The political situation in Guinea-Bissau was evolving swiftly, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today, as he outlined the latest developments in that country, including those that had obstructed the full implementation of the Conakry Agreement.
Modibo Ibrahim Touré, who also heads the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on that country, while noting that he would focus his remarks on the events that had occurred since its publication, given the constantly changing political landscape. Guinea-Bissau President José Mário Vaz had dismissed former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló and replaced him with Artur Silva. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde had issued a statement denouncing that appointment, as it did not conform with the stipulations of the Conakry Agreement. The Party for Social Renewal, and the group of 15 renegade members of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde also stressed they would only participate in a Government formed under a consensual Prime Minister in strict compliance with the accord.
In other developments, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde had re-elected Domingos Simões Pereira as its leader, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed targeted sanctions on more than a dozen individuals deemed to be obstructing the implementation of the Conakry Agreement, he said. While the absence of a functioning Government had limited the ability of UNIOGBIS to implement some of its mandated tasks, the Office needed to focus its efforts on supporting national leaders in their efforts to appoint an acceptable Prime Minister, and organize and conduct timely elections.
Recalling that ECOWAS Heads of State had recently laid out a 30-day deadline for Guinea-Bissau’s political actors to implement the Conakry Agreement, Mauro Vieira, Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that the ECOWAS Commission would begin to apply sanctions against those who were standing in the way of a political solution.
The Guinea-Bissau Configuration had briefed the Council on two occasions in 2017, he noted, and it also hoped to work with outside partners like the World Bank. It had also convened a briefing by the United Nations Under-Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, where the ECOWAS sanctions and other issues were discussed. The need to respect Guinea-Bissau’s constitutional framework to organize elections was expressed, and participants also voiced their support for the renewal of the UNIOGBIS mandate.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire emphasized that the adoption by ECOWAS of individual sanctions against those considered hostile to the conflict resolution process should give an “electric shock” to the political class in Guinea-Bissau. He underscored that Guinea-Bissau had no Government, and that there was a crisis of confidence between the President and his political party. Political stakeholders needed to find a consensus-based solution to the crisis, he said.
Many delegates emphasized the importance of implementing the Conakry Agreement, including the representative of Equatorial Guinea, who stressed that the accord was the main reference point for the political future of the country. Political actors in Guinea-Bissau should join forces to make it possible to form an inclusive Government. That would lay the foundation for legislative and presidential elections to be organized, he said.
The representative of the Netherlands noted the urgency of appointing a consensus Prime Minister in Guinea-Bissau and of holding elections in a timely and transparent manner. In that regard, increased pressure from ECOWAS could lead to tangible progress. The Council could assist that effort by firmly supporting ECOWAS in taking up its role and responsibility. Additionally, the mandate of UNIOGBIS should be renewed for no less than one year, as that would allow for the setting of more concrete priorities.
The representative of Guinea-Bissau said that the political crisis in his country began much sooner than with the signing of the Conakry Agreement. While the accord was a step in the right direction, the two main parties had expressed disagreement over a crucial element, that of the necessity of consensus on the choice of a candidate for Prime Minister. That lack of consensus had overshadowed the appointment, and brought about a political paralysis that had allowed the crisis in the country to continue. He cautioned that it was not the case that the application of sanctions would help bring about consensus on that matter. Instead, a compromise-based solution should be sought.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Ethiopia, France, Peru, Sweden, United Kingdom, Poland, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, China, Russian Federation, Kuwait and Togo.
The meeting began at 3:11 p.m. and ended at 4:58 p.m.
MODIBO IBRAHIM TOURÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), speaking via videoconference, briefed the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in that country. He noted he would focus his statement on the political developments that had taken place since the issuance of the report. The situation in Guinea-Bissau was rapidly evolving. President José Mário Vaz had dismissed former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló and replaced him with Artur Silva. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde finally held its party congress and re-elected Domingos Simões Pereira as its leader. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed targeted sanctions on 19 individuals deemed to be obstructing the implementation of the Conakry Agreement.
The reaction to President Vaz’s appointment of Artur Silva as the new Prime Minister has been generally consistent, he said. PAIGC issued a statement denouncing Mr. Silva’s appointment as not being in conformity with the Conakry Agreement. Last week, the Party for Social Renewal, and the group of 15 renegade members of African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde also issued public statements stressing that they would only participate in a Government formed under a consensual Prime Minister in strict compliance with the Agreement. The “P5” group of regional and international partners had continued to harmonize efforts and messaging at opportune moments with the aim of creating an enabling environment for dialogue among political leaders.
