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Guinea-Bissau

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council expects a briefing on Guinea-Bissau from the Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), José Viegas Filho. Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea), as chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, and Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil), chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), are also expected to brief.

Also during August, the 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s annual report on progress in Guinea-Bissau’s stabilisation and restoration of constitutional order with recommendations on the continuation of the 2048 sanctions regime.

Key Recent Developments

Since the breakthroughs in April when Aristides Gomes was appointed prime minister and an inclusive government was formed, Guinea-Bissau has made only limited progress in preparing for the legislative elections scheduled for 18 November and in implementing other provisions of the October 2016 Conakry Agreement, brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to resolve a political crisis that the country has been mired in since 2015. On 25 May, the National Assembly re-opened, building on some of the momentum from the previous month. On 20 June, the National Assembly approved the government programme, and on 21 June, it adopted a budget, which had not been done, respectively, since 2014 and 2015.

The new government has been focused on organising the elections, but voter registration, which should have started on 1 June, has been delayed. Raising the projected $7.7 million to hold the elections has also been a problem, but there have been signs of progress lately. In addition to the $1.8 million that the government has set aside for the election and the anticipated EU disbursement in September of 2.5 million euros, a number of countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Italy, Japan and the US, are considering contributions. Member states of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) expressed their readiness to contribute funding in the final declaration issued at the close of their summit on 17-18 July in Cape Verde.

This will be Viegas Filho’s first briefing since the Secretary-General appointed the career Brazilian diplomat on 4 May as his special representative, succeeding previous UNIOGBIS head Modibo Touré.  During the Council’s last meeting on Guinea-Bissau on 26 May, Assistant Secretary-General Tayé-Brook Zerihoun provided an overview of recent progress in resolving the crisis and an update on the recalibration of UNIOGBIS following the February mandate renewal, which had removed tasks tied to judicial, security, and rule of law reforms. Along with the PBC’s Ambassador Vieira, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Yuri Fedotov also briefed, marking the first time that UNODC had briefed on Guinea-Bissau since 2009.

Sanctions-Related Developments

Ambassador Ndong Mba undertook a mission to Guinea-Bissau and Guinea from 25 to 29 June to assess the existing Security Council travel ban against ten individuals linked to the military for their involvement in the April 2012 coup, and the current political situation. The chair of the 2048 Committee met with top Bissau-Guinean officials, including President José Mário Vaz; representatives of political parties, including the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and the Party for Social Renewal; sanctioned military officers; civil society organisations; and international partners. Interlocutors expressed the view that the sanctions were no longer warranted, while others felt that they should remain in place. In Conakry, Ndong Mba met with President Alpha Condé of Guinea, who is the ECOWAS mediator of the crisis. This past February, ECOWAS imposed sanctions against 19 individuals associated with Vaz, including the president’s son, for obstructing implementation of the Conakry Agreement.

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission

When Brazil’s deputy ambassador Frederico Meyer briefed the PBC on 25 June about the activities of the country configuration, he said the configuration was continuing to work with UNIOGBIS and international partners towards implementing the Conakry Agreement. He said that over the coming months special attention would be given to the elections, including efforts to generate financial support. From 25 to 26 July, Vieira visited Guinea-Bissau and on 27 July held further discussions in Lisbon.

Key Issues and Options

The upcoming legislative elections are a key issue. Areas of concern include their funding; voter registration, which by law should be completed 60 days ahead of the elections; and keeping to the current timeframe, as these elections were already postponed from the first half of the year. Continuing to advance implementation of the Conakry Agreement is a related issue. In his 1 May letter to the Council on his intention to appoint Viegas Filho, the Secretary-General stressed that despite the positive developments during April with the appointment of Gomes and establishment of an inclusive government, full implementation of the Conakry Agreement would be challenging, including the adoption of a stability pact that incorporates key constitutional, electoral, justice and security sector reforms. The role of the sanctions and their continuation or modification will be a prominent issue.

One option is to adopt a presidential statement that reiterates the importance for Bissau-Guinean stakeholders to fully implement the Conakry Agreement and to hold legislative elections as scheduled, while encouraging donors to support outstanding funding needs. The Council, as it has done in the past, may seek to support politically the initiatives of ECOWAS, which is holding a summit on 30 and 31 July, during which Guinea-Bissau is likely to be discussed.

Regarding the sanctions, an option is to maintain the current regime through this year’s legislative elections and next year’s presidential election while signalling the possibility of ending the sanctions upon reviewing the political climate afterwards. The 2048 Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee may further issue a press release following next month’s committee meeting, which includes a reminder that sanctioned individuals can request exemptions on humanitarian grounds, such as necessary medical treatment abroad, an issue that was raised by interlocutors arguing for the lifting of sanctions.

Council and Wider Dynamics

The Council tends to follow the lead of ECOWAS, seeking to support its decisions or agreements on Guinea-Bissau. On the ground, representatives in Bissau from ECOWAS, the AU, the CPLP, the UN and the EU—collectively referred to as the P5 in Guinea-Bissau—often act together to defuse tensions. Council members’ concerns over the course of the political crisis have included the possibility that a deterioration could lead to an increase in transnational crime, such as drug trafficking and piracy, or be exploited by terrorist groups in the region.

Despite the military having refrained from interfering in the political situation over the past three years, members remain attentive to this risk given Guinea-Bissau’s history. During Ambassador Ndong Mba’s mission, interlocutors arguing for lifting the travel ban on current sanctioned individuals made the point that the present crisis was not the fault of the military but of the political class. On the other hand, Council sanctions are perceived as having served as a deterrent on the military over the course of the political crisis. ECOWAS sanctions, which seemed responsible for triggering political breakthroughs earlier this year, are likely to remain in place until after the presidential election in 2019.

Côte d’Ivoire is the penholder on Guinea-Bissau.

UN DOCUMENTS ON GUINEA-BISSAU

Security Council Resolution
28 February 2018 S/RES/2404 This resolution extended the mandate of UNIOGBIS for one year.
Security Council Letter
1 May 2018 S/2018/420 This was from the Secretary-General on his intention to appoint José Viegas Filho (Brazil) as his special representative for Guinea-Bissau and head of UNIOGBIS.
Security Council Meeting Record
16 May 2018 S/PV.8261 This was a briefing on Guinea-Bissau.
Security Council Press Statement
21 February 2018 SC/13218 This was a press statement taking note of ECOWAS’s decision to sanction 19 individuals for obstructing implementation of the Conakry Agreement.

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