Distinguished Members of the Council,
Thank you for this opportunity to provide an oral update on the political and security situations in Guinea-Bissau and on the country’s preparation for elections.
Since the adoption of resolution 2404 on 28 February 2018, encouraging progress has been made in the efforts to break the political and institutional deadlock that had persisted in Guinea-Bissau for almost three years. As the Council is aware, during the extraordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 14 April, President José Mário Vaz of Guinea-Bissau made several key commitments, which have since been fulfilled. These include the swearing-in of Mr. Aristides Gomes as the consensual Prime Minister on 16 April; the issuance of a decree on the same day confirming 18 November 2018 as the date for legislative elections; and the convening of the plenary session of the National Assembly on 19 April, for the first time in over two years. At its meeting, the Assembly approved the appointment of the President and Executive Secretariat of the National Elections Commission and extended the term of the Legislature until November.
Since then, with the facilitation of an ECOWAS ministerial delegation, which visited Bissau on 24 April, a new inclusive government has been sworn in. The new cabinet, which will be in office until the legislative elections in November, comprises twenty-six (26) ministers, four of whom are women.
The significant breakthrough was achieved following an agreement reached between the two main political parties, the Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) and the Social Renewal Party (PRS), with the facilitation of the Catholic Bishop of Bissau. It also owes much to the consistent pressure mounted by ECOWAS on Bissau-Guinean political stakeholders, which culminated in the imposition of targeted sanctions on individuals deemed to be obstructing efforts to end the impasse, as well as the encouragement and facilitation by UNIOGBIS and the other members of the Group of five international partners in Bissau, namely ECOWAS, AU, EU and CPLP. These encouraging developments pave the way for launching the electoral process and creating openings for other peacebuilding initiatives long stalled because of the impasse.
Nonetheless, several key provisions of the ECOWAS-brokered Conakry Agreement of October 2016 remain to be implemented. As a crucial next step, the political stakeholders in Guinea-Bissau have initiated discussions that will culminate with the holding of a national roundtable dialogue as foreseen in the Conakry Agreement. Both the government programme and a Stability Pact, which outlines the principles for key reforms until the end of the current legislature, are expected to be endorsed by the political stakeholders following the national roundtable dialogue. The primary focus of the first meeting of the Council of Ministers, on 10 May, was on preparations for the elections. UNIOGBIS will continue efforts, including within the framework of the Guinea-Bissau Group of five international partners (G-5), to encourage the Government to move forward with the convening of the roundtable and, more broadly, with implementation of the remaining priorities outlined in the Conakry Agreement.
With respect to the legislative elections, a project document on the United Nations Development Programme electoral support to the Government, in the amount of 7.7 million USD, has been finalized. The project will support technical preparations for cartography, an update of the voter register, voter education and electoral administration. The Government of Guinea-Bissau has made an unprecedented contribution of 1.8 million USD to the Basket Fund; UNDP has also contributed 200,000 USD to the Fund which, among other priorities, will allow UNDP to procure biometric equipment for the electoral technical wing of the Ministry of Interior. The tender and procurement process for the purchase of the biometric equipment and software will be launched on 21 May, and the National Electoral Commission, which supervises the process, is expected to begin voter registration on 1 June. Additional resources are urgently needed to fill a funding gap of 5.7 million USD to cover voter registration (USD 2.8 million) and operational costs for the elections (USD 2.9 million). In order to avoid yet another delay in the elections, it will be important for the international community to provide the requisite support to bridge the funding gap.
However, we remain concerned about the situation of drug trafficking and associated forms of transnational organised crime. In the period after the adoption of resolution 2404, there have been at least five reported seizures of drugs at the international airport in Bissau, which many fear may be just the tip of the iceberg. It is our hope that the on-going efforts to enhance UNIOGBIS monitoring and reporting capabilities, in cooperation with UNODC and other partners, will, in due course, expose the true extent of the problem and contribute to fighting impunity.
Since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2404, steps have been taken by UNIOGBIS, with the support of the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to re-orient the resources and interventions of the Mission towards effective implementation of the new priorities articulated by the Security Council.
To that end, DPA led a Technical Assessment Mission to Bissau from 24 to 31 March composed of the relevant UN Departments and Offices. The team met with national, regional and international stakeholders, and worked closely with UNIOGBIS to help re-align the mission’s resources. Internal work on the re-orientation is well underway.
It was agreed that resources would be temporarily redeployed from the former Rule of Law and Security Institutions component to support the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in conducting good offices and providing support to the elections, as well as to the newly-established Combatting Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime (CDTOC) component; UNODC will be located within this component. In addition, future UN police deployments are expected to focus on criminal detection and investigation; and the promotion of human rights and gender equality will be mainstreamed in all mission activities. The report and recommendations of the Technical Assessment Mission to Bissau will also inform the Strategic Review Mission that will take place later this year, in late August/early September. The Strategic Review will contain the Secretary-General’s assessment of UNIOGBIS, including options for a possible reconfiguration of the United Nations presence in the country and re-prioritization of tasks, as requested by the Council in resolution 2404.
The latest successful efforts to assist Bissau-Guinean stakeholders to end the political and institutional impasse and launch the country on the path of sustainable peace and development gives cause for guarded optimism. The period until the legislative elections, and particularly until the next Presidential election in 2019, will be critical and fraught with uncertainties, and will require the continued attention and engagement of the international community.
Before I conclude, I would like to recognize the commendable contribution of Mr. Modibo Touré, who completed his assignment as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on 6 May, particularly in forging close and constructive relations with ECOWAS and the region. I would also like to welcome his successor, Mr. José Viegas Filho, who will assume his responsibilities later this month and continue to build on progress made in Guinea-Bissau. I would also like to express our appreciation to our partners, ECOWAS, AU, EU and CPLP for their cooperation and efforts that have helped open the way for a better future for Guinea Bissau, an opportunity Bissau-Guinean should be encouraged, assisted and influenced to grasp.
I thank you for your attention.