The absence of a functioning Government for more than three years had limited the ability of UNIOGBIS to effectively and sustainably implement some of its mandated tasks, he noted. The Peacebuilding Office needed to focus its efforts on supporting national leaders in their efforts to appoint an acceptable Prime Minister, establish an inclusive Government, organize and conduct timely elections, and implement the priority reforms as outlined in the Conakry Agreement and the ECOWAS road map. Until the completion of the electoral cycle in 2019, Guinea-Bissau required a dedicated United Nations presence. It was also important for the Council to continue to reaffirm the centrality of the Agreement and to underscore the importance of organizing and holding legislative elections within the constitutionally mandated timeline.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Guinea‑Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, recalled that ECOWAS Heads of State had recently laid out a 30-day deadline for Guinea-Bissau’s political actors to implement the Conakry Agreement and sent two missions to the country following Mr. Embaló’s resignation and the subsequent takeover by Mr. Silva. Following the missions, ECOWAS issued a communiqué stating that the nomination of a consensual Prime Minister — as determined by the Agreement — had not happened, and that the ECOWAS Commission would begin applying sanctions against those creating obstacles to a political solution. In early February, it listed 19 names that would be subject to such sanctions, including exclusion from ECOWAS activities, a travel ban and the freezing of assets.
Meanwhile, he said, the Guinea-Bissau Configuration was providing support to the country and remained in close contact with Brazil’s ambassador in Bissau, who had excellent relations with national authorities, political actors and United Nations representatives. The Configuration briefed the Security Council on two occasions in 2017, he said, adding that, in June 2017, he had conducted his first visit to Bissau in his capacity as Chair, meeting with Mr. Vaz, Mr. Embaló and other officials. In December 2017, the Peacebuilding Fund approved six new projects to be implemented between January 2018 and June 2019 in Guinea-Bissau — totalling $7 million — which aimed to support the country’s media, justice sector and national reconciliation efforts.
Noting that the Configuration also hoped to work with such outside partners as the World Bank, he said he planned to visit Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks to explore possible cooperation. On 12 February, the Configuration had convened a meeting to hear a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, where the ECOWAS sanctions and other issues were discussed. Many participants stressed the need to respect Guinea-Bissau’s constitutional framework to organize elections, voiced their support for the renewal of the UNIOGBIS mandate and welcomed the non-involvement of Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces in the political crisis.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that Guinea-Bissau was continuing to go through a serious political and institutional crisis, characterized by a political impasse. The Security Council must act more firmly, alongside ECOWAS and the African Union, to urge Guinea Bissau to respect its commitments. The country had no Government and there was a crisis of confidence between the Guinea-Bissau President and his political party. The current stalemate was the result of the slow deterioration of the political situation in the country, which had been taking place over an extended period of time. Political stakeholders lacked the political will to find a consensus-based solution to the crisis, and in that connection, he urged the parties to implement the Conakry Agreement. He commended ECOWAS for its leadership, including its adoption of individual sanctions against 19 people considered hostile to the conflict resolution process, which showed the determination of the organization to enable the country to find a solution to the crisis that had dragged on for too long. Those sanctions should give an “electric shock” to the political class in Guinea-Bissau. He was particularly supportive of the role of women in Guinea Bissau in the political process, including with regard to the promotion of political dialogue between the parties.
AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) said that, for too long, the Council had gathered for updates on the situation in Guinea-Bissau, with little progress evident. The United States was profoundly disappointed by the President of Guinea-Bissau’s decision to ignore the Conakry Agreement and his refusal to form a unity Government that would pave the way to elections in May. Time was running out, as was evident by the recent clashes that had resulted in crackdowns by the Government, and in that connection, she stressed that the Government of Guinea‑Bissau must respect the rights of its citizens. Her country applauded the efforts by ECOWAS to hold “political spoilers” accountable through the imposition of sanctions. For years, the international community had put resources into Guinea-Bissau for the country to take important steps aimed at benefitting its citizens; but with a gridlocked Government, serious challenges in there could not be addressed. Stressing that the United Nations could not operate effectively in places with unwilling Governments, she emphasized that elections must proceed on time and would require support, although the Government must first end the impasse.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the political standoff and institutional paralysis in Guinea-Bissau would eventually undermine peace and stability. Welcoming the $7.3 million in projects to be financed through the Peacebuilding Fund’s Intermediate Response Facility, he urged all stakeholders to respect the Conakry Agreement and create the conditions for holding legislative and presidential elections in 2018 and 2019. They should also refrain from actions or statements that could incite violence, while the armed forces must continue to uphold the Constitution and not interfere in the crisis. He pressed the Council to reinforce the ECOWAS decision on restoring democratic governance and ensuring respect for the rule of law in Guinea-Bissau, and to send a united message in that regard.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said that she was concerned that the Conakry Agreement had not been respected. The authorities of Guinea-Bissau had no compunction in limiting the freedom of assembly and the freedom to demonstrate. There was a risk of the political and security situation there deteriorating, she said, and the parties should respect their commitments to achieve a national consensus. There was a narrow window of time to reach that consensus, given the approach of the date scheduled for the elections. The calendar for those elections should be maintained. A solution for the conflict would involve both local stakeholders and the international community, and it was also crucial to bolster the Security Council’s role in resolving the current political impasse. The Council should increase pressure on local stakeholders, particularly on Mr. Vaz. It was time for the parties in Guinea-Bissau to move from words to action.
