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.
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider developments in Guinea-Bissau and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office there, for which it had before it a report of the Secretary-General, dated 11 January (document S/2013/26).
TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General's report, which was currently before the Council. He also updated the Council on several political developments that had taken place since the report was issued on 11 January.
In January, for example, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and four other political parties had decided to sign the "Political Transition Pact" and the "Political Agreement", which had been signed between the junta and 17 political parties in May 2012.
Since then, PAIGC had appealed to the transitional President, Serifo Nhamadjo, and the international community to rapidly facilitate the formation of an inclusive transitional government emanating from the Parliament.
That signing should facilitate the review by the Parliamentary Commission of the "Political Transition Pact" and the "Political Agreement" and the drafting of a new transitional regime pact.
It was also expected to facilitate consensus on a transition road map that would, among other things, clarify the revised modalities for the transition, including its duration and the timeline for the presidential and legislative elections, which would no longer take place in April, and the voter registration system, he said.
Notwithstanding the positive efforts to ensure inclusiveness in the transition process, however, impunity remained a major problem. There was a general atmosphere of fear within the population arising from recent cases of beatings, torture and intimidation that continued to restrict freedom of assembly and information.
So far, none of the individuals involved in the killings and beatings that followed the attack against the Bissalanca Air Force Base in Bissau on 21 October 2012 had been brought to justice, although investigations into the alleged counter coup had reportedly been concluded and submitted to the military court.
At the regional level, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government had recently expressed their commitment to "accompany [Guinea-Bissau] in accomplishing the tasks of the transitional process".
They had also reiterated their call to the African Union to urgently consider the recognition of the ongoing transition and the lifting of sanctions against the country, and had urged the United Nations, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), the European Union and other international partners to resume cooperation with Guinea-Bissau and to support efforts aimed at ensuring a more inclusive transition in the country.
Recalling that a joint assessment mission by the African Union, CPLP, ECOWAS and the United Nations had visited Guinea-Bissau in December 2012, he said that, on 26 January, senior officials representing the five organizations had agreed that the report of the mission should be submitted to the relevant organs of their respective organizations. The Secretary-General looked forward to receiving the mission's recommendations, he added in that regard.
The new Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Guiean-Bissau, José Ramos-Horta, who would arrive in the country to assume his duties in the next few days, would conduct an assessment of the situation in the country and, together with the United Nations country team and other relevant actors, would come up with proposals regarding the mandate of United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).
That exercise should be finalized by the time of the completion of the three-month extension of the mission's mandate, requested by the Secretary-General, he said.
He reviewed some of the main findings of the Secretary-General's report, including that the continued lack of civilian control and oversight over the defence and security forces, and the continuing attempts by some politicians to manipulate the military for sectarian benefit, remained a matter of grave concern.
"Moving forward, stakeholders will need to make progress, through the Parliamentary Commission, on the development of a consensual road map for transition", which should include the formation of an inclusive transitional government, fair and transparent presidential and legislative elections, and stability during the post-election period, he stressed, adding that "progress will further depend on the sustained political will of national stakeholders and a spirit of compromise and genuine inclusion."
In support of national efforts to address the key drivers of instability, the United Nations system had initiated a review of its work in the country with the aim of re-aligning its interventions in the areas of State-building and peacebuilding.
In that regard, he said, the joint assessment mission had facilitated the way for Guinea-Bissau's regional and international partners to enhance mutual cooperation and to work together in support of the country's stability.
"It is our hope that this momentum will yield positive results as the international community pursues its efforts to contribute to the restoration or constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau", the promotion of dialogue and civilian oversight of security and defence institution, and an end to impunity, he said.
"Only then", he said, "can Guinea-Bissau have an opportunity to reverse decades of instability, unconstitutional change of Government, gross human rights abuse and impunity, and hopefully usher in a new era where there will be respect for the rule of law and for human and political rights, as well as opportunities for social and economical development."
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), speaking in her capacity as Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that almost 10 months after the coup d'état, the country continued to face significant challenges, which needed to be addressed in 2013.
Although it was the primary responsibility of Guinea-Bissau's political leaders and people to demonstrate the will to overcome them and move towards a rapid and sustainable return to constitutional order, the country would continue to need the assistance of the United Nations, including the Peacebuilding Commission, in close coordination with Guinea-Bissau's international partners, to further those goals.
She said that holding timely, free, fair and transparent presidential and legislative elections and promoting the necessary reforms to sustain stability and spur development were urgent tasks requiring international support. National ownership and mutual accountability were key principles for the country's engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission.
Unfortunately, the April coup "has affected the work the [Peacebuilding Commission] was carrying out". The progress made on several fronts had been interrupted, and the absence of consensual national counterparts with whom the Configuration could regularly interact had limited the Commission's work.
Those difficulties notwithstanding, she said, the Configuration was closely following the situation.
