Guinea-Bissau requires sustained international support, General Assembly hears

25 September 2010

Guinea-Bissau needs sustained international support to help the fragile and impoverished nation tackle its major challenges, such as organized crime, high unemployment, environmental degradation and a poorly performing justice system, its President told the General Assembly today.

Malam Bacai Sanhá told the Assembly’s annual general debate, taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York, that the “understanding of all the partners of Guinea-Bissau” is required given the breadth and scopes of the challenges before the West African country.

Guinea-Bissau has been beset by coups, misrule and political violence for most of its life since it became independent in the early 1970s, and the UN has an integrated peacebuilding office (known as UNOGBIS) in place to help promote stability.

On 1 April this year the Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior and of the Chief of General Staff and other senior military officers were briefly detained by some members of the armed forces, prompting expressions of concern from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.

“The handling of this incident and the consequences that derived from it did not always merit the understanding of all the partners of Guinea-Bissau,” Mr. Sanhá said.

He also voiced concern that authorities in his country struggle to exert control over the more than 80 islands and reefs that comprise the Bijagôs archipelago in Guinea-Bissau.

The archipelago is “a confluence of water and wind... [that] could and should be a terrestrial paradise,” the President noted.

“Instead, due to an assumed incapacity by the authorities to effectively exercise control, there is a risk of converting it into a sanctuary for evildoers.”

Organized crime is a particularly persistent threat for Guinea-Bissau, with cartels using the country as a transit point for the shipment of drugs from Latin America to Europe.

Mr. Sanhá met with Mr. Ban on the sidelines of the Assembly debate later today, with the two officials discussing the efforts of the Government in Guinea-Bissau to consolidate democracy and reform the country’s security sector.

They also discussed preparations for next January’s national conference on conflicts in Guinea-Bissau as well as the country’s engagement with the UN Peacebuilding Commission.

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The Security Council today voiced concern at the current security situation and threats to constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau, and stressed the need for the Government and people of the West African nation to work towards stability and the rule of law.