6915th Meeting* (PM)
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Briefs; Also Hears from
Peacebuilding Configuration; Portuguese-Speaking Countries; West African States
Despite recent political progress towards the development of a much-needed transitional road map in Guinea-Bissau — which would include the formation of an inclusive transitional government, fair and transparent elections and stability during the post-elections period — the situation in that country was still marked by fear, insecurity and impunity, said a top United Nations political official, as he briefed the Security Council this afternoon.
“Progress will […] depend on the sustained political will of national stakeholders and a spirit of compromise and genuine inclusion,” said Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as he introduced a report of the Secretary-General on developments in Guinea-Bissau, which was before the Council today.
Several significant developments since the report’s publication in mid-January had the potential to facilitate consensus on such a road map, he said, spotlighting, in particular, the recent signing of a Political Transition Pact and a Political Agreement by Guinea-Bissau’s main political party.
Among other things, he said, the much-needed road map would clarify the modalities for the transition — including its duration — and the timeline for the country’s presidential and legislative elections, which had been postponed from their original April 2013 date owing to delays, lack of financial resources and lack of clarity on how to update the national voter registry.
According the Secretary-General’s report, Guinea-Bissau had been suffering from political confusion and violations of the rule of law and human rights since its April 2012 coup d’état. Since then, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country (UNIOGBIS) had been working to strengthen the capacities of national institutions, support the police, internal security and criminal justice system and assist with security sector reform coordination, among other key activities.
However, the report states, the implementation of projects under the Peacebuilding Fund portfolio remained suspended, and a broad-based agreement on the reforms required to consolidate political stability and re-launch the country’s socio-economic development agenda was sorely needed.
Echoing that report, several speakers today thanked the outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, and welcomed his successor, José Ramos-Horta, who was slated to arrive in Guinea-Bissau in the coming days to commence his work. They agreed with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the mandate of UNIOGBIS should be extended for a period of three months, until 31 May., to allow Mr. Ramos-Horta to make an assessment of the situation on the ground, as well as allow the Council to consider the results of a December joint assessment mission by the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and the United Nations.
The Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said its Chair, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, was watching developments closely, and noted signs of possible “movement in a positive direction”. She highlighted recent steps by the political parties to revise the Transitional Political Pact and the Political Agreement and draft a new transitional regime pact, and stressed that a way out of the crisis required settling disputes through dialogue.
National reconciliation, she said, must take root domestically, as only then could the international community fully and effectively reengage, confident that it was supporting a nationally owned and inclusive process. Still, it could play only a supporting role, as the lead must come from legitimate authorities representative of all the people. Even then, the road to sustainable peace and development would be arduous, and she pledged the Configuration’s continued commitment.
Speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, Youssoufou Bamba of Côte d’Ivoire told the Council that West Africa very much needed peace and stability in the region in order to develop its economic potential, and that could only be achieved if the situation in Guinea-Bissau was resolved “once and for all, on a sustainable basis”.
He drew the Council’s attention to a mix of both positive and negative developments concerning Guinea-Bissau, and welcomed Mr. Ramos-Horta’s appointment as “right on cue”, for it was high time, he said, “to work together to strengthen coherence and climb down from the extreme positions which had not allowed the international community to speak with one voice on Guinea-Bissau”.
He promised the formal report of the joint assessment mission, but shared with the Council a few of its findings, including that a direct dialogue among the parties had been established for the purpose of concluding a transitional pact acceptable to all parties and irreversible, as well as a parliamentary commission to review the transition’s road map and propose new realistic dates for elections.
Antonio Gumende of Mozambique, Chair of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, said that the 2012 coup d’état had “interrupted that country’s path towards the consolidation of peace, democracy and stability”. The CPLP looked forward to the validation of the recommendations contained in the report of the December joint assessment mission as guiding principles that would inform the positive role of the international community in assisting the Guinean people as they charted a new course. The CPLP also supported the development of a comprehensive and integrated strategy to deal with critical and immediate challenges facing Guinea-Bissau, namely implementing defence and security sector reform, political and economic reforms, as well as combating drug trafficking and fighting impunity.
The meeting convened at 3:06 p.m. and adjourned at 3:44 p.m.