4 January 2013

Guinea Bissau: UN Appoints New Special Envoy to Guinea-Bissau

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has officially replaced Josephe Mutaboba at the special representative seat in Guinea-Bissau, a statement by the world organ says.

Mr Mutaboba's representative is none other than the man who shared the Nobel Peace prize in 1996 for working towards peace in East Timor, José Ramos-Horta.

A statement released on Wednesday said Ki-moon appointed Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

"The new Special Representative succeeds Joseph Mutaboba of Rwanda, who will complete his assignment on January 31, 2013, and to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his leadership of UNIOGBIS over the past four years, often under difficult political and security conditions, for his tireless efforts to ensure international attention to the challenges of Guinea-Bissau, and for working on practical solutions to address them," reads part of the statement.

Ramos-Horta is also the former president of East Timor.

It is noted that he brings with him more than three decades of diplomatic and political activity in the service of peace and stability in Timor-Leste and beyond.

"As President of Timor-Leste, most recently from 2007 to 2012, Mr. Ramos-Horta contributed to healing the wounds and stabilizing the situation in the country following the crisis in 2006."

Ramos-Horta also served as East Timor Foreign Minister from 2001 to 2006, and as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007. Between 1969 and 1974, he worked as a print, radio and television journalist in Timor-Leste.

He holds a masters degree in peace studies from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio (1984), and is working on a PhD at the Universidade do Minho in Braga, Portugal. The author of several books and other writings, he is fluent in five languages.

Early last month, Mutaboba was in New York to brief the Security Council on the latest situation in Guinea-Bissau, a west African country plagued with coups and instability since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.

At the time, Eduardo del Buey, the deputy spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, refuted reports alleging that Mutaboba may have been asked by the current leadership in Guinea-Bissau to leave the country.

Mutaboba's mandate in Guinea-Bissau started in February 2009. The interim Bissau government plans to hold elections later this year.

The Guinea-Bissau military seized power in a coup in April.

Gangs use the country to smuggle cocaine from Latin America to Europe, allegedly in collusion with top army officers as the country has reportedly become a transhipment point for Latin American drugs.

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