Reconstruction in war-torn Guinea-Bissau remains difficult - Annan

Reconstruction in war-torn Guinea-Bissau remains difficult - Annan

Efforts at healing and reconstructing war-ravaged Guinea-Bissau remain "difficult," Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his latest report describing the United Nations peace-building efforts there, as well as the country's struggle with internal political conflict, lack of resources and rebel activity.

"Rebuilding societies torn apart by war, including narrowing differences among different segments of the population and moving towards genuine national reconciliation, is bound to take time," the Secretary-General writes in his latest report to the Security Council on the work of the UN Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS). "Such an undertaking is even more arduous in an environment such as Guinea-Bissau whose long history of armed struggle has left a legacy of weapons circulating widely in society, amidst rampant poverty."

Funds are needed, Mr. Annan says, to help restructure the armed forces, demobilize and reintegrate soldiers and ensure the smooth functioning of government institutions. As a result of a lack of resources for such efforts, essential institutions are unable to function as efficiently as possible, contributing to a climate of frustration and tension which, in turn, lowers productivity and discourages economic investment.

According to the report, which covers developments since mid-March, the activities of rebels of the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) along the country's border with Senegal remained "the most serious security challenge" over the past three months. The rebel operations, including the planting of landmines, not only heightened insecurity but "virtually paralysed economic and social activities" in the area, and obstructed the restructuring of the armed forces.

The report stresses the importance of keeping the national interest above all other considerations, even as political differences among the various institutions of government reflect the pluralism of a country's democracy. Noting the recent prolonged stand-off between the executive and the legislature over the confirmation of the President's choice of Prime Minister and over the approval of the Government's budget, Mr. Annan says he is relieved that the impasse was overcome and that the leaders of the country have once again begun to focus on the national challenges at hand.

"If international support is to be effective on the ground, it needs to have, at all times, an effective and credible national partner leading the way," the Secretary-General says. The report also commends the efforts of President Kimba Yala and his Government to promote constructive and cooperative relations in the subregion and especially with Guinea-Bissau's immediate neighbours, noting that the improved relations will help advance cross-border trade and security.