May 21, 2012 by Ola Bello. The decision to withdraw the EU’s Security Sector Reform (SSR) support from Guinea Bissau in late 2010 was clumsy and counterproductive. Recent events, however, present the EU with a golden opportunity to make amends. It should send back its modestly successful SSR mission to complete its unfinished task.
On first examination, the case for EU SSR re-engagement appears weak: the country’s internal situation has worsened recently and the growing instability contributed to a military coup on 13 April.
Yet, the current context presents opportunities which the EU ought to grab. Some analysts fear EU entanglement given the diverse interests competing there. This worry could be eased since Nigeria is already leading a major ECOWAS military stabilisation mission.
In Guinea Bissau the value added of an EU involvement would come from a civilian SSR advisory mission, similar to that for Niger. A hybrid EU-ECOWAS mission can also help unlock intractable political problems that have dogged past SSR missions in Bissau.
Nigeria has also a good record of working with European actors on regional security. Unlike South Africa, it supported NATO action in Libya and UN intervention in Ivory Coast.
If the EU rhetoric of enabling regional leadership is ever to become credible, here is the moment in West Africa. Through its renewed SSR involvement, the EU will also recoup its badly eroded influence on Guinean reform.