Following the upheaval experienced in 2009 when a series of political assassinations threatened security and stability in Guinea-Bissau, current conditions bode well for progress towards peace and prosperity in the West African nation, a top United Nations official said today.
Joseph Mutaboba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau, told the Security Council that 2010 could be a turning point for the country.
“The country is experiencing a relatively stable political environment and growing international attention. This unprecedented window of opportunity for Guinea-Bissau should not be missed,” said the Special Representative, who also heads the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau, known as UNIOGBIS.
Presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s first report on the Integrated Mission, which is in its third month of operations, Mr. Mutaboba added that there is a lot to be done and the Government has continued to make progress in re-engaging the country’s international partners and pursuing its reform agenda.
He said that with the various fiscal and administrative reforms taking place and the prospect of debt relief, the conditions are in place for political stability and tangible improvements in the lives of the people in the short- to medium-term.
Echoing Mr. Ban’s report, the Special Representative noted that security sector reform remains at the centre of the country’s stabilization and development agenda, and that the Government, with international support, has made some progress in the last few months.
The Security Council has tasked UNIOGBIS with coordinating international efforts on security sector reform. It will also take a lead role in providing support to national authorities in the reform of internal security institutions, focusing on the police.
“UNIOGBIS is committed to collaborating closely with the country’s international partners in a flexible manner to ensure that our collective contributions are responsive to the needs of Guinea-Bissau,” said Mr. Mutaboba.
He added that the country’s journey towards peace, democracy and prosperity takes place in a difficult regional environment. “The political and security situation in West Africa remains highly precarious and we see worrying signs of military coups, of ethnic and inter-religious conflicts and of political intolerance.”
The envoy also cited increasing threats from international crime, illicit drug trafficking, smuggling, the unfair exploration of natural resources and illegal fishing taking hold in West Africa.
“Given the inter-dependence of most countries in the sub-region, this could further threaten Guinea-Bissau’s stability,” he stated. “On the other hand, a successful and peaceful Guinea-Bissau could have a positive influence on the developments in the region.”
The 15-member Council welcomed the progress made by the Government on its stabilization and reform agenda and the launching by the National Assembly of a process for reconciliation and dialogue.
In a statement read out to the press after the meeting by Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon, which holds the rotating Council presidency for March, members “stressed the critical importance of the President, Government, political leaders, armed forces and people of Guinea-Bissau continuing to meet their responsibilities to work towards national reconciliation, maintain stability and constitutional order, and respect the rule of law.”