Only Restoration of Constitutional Order, Post-electoral State-building Will Lift Guinea-Bissau from ‘Deep Hole’, Secretary-General’s Envoy Tells Security Council

9 May 2013

Only Restoration of Constitutional Order, Post-electoral State-building Will Lift Guinea-Bissau from ‘Deep Hole’, Secretary-General’s Envoy Tells Security Council

9 May 2013
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6963rd Meeting (PM)

Only Restoration of Constitutional Order, Post-electoral State-building Will Lift

Guinea-Bissau from ‘Deep Hole’, Secretary-General’s Envoy Tells Security Council

Says Contours of Transition Plan Taking Shape; Peacebuilding Configuration,

West African States, Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries also Participate

The formidable social, economic and security challenges facing Guinea-Bissau following its May 2012 coup d’état were not insurmountable, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today, stressing that they must be tackled through a two-phase process:  a return to constitutional order through year-end elections and a post-electoral strengthening of State bodies through adequately financed reforms.

“No single political group can alone manage the transition from the deep hole where Guinea-Bissau has sunk to lasting peace and prosperity,” said José Ramos-Horta, who is also head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS).  He placed the manifold problems squarely at the feet of the political elite whom he said had failed their people for almost four decades.  The military was also to blame, as its intrusion into the political arena had been the result of bad governance and underdevelopment.

But he had recent positive developments to report, with the contours for a plan to help the West African nation transition to a stable, peaceful society falling into place, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2013/262).  Among the report’s recommendations was to add a political component to the mission, headed by a second Deputy Special Representative.

On the domestic front, Mr. Ramos-Horta said that on 25 and 26 April, the ad hoc Parliamentary Commission had held a retreat to finalize the Transitional Regime Pact to facilitate consensus on a road map that would clarify the modalities of the transition.  On 28 April, Transitional President Serifo Nhamajo had returned to Bissau following a month-long absence, announcing that an all-inclusive Government would soon be formed.

Further, he said that on 29 and 30 April, all political parties, military, civil society groups and religious leaders had gathered for discussions on the Transitional Regime Pact.  They had agreed to extend the transition period until 31 December, with elections to be held in November; form an all-inclusive transitional Government; and elect the President of the National Electoral Commission, upon receipt of a proposal from the Supreme Court’s Council of Judges.

In the post-election phase, a “grand coalition” would provide an inclusive governmental effort to rebuild the State that currently “exists in name only”, he said. He planned to help the new authorities rebuild State bodies, including by locating international experts in Government sectors for up to five years in order to modernize the defence forces, judicial system and public administration.  The defence forces, in particular, must undergo a “major rethinking” based on a sober analysis of security needs and adjusted to the available financial resources.

To be sure, he said, the international community must also play its part.  “If appropriate support is given towards more proactive, preventive diplomacy programmes, Guinea-Bissau could become a shining example of a success story”, he said.

In that connection, he urged the Council to seriously consider Guinea-Bissau’s call for the United Nations to take a leadership role in its electoral process, as well as the Secretary-General’s recommendation to reconfigure the Support Office to play a critical advisory role, and adopt a resolution that would send a strong message of support to the people of Guinea-Bissau.

Detailing his February visit to the country, he said he had held regular consultations with national stakeholders “across the board”, from the Transitional President and the Parliament, to the military leadership, party leaders and civil society members, including young people and religious leaders.  He also had sought to ensure that all international stakeholders spoke with one voice on critical issues, engaging key African Union member States, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and others at the highest levels in Addis Ababa, Abuja, Banjul, Dakar, Praia, Maputo, Lisbon and Brussels.

He was delighted that all international partners were united on the two immediate objectives of the transition:  the formation of a new, more inclusive transitional Government and the adoption of a consensual road map, with a firm commitment to hold elections before year-end.  All had agreed on the need to restore constitutional order by then, on the basis of decisions taken by the ECOWAS Authority in Yamoussoukro.

In another important development, the arrest of former Navy Chief of Staff Bubo Na Tchuto and the announced indictment of the Armed Forces Chief of General Staff marked a “turning point” in the fight against drug trafficking, as the country’s use as a drug transit point was not in doubt.  He strongly advocated for an enhanced international anti-narcotics presence and mobilization of “robust” financial and human resources to support the deployment of expertise. 