She had striven to facilitate dialogue among the main international partners to enable concerted action in addressing the challenges, and, among other efforts, the Configuration had met on the margins of the General Assembly on 27 September 2012, during which it had been briefed by interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior. A further meeting was planned for later this month to receive briefings on the "UN-AU-ECOWAS-CPLP-EU" joint assessment mission to the country in December 2012.
Daunting challenges remained, she said, pointing to the continued lack of civilian control over the military, drug trafficking, impunity, economic deterioration, and human rights violations.
At the same time, in recent weeks, steps had been taken by the political parties to revise the Transitional Political Pact and the Political Agreement signed last May, and draft a new transitional regime pact to serve as a new framework for the return to constitutional order. Those developments "may signal movement in a positive direction".
The joint assessment mission last December had been a welcome initiative, she said, adding her hope that the recent dialogue among national stakeholders would lead to a more inclusive and acceptable transitional arrangement and restore constitutional order and enable the reengagement of international partners. Mr. Ramos-Horta's appointment brought new impetus to the common efforts to overcome the current crisis and she looked forward to productive cooperation with him.
She said that finding a path out of the crisis required all national stakeholders to solve their disputes through dialogue. National reconciliation 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.
Yet, it could only play a supporting role, as the lead must come from legitimate authorities representing all the people of Guinea-Bissau. But, even then, huge challenges would remain and the road to sustainable peace and development would be arduous. She pledged the Configuration's continued commitment to the country, with a view to achieving political stability, consolidating peace and furthering its social and economic development.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (Côte d'Ivoire), speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, firmly condemned the major incident at an airbase in Guinea-Bissau, which seemed like a forcible coup, and any efforts to destabilize the country. He also highlighting recent positive developments, which included the signing in December of a memorandum of understanding aimed at implementing reform of the defence and security sectors.
Earlier, on 29 November, the ECOWAS mission to the country, known by its acronym ECOMIB, had reached its full potential. At the same time, prices had deteriorated, especially of nuts, the country's major export, plunging the country's economic growth rates to less than 1 per cent, a significant drop from initial forecasts of 4.5 per cent. Assistance from other countries had been provided to offset the budget deficit.
Recalling the decision made in September 2012 to send a joint assessment mission to Guinea-Bissau, he said the ensuing visit to the country from 16 to 21 December was aimed at evaluating the political and security situation on the ground and examining the underlying causes for the recurring crises; studying the possibilities for consensus on next steps; facilitating establishment of a series of recommendations for the best ways and means for organizations concerned to work together to assist the country; and make recommendations on establishing an appropriate follow-up mechanism.
It had met with a range of actors, from the highest Government authorities to members of the different political parties - both for and against the transition - and civil society groups.
Although the mission's official report was not yet issued, he said he could share several pieces of information with the Council now, noting first that a direct dialogue among the parties had been established for the purpose of concluding a transitional pact acceptable to all parties and irreversible. Additionally, a parliamentary commission had been established to review the transition's road map and to propose new realistic dates for the elections.
ECOWAS, he said, was pleased with Mr. Ramos-Horta's appointment, which was "right on cue", given the important coordinating role to be played by the United Nations in seeking an agreed solution to the crisis.
The Community also supported the Secretary-General's recommendation to extend the United Nations Integrated Office in the country for three months. He hoped that the assessment mission's report would assist the process of formulating a proposal for adjusting the mandate, which should favour the establishment of a common strategy - UN-AU-EU-ECOWAS-CPLP - to resolve the crisis.
Noting that the new Special Representative had begun meeting people at various levels, he said "it is high time 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."
West Africa very much needed peace and stability 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 added that the situation in Mali was a threat, not only to West Africa, but also to international peace and security.
ANTONIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), Chair of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, said that he was particularly concerned with the situation in Guinea-Bissau since the coup d'état of 12 April 2012, which had "interrupted that country's path towards the consolidation of peace, democracy and stability".
The CPLP advocated the implementation of Security Council resolution 2048 (2012), as it provided the legal framework to international partners of Guinea-Bissau, particularly the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, CPLP and the European Union, for strengthened cooperation towards a consensual, inclusive and nationally owned transition process.
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 to assist the Guinean people as they charted a new course to lift their country out of the current deplorable situation.
It 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 right and the main responsibility to overcome its challenges and achieve sustainable solutions lay with the people of Guinea-Bissau, he stressed. "The international community can only play the complementary role of assisting the Guinean people in this effort", to which the CPLP would continue to contribute constructively.
He welcomed the recent parliamentary agreement between the two main political parties, saying that the agreement was an "important preliminary step towards the establishment of an inclusive framework that is crucial for the preparation of elections and a return to constitutional order". The CPLP also supported the rollover of UNIOGBIS' mandate for a period of three months, he added.