GUSTAVO MEZA-QUADRA (Peru) said his country had followed the situation in Guinea-Bissau with concern. Despite international efforts and those of regional organizations to achieve a political solution, little progress had been made in the implementation of the Conakry Agreement. It was crucial to hold elections as planned in 2018 and 2019 successfully. It was clear that the recent appointment of Mr. Silva as Prime Minister did not enjoy the consensus of all parties, in accordance with the Agreement. It was necessary for all parties to resume a dialogue that was inclusive and conclusive so that they could fulfil their obligations. It was important to have the participation of women and young people in the dialogue, to make progress towards sustainable peace.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that his country applauded the commitment and major efforts and resources that had been put towards the situation in Guinea-Bissau by international partners. The Conakry Agreement should continue to be the main reference point for the political future of Guinea-Bissau, he stressed, calling on all political actors to join forces to make it possible to form an inclusive Government which would then lay the foundation for political conditions to organize legislative and presidential elections. His delegation emphasized the importance of respecting the electoral timeline set by the country’s Constitution and believed that renewing the mandate for UNIOGBIS was a key element for the resolution of the crisis. The most recent report of the Secretary-General reflected the latent indignation of the people given the uncertainty of the political situation in Guinea-Bissau, which could result in further tension, he warned, pointing out that the stability of country was also closely linked to its economic recovery.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said a lack of progress in resolving the stalemate in Guinea-Bissau was undermining peacebuilding efforts and holding the country’s social and economic development hostage. The six-point Bissau road map and the Conakry Agreement remained the only way forward. He commended ECOWAS mediation efforts and welcomed its decision to impose sanctions on those impeding the Agreement’s implementation. “It is important that the international community fully support regional efforts in a concerted and coherent manner,” he said. Turning to the role of UNIOGBIS, he said it should focus its resources on resolving the political deadlock and supporting the electoral process. A one-year extension of the Office’s mandate would allow for longer-term planning and strategizing on how best it could support the Conakry Agreement and elections.
DAVID PETER CLAY (United Kingdom) said that the situation in Guinea-Bissau was concerning, as it was still emerging from instability and violence in its recent past. The situation was only likely to become more volatile as it moved towards elections. Economic growth was at risk, he said. The illicit economy and transnational organized crime risked becoming further entrenched, with global implications. He welcomed the leadership shown by the West African region, which had shown persistence and patience. ECOWAS had been driven to impose sanctions, and the African Union had endorsed that decision. It was also important to recognize the bold efforts of civil society in Guinea-Bissau to resolve the crisis.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that she followed with growing concern the situation in Guinea-Bissau, and supported the efforts of the international community to resolve the political crisis in the country. Stakeholders should engage in dialogue in a spirit of compromise. The implementation of the 2016 road map and the Conakry Agreement were crucial for maintaining peace and stability in the country. The authorities should carry out the elections scheduled for May and guarantee impartiality. Women and youth should be involved in institution‑building, and the Guinea-Bissau authorities should ensure the protection of fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of information.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) urged all stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau to engage in an inclusive political dialogue, and implement both the Conakry Agreement and the ECOWAS road map, having already taken note of the Economic Community’s decision to impose sanctions on those obstructing the Agreement’s implementation. He voiced support for the Secretary-General’s recommendation to renew the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau’s mandate for another year. As the crisis in the country could fuel transnational organized crime, he advocated greater national engagement and international support, as well as an extension of security, judicial and law enforcement reforms. He welcomed the engagement of the women’s facilitation group, calling on authorities to ensure the participation of women and youth in the political process.
LISE HUBERTA JOHANNA GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said it was increasingly urgent to appoint a consensus Prime Minister and for elections to be held in a timely, transparent and inclusive manner. Concerted action and increased pressure, particularly from ECOWAS, could lead to tangible progress. The Council should firmly support ECOWAS in taking up its role and responsibility, as it should in the case of any other regional organization in Africa that took the lead in maintaining peace and security. The mandate of UNIOGBIS should be renewed for no less than one year, which would allow for longer-term planning and setting more concrete priorities. Renewing the mandate for less than that would send the wrong signal, she said.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said there had been no progress regarding the political situation in Guinea-Bissau, nor visible improvements, which jeopardized the complete implementation of the Conakry Agreement. Bolivia was opposed to any action that could destabilize the ongoing reconciliation process and called for consolidation of the Agreement in a definitive manner, which would allow members of Government and all stakeholders to achieve a consensus and move the political process forward in a constructive manner. He commended ECOWAS and the African Union for their active participation and ongoing efforts. The work of UNIOGBIS should be strengthened, including increasing the capacity of the Office to obtain more effective and efficient results. He encouraged the initiatives of women in Guinea-Bissau, which reflected the vital nature of their participation in political dialogue.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China) said that, as of late, the situation in Guinea-Bissau was stable, but still required efforts by all parties to resolve the political impasse. China hoped that leaders in Guinea-Bissau would bear in mind the interests of the country and the nation. The international community should closely follow the situation in the country and leverage the main mediation role of regional and subregional organizations, with a view towards respecting the sovereignty of Guinea-Bissau. Regional countries should also be engaged to help identify African solutions to African issues.
ALEXANDER A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) voiced support for efforts by the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries to normalize the situation in Guinea-Bissau. However, he expressed concern about the lack of progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement, and urged all actors on the ground to implement security sector reforms, overhaul the Constitution and prepare for successful elections. It was equally critical to promote law and order and address socioeconomic issues. Regarding the measures imposed by Council resolution 2048 (2012) — whose main aim was to establish the country’s constitutional order — he said that goal had been de facto achieved several years ago. The sanctions were out of date and their listing criteria no longer corresponded to the situation on the ground, he said, warning against imposing sanctions on any participant who was acting lawfully. While the Russian Federation would consider the recommendation to renew the mandate of UNIOGBIS, he called for additional efforts to help Guinea-Bissau prepare for the May elections and rectify structural problems in its Constitution. If those issues were not resolved, Guinea-Bissau would face the same challenges in future elections.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, voicing regret that none of the elements of the Conakry Agreement had yet been implemented, including the election of a Prime Minister as stipulated. The situation in Guinea-Bissau was unique among the Council’s agenda items, as it contained no security aspects, he said, welcoming recent steps by ECOWAS and other regional actors including the imposition of sanctions and the decision to extend the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau. Underlining the critical role of regional organizations in resolving issues in their own region, he called on all partners to spare no effort in supporting upcoming elections and ensuring that all people in Guinea-Bissau could realize their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
FERNANDO DELFIM DA SILVA (Guinea Bissau) said that the political crisis in his country did not begin with the signature of the Conakry Agreement, but, rather, it started much earlier. The Agreement was a step in the right direction to resolve the crisis in a consensus-based manner, however, over the last 15 months, the two main parties had on several occasions expressed their disagreement over a crucial item in the Agreement — consensus on the choice of a candidate for Prime Minister. The lack of consensus had overshadowed the appointment of a Prime Minister, which must be consensus-based. That issue had brought about political paralysis and had allowed the crisis to continue over the last 15 months. Some believed that the application of sanctions would help bring about consensus, which was not the case. To continue to seek a solution to the crisis was no doubt the most important step that must be taken, and in that connection, he emphasized the importance of identifying a compromise-based solution.
KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo), outlining efforts by ECOWAS, African Union and other regional actors to resolve the ongoing stalemate in Guinea-Bissau, recalled that the Acting President of ECOWAS had recently deployed a mission of the organization’s Ministerial Sanctions Committee to Guinea-Bissau. That aim of that mission was to evaluate progress in implementing the Conakry Agreement, as well as assess the impact of the persistent stalemate. Following the assignment, it was decided that no progress had been made in implementing the Agreement, and ECOWAS had called on all leaders in the country to respect the Constitution and engage in frank and honest dialogue. It further decided to impose sanctions on 19 individuals, with the aim of promoting democracy and the rule of law. The ECOWAS Commission retained the right to revise the sanctions list — which imposed both an assets freeze and a travel ban — as the situation on the ground developed. “The implementation of these sanctions will only be effective with the participation of the United Nations and other members of the international community,” he stressed, expressing hope that they would create an environment conducive to resolving the stalemate “that has already lasted too long”.