Despite some positive developments, the overall situation in Guinea-Bissau remains dangerously unstable, according to a new report on that country and the efforts of the UN Peace-building Support Office (UNOGBIS) to bring it political and economic stability.
"The country's widespread economic and social problems have prevented the few democratic advances achieved over the past few months from taking root," Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his report to the Security Council, released today at UN Headquarters in New York. "Tangible dividends of democracy remain illusory for the people. Institutional tensions, an inexperienced Government and the lack of transparency in governance constitute added sources of instability."
The Secretary-General says that he has been exploring with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other friends of Guinea-Bissau ways of assisting the Government of President Kumba Yala to stabilize the political situation. In the meantime, Mr. Annan calls on the country's political actors at all levels to maintain dialogue and refrain from any actions that threaten national unity and the constitutional order.
"Early engagement is crucial to reversing conditions of instability in Guinea-Bissau," Mr. Annan writes. "With the assistance of UNOGBIS and the United Nations entities in Guinea-Bissau, some windows of opportunity remain open, but such windows may vanish quickly if they are not fully exploited."
The Secretary-General warns that without improvements in the daily lives of the population, the present precarious political situation, if left unattended, may ignite a new round of open conflict. "It is imperative that effective measures to re-launch the economy be taken, with particular focus on helping the most vulnerable groups in the society," he adds.
Appealing to all bilateral and multilateral partners of Guinea-Bissau, Mr. Annan says that besides actively participating in the forthcoming round-table conference, they should explore other mechanisms and arrangements, including through international and national non-governmental organizations, to help the people of Guinea-Bissau in re-establishing income-generating activities and energizing its private sector.