Despite their disenchantment, the people of Guinea-Bissau had never turned to crime or ethnic violence, he said, and the country still boasted one of the lowest crime rates in Africa, if not the world.

Following his remarks, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti ( Brazil), Chair of the Guinean-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, also drew attention to the promising developments of recent weeks, including the drafting of a new “Regime Pact” and the signing of an “Agreement of Principles for the return to normalcy” on 30 April.  She agreed that such efforts needed to be supported, and the international pressure must be maintained on transitional authorities, as well as on political and military leaders. The holding of free, fair and transparent presidential and legislative elections by the end of the year was also essential.

“A prolonged period of transition is in nobody’s interest, and raises questions about the political will of the transitional authorities to find a sustainable solution to the current crisis,” she said.

She said there was a general acknowledgement that when the Commission reengaged with Guinea-Bissau, it should do so on the basis of a revised instrument that reflected the key peacebuilding priorities in the current national context.  The Commission also believed that resumed Peacebuilding Fund support should be aligned with those priorities.  In that regard, both the conclusions and recommendations of both the Secretary-General and the African Union-led joint assessment mission from last December would be taken into due account, she said.

On the increase in drug trafficking in the aftermath of the April 2012 coup d’état, Ms. Viotti urged the international community to address drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau and to turn expressions of concern into action.  The arrest and indictment of several Guinea-Bissau nationals, including Army leaders, on drug trafficking charges, were clear signs of the need to maintain a permanent international capacity on the ground.  The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country, Gana Fofang, had pleaded for a shift from the usual “quick-fix” approach to a more long-term perspective, in order to break the vicious “winner-takes-it-all” dynamics that had poisoned the country since its independence.  He had also called for the United Nations continued engagement with all relevant national and international parties.

Also addressing the Council, the representative of Guinea-Bissau said he felt optimistic, following the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend the UNIOGBIS presence.  There also was a growing understanding among national actors about the role of their international partners, following the joint assessment mission.  Its recommendations were important, as Guinea-Bissau was preparing to enter a new phase of the transition, with a view to returning to constitutional order through free, fair and transparent elections.

He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the peacebuilding process should happen in two phases — with the first phase ending in the elections and the second ending with a mandate for the Government and consolidation of the social, economic and security environment.  “Guinea-Bissau and its people still believe that the country is a viable one,” he said.  Despite those aspirations, the nation was still mired in troubles; all public schools were again on strike, and cashew crops — the chief export — had been compromised by a lack of market liquidity.  It was urgent that humanitarian assistance was provided to his country.

Youssoufou Bamba (Côte d’Ivoire), on behalf of ECOWAS, said that since the coup d’état in Guinea-Bissau, ECOWAS had worked tirelessly to facilitate a restoration to constitutional order and to ensure the security of the country’s people.  It had provided funds to maintain State functioning, and was working to “breathe new life” into the people’s trust.  The support of the international community was crucial to guarantee the success of the transition and to bolster security.

EOCWAS proposed the following as a basis for garnering consensus:  adoption of a revised road map for transition, which would allow for the holding of elections before 31 December; a halt by the military of all residual interference in combating drug trafficking; and the drafting by the international community of an action plan to assist Guinea-Bissau in tackling the root causes of instability.  Additionally, partners must agree on arrangements to make the transition process more inclusive and widely recognized, and arrangements must be made to extend emergency aid in support of the road map’s key elements, including the balloting.

António Gumende (Mozambique), Chair of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, said that recent developments showed that with political will, it was possible to overcome complex obstacles through dialogue.  The appointment of Mr. Ramos-Horta as Special Representative had generated a new momentum that should be seized to move towards a lasting solution for the crisis, he said, also welcoming the emergence of consensus among national actors to hold elections in 2013.

Nevertheless, he warned that any optimism should be tempered by the complexity of the situation, political polarization and a deteriorating economic, social and humanitarian situation, as well as the prevalence of drug trafficking.  The arrest of Rear Admiral José Américo Bubo Na Tchuto and the indictment of General Antonio Indjai provided an accurate picture of the involvement of certain military leaders.  Combating that phenomenon, supporting the political process and contributing to the implementation of urgent reforms, particularly in the security sector, would require reinvigorating the mandate of the Peacebuilding Office.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and adjourned at 3:59 p.m.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.