Security Council members appeal to Guinea-Bissau to ensure fair elections
The President of the Council, Ambassador Mamady Traoré of Guinea, said in a press statement that members also stressed the need to elect the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court before the balloting as a tangible demonstration of the government's commitment to fairness, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
"They called on the international community to stand ready to send observers and to provide funding for these elections," Ambassador Traoré said, adding that Council members also welcomed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's decision to assist Guinea-Bissau in holding free and transparent elections. The Council also called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to become more involved in the search for a solution to the problems faced by Guinea-Bissau.
David Stephen, the Secretary-General's Representative for Guinea-Bissau, briefed the Council earlier Wednesday on the volatile situation in that country. "Members were concerned by information regarding the human rights situation," Ambassador Traoré said, adding, "It is important that freedom of speech and freedom of the press be fully respected."
Council members further expressed their concern at the serious economic situation, the President said. "They called on the Government of Guinea-Bissau to take the necessary steps to facilitate a constructive dialogue with the international community and to fully endorse the approach defined by the ad-hoc advisory group of the Economic and Social Council on Guinea-Bissau." The Council also asked the Government to take steps to end the proliferation of small arms in the country.
Mr. Stephen, who spoke to the press following his Council briefing, said in the wake of current events in the region, it would be "tragic" if yet another West African nation were rocked by a major crisis. "Guinea-Bissau may be a very small country," he said, "but it has a potential to cause considerable instability in a region characterized by fragile economies and political systems."
Mr. Stephen endorsed the Council's call to the international community not to abandon Guinea-Bissau and to help the country conduct free and fair elections. Though the situation was "very serious" - economically, politically and socially - he stressed that for the moment, Guinea-Bissau was a country at peace. "The people do not want war," he said, adding that open elections - now fixed for 20 April - were the best way to overcome political impasse and ensure wider stability.