile, was forecast to reach 5.2 per cent and the country had made notable progress in improving the macroeconomic frameworks and the management of public expenditures.

Stressing that the coordinated, long-term involvement of the international community would be crucial for implementation of the Conakry Agreement, he said that only by fulfilling the accord’s minimum conditions could Guinea-Bissau make progress in a number of critical areas.  He recommended that ECOWAS conduct an assessment mission to evaluate implementation of the Agreement, and that the African Union Peace and Security Council, along with the Security Council, visit Guinea-Bissau.  He also suggested that the Council organize a meeting on Guinea-Bissau on the side-lines of the upcoming General Assembly.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, briefed the Council on his recent visits to that country and to Lisbon, Portugal, to obtain first-hand accounts of efforts to end the political impasse.  He described consultations with a range of stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau including the President, the Prime Minister, the President of the Supreme Court, members of all political parties represented in the National Assembly, civil society representatives and others, adding that in Lisbon he had met with the Executive Secretary of the Portuguese-Speaking Community to discuss that group’s role in supporting Guinea-Bissau to find a solution to the impasse.

Stressing that all those meetings had highlighted the complexity of the situation, he said the 2016 Conakry Agreement remained a fundamental point of reference for most political actors — as well as the subject of conflicting interpretations.  One group believed there had been no agreement on who should have been appointed Prime Minister, while a second group believed that one name had in fact been agreed on during the negotiations.  Some felt that the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) no longer controlled the National Popular Assembly, while others underlined that the 2014 elections had given that group a majority that could not be changed through the creation of a block of 15 dissident parliamentarians.  “I did not find those different positions moving closer together,” he said.

He said he also had met with the Women’s Group of Facilitators — composed of 10 women from different local organizations — which was undertaking bilateral meetings with the President and key actors aimed at overcoming the political impasse.  President José Mário Vaz had expressed support for that process, affirming that he would wait for the group’s report before making any decisions on next steps.  During consultations with the National Election Commission, its members had indicated they had finalized a timeline for holding legislative elections in May 2018, he said, which must now be approved by the President.  Some stakeholders had requested the United Nations to follow and support the electoral process.

Leaders of the armed forces, meanwhile, had reassured him of their strict respect for constitutional order, he said, and made various requests, including for assistance in training and modernizing the armed forces and building the capacity of the police.  Some interlocutors had called for sanctions to be imposed on civilians, notably politicians for not implementing the Conakry Agreement, while others voiced strong opposition to that idea, viewing it as interference in internal politics.  He urged all political actors to engage in the national dialogue with a view to implementing the Bissau six-point road map and Conakry Agreement, and underlined the importance of holding elections with the necessary preparations, especially updated voter registration lists.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012), said the purpose of the Committee’s recent visit to Guinea-Bissau was to collect information on the implementation of the sanctions imposed by that resolution and to assess political developments.  Both political actors and civil society had shown interest in engaging in dialogue with the Committee, he said, noting that the importance of cooperation with the various national and international parties had been stressed.  He called for continued international support, emphasizing that steps must be taken to create a stable political situation in order for Guinea-Bissau to receive the funds pledged in Brussels in March 2015. 

He said uncertainty over how to resolve the political crisis could undermine the overall stable situation in Guinea-Bissau, with ambiguity around the division of power between the President and the Prime Minister creating uncertainty.  International and regional efforts to find a solution appeared to have had no impact, as no provisions in the Conakry Agreement had been implemented, in large part due to a lack of political will.  While there were no clear signs that substantive progress would soon be achieved, the security situation remained stable, he said, cautioning, however, that the patience of the army and the population could run out at any moment.

It was important that all political actors expressed the will to engage in dialogue and find a solution, he said, noting that they usually shifted blame to others for the stalemate.  Almost all interlocutors he had met had recognized that the army had maintained respectable behaviour and refrained from interfering in the political situation.  They had stressed that the sanctions were an effective deterrent against possible spoilers, both in the army and among civilians, but many had said those measures had not targeted those most deserving of sanctions, including politicians.  In many meetings, interlocutors had underscored the positive role played by the ECOWAS Mission, which had been effective in preventing a threat to the constitutional order.  The visit reflected that cooperation between the Committee and the Government had improved and should be strengthened.

Statements

Mr. ROSSELLI (Uruguay), speaking in his national capacity, said that while the situation in Guinea-Bissau had improved in the last five years, the country was nevertheless experiencing uncertainty due to its political impasse.  The stalemate was not based on ethnic or political differences, but rather on personal differences between its leaders.  Describing the six-point road map and the Conakry Agreement as critical to resolving the crisis, and calling for their implementation, he said no results would be achieved until the country’s leaders took those steps.  Noting that sanctions imposed on some of Guinea-Bissau’s senior military leaders had been “a wise and appropriate tool”, and that those individuals had thus far adhered to them, he said the Council should continue to review the issue, including the definition of certain listing criteria and the possible removal of some names from the sanctions list.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) expressed concern over Guinea-Bissau’s social and political instability, drawing attention to the important efforts of ECOWAS and UNIOGBIS to bring the parties together.  Voicing strong rejection of any action that could destabilize the negotiation process, he called on parties to build on existing agreements in order to achieve consensus.  Welcoming the recent visit to Guinea-Bissau by the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2048 (2012), which had garnered important information on the success of sanctions, he warned that “sanctions should not be an end in themselves” and that the Council must carry out periodic reviews and make changes if necessary.  He rejected the imposition of all unilateral sanctions, which were illegal and ran counter to the principle of sovereign equality.

MARIA ANTONIETA P. D’ALVA (Guinea-Bissau) said the Peacebuilding Commission’s engagement had reassured citizens of the international support for the common quest for peace.  “We have the ultimate responsibility to resolve the crises in our country,” she said, noting the report’s concerns about the political situation and the persistent impasse.  Stressing that a sustainable solution required a strong internal commitment by State institutions and political parties, she added that “Bissau Guineans have to work harder in this sense”.

State institutions were working to find solutions, she said, pointing to the Group of Women Facilitators of Dialogue initiative.  There was a need for broad dialogue within parties, which could forge a path to dissolving tensions while generating consensus and commitments, which in turn, would break the impasse.  Guinea-Bissau had lived in civil peace over the last five years.  Civil servants had been paid regularly and the level of political agitation had been insignificant.  “We do not believe in the practicality of sanctions”, which seemed to be excessive and counterproductive, given the political context, she said.

“We have faith that Guinea-Bissau will overcome these institutional crises,” she concluded.  “With your continued support, solidarity and patience, we will consolidate our democracy by working out the differences and achieve long-lasting peace and lead our nation to the path of development and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo) expressed deep concern over the stalemate in Guinea-Bissau, characterized by a political crisis that had persisted for more than two years.  The Monrovia Summit had reaffirmed that the Conakry Agreement was the only credible basis through which the crisis could be resolved.  Yet, two months after the extension of the ECOMIB mandate, no significant progress had been seen on the sticking points that fuelled the crisis, including the appointment of a Prime Minister, the formation of an inclusive Government, and the reinstatement of several members of Parliament.  The President of Togo had been elected Chair of ECOWAS, after which he had launched an urgent appeal for restraint and responsibility to ensure that a negotiated and lasting solution to the crisis could be found.  Relying on the Conakry Agreement, Togo’s President believed that Guinea-Bissau was at a turning point and it was now up to all stakeholders to accelerate the resolution of the dispute and focus on economic development and recovery to meet the needs of the population.

For information media. Not an official record.