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Unity, common purpose vital to resolve Guinea-Bissau political crisis – UN officials

Special Representative Joseph Mutaboba.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Special Representative Joseph Mutaboba.

Unity, common purpose vital to resolve Guinea-Bissau political crisis – UN officials

Addressing the Security Council, United Nations officials today stressed the need for all actors in Guinea-Bissau to work together to restore constitutional order following this year’s coup d’état and for unity among international partners on how to assist the country in this process.

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau – a West African country with a history of coups, misrule and political instability since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974 – seized power on 12 April.

The coup came ahead of a presidential run-off election that was slated for 22 April – and prompted calls from the international community for the return to civilian rule and the restoration of constitutional order.

Almost four months later, the country is politically split between those who support the transitional government and those who do not, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), Joseph Mutaboba, told the Council in a briefing.

Also, the National Assembly has been paralyzed since the end of June due to disagreements among parliamentarians over the session’s agenda, he noted, with the humanitarian, social and economic situation in the country remaining fragile, and amid “reliable reports” that drug trafficking activities have increased.

“It will be important to ensure that all political actors and civil society in Guinea-Bissau work together to achieve a truly inclusive government in order to ensure a consensual transition,” said Mr. Mutaboba, adding that national political actors must work towards ending the deadlock in parliament if that institution is to function during the transition.

The envoy also said that implementation of reforms in the defence, security and justice sectors, and the fight against impunity and drug trafficking, are key challenges facing Guinea-Bissau at this critical juncture.

Concrete actions must be taken to fight impunity and ensure that those responsible for politically-motivated assassinations and other serious crimes, he noted, such as increasing illicit drug trafficking-related activities and breaches of constitutional order, are at last brought to justice.

“Bissau-Guineans alone have the responsibility to shape the future of their country indeed, but equally, regional, continental and international partners must arrive at a common position on how best to assist the country in moving towards the full restoration of constitutional order,” stated Mr. Mutaboba.

The chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, told the Council that the restoration of constitutional order should be brought about through dialogue and negotiations, with the participation of all political forces in the country.

The UN, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (known by the Portuguese acronym CPLP), and the European Union should seek convergence of views and mutually reinforce each other’s action to support such a process, she said.

“Although the international community has shown unity of purpose – the restoration of constitutional order and the return of stability of Guinea-Bissau – we still lack a common strategy to achieve those goals,” she said.

The chair added that this can only happen if the country’s international partners “speak with one voice,” and work in a coherent and coