Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
I thank you for this opportunity to introduce the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Guinea-Bissau and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIOGBIS). As the report already presents a detailed outline of recent events in Guinea-Bissau, my intervention will focus on updating you on political developments since its issuance, analyzing present challenges and making proposals for the way forward.
This briefing is taking place against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving political situation in Guinea-Bissau. In recent weeks, a series of key events have occurred with important ramifications. At the country level, President José Mário Vaz dismissed former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló and replaced him with Artur Silva. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) finally held its Party Congress, despite attempts made by national authorities to block it and re-elected Domingos Simões Pereira as its leader.
At the regional level, on 4 February, the ECOWAS Authority, pursuant to its decision of 27 January, imposed targeted sanctions on 19 individuals deemed to be obstructing the implementation of the Conakry Agreement. These individuals and their family members are subject to travel bans and assets freezes. They have also been suspended from ECOWAS activities. The ECOWAS Authority also requested the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, the European Union, the United Nations and other partners to support and facilitate the enforcement of the sanctions.
Following the imposition of these sanctions, the reaction of national stakeholders has been mixed. Those upon whom the sanctions were imposed have described them as “unsubstantiated” and “unjust”, while those in favor of the sanctions have characterized them as a necessary measure to safeguard the country’s democratic course.
Meanwhile, national reactions to the appointment of Mr. Artur Silva as the new Prime Minister have been generally consistent. On 31 January, the 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 (PRS), the second largest party in Parliament, and the Group of 15 dissident members of the PAIGC, also issued public statements stressing that they would only participate in a government formed under a consensual Prime Minister in strict compliance with the Conakry Agreement. Thus far, the Prime Minister’s efforts to consult with political parties represented in the National Assembly on the formation of an inclusive government have not borne fruit.
Under my leadership, the “P5” group of regional and international partners, comprising representatives of the African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Speaking Countries, ECOWAS, the European Union and the United Nations, has continued to harmonize efforts and messaging at opportune moments with the aim of creating a stable and enabling environment for dialogue among political leaders. So far this year, I have convened three meetings of the group. My efforts, together with the partners, have focused on engaging national authorities and key political stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau to defuse escalating tensions, encourage political dialogue to ease the political gridlock, call for protection and respect for the human rights of Bissau-Guinean citizens, and urge all aggrieved stakeholders to pursue their grievances through legal and constitutional means.
Furthermore, under my direction, UNIOGBIS continues to play a central role in supporting and facilitating the regional mediation efforts of ECOWAS by, inter alia, ensuring the participation of Bissau-Guinean stakeholders at the Summit of the ECOWAS Authority and Heads of State and Government in Abuja in December, providing substantive and logistical support to the ECOWAS high-level delegations during their missions to Bissau and regularly sensitizing regional leaders on ongoing political developments in the country, while encouraging them to exert their influence on protagonists towards compromises.
Mr. President, Distinguished members of the Council,
The absence of a functioning and stable Government for more than three years has limited the ability of UNIOGBIS to effectively and sustainably implement some of its mandated tasks. As recommended by the DPA-led Strategic Review Mission conducted in 2016, and endorsed by this Council last year, I have streamlined UNIOGBIS’ leadership and structure to promote better integration and complementarity with the UN country team and other international partners, while boosting the Mission’s political capacities, which has enabled me to exercise my good offices more effectively at the national level. These changes have also assisted the broader UN system in Guinea-Bissau in delivering more focused and integrated peacebuilding support to national authorities and civil society, including women and youth. In this regard, the support provided by the Peacebuilding Fund has been critical.
Going forward, UNIOGBIS will need 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 Roadmap. Until the completion of the electoral cycle in 2019, more than ever, Guinea-Bissau remains a country that requires a dedicated United Nations presence to prevent a further deterioration in the political and security situation at the national level and avoid any negative consequences in the sub-region. In this context, my good offices, political facilitation, advocacy and mediation roles, alongside my efforts to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law and carry out integrated peacebuilding support, will continue to be critical.
As the Secretary-General has indicated in his report, it is vital that the United Nations remain engaged in peacebuilding efforts in the country while supporting ECOWAS’ intervention to resolve the political crisis for at least one more year. At the end of that period, the SG has expressed his intention to authorize an assessment of the current Mission, and to present options to the Security Council for a possible re-configuration of UN presence in the country. It is my hope that the Council will give favorable consideration to this recommendation.
The AU Peace and Security Council, through its communique issued on 13 February, has fully endorsed the measures taken by ECOWAS on 4 February, including sanctions against “political obstructionists”, requested the AU Commission to coordinate with the ECOWAS Commission in order to ensure the effective implementation of these measures and further requested that the United Nations Security Council endorse the PSC Communique endorsing the ECOWAS decision.
At this critical juncture, it would be important for the UN Security Council to continue to reaffirm the centrality of the Conakry Agreement and to reiterate its full support to ECOWAS in its mediation efforts and for the measures it has taken against political stakeholders deemed to be obstructing the resolution of the political crisis.
I would further seek the Council’s support in underscoring the importance of urgently organizing and holding legislative elections within the constitutionally-mandated timeline.
Lastly, throughout the past year, ECOMIB’s presence has consistently acted as a stabilizing factor in the country. Therefore, I would call on members of the Council and international donors to support the continued presence of ECOMIB through to the holding of a presidential election in 2019, including by advocating for the renewal of its mandate and the provision of the financial support needed to maintain its deployment.
Mr. President, Distinguished members of the Council,
I would like to express my gratitude to the Council for its continued interest in promoting peace and stability in Guinea-Bissau.
I would also like to commend ECOWAS and its current Chairperson, President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, and the ECOWAS Mediator for Guinea-Bissau, President Alpha Condé of Guinea, for their tireless mediation efforts.
Finally, I would like to express appreciation to all multilateral and bilateral partners, especially to AU, CPLP and EU for their commitment to promoting peace and prosperity in Guinea-Bissau.
After several years of long-term investment in the stability of Guinea-Bissau, it is time to consolidate and reap the dividends of our concerted efforts. It is vital that we accompany this process to its completion.
Thank you for your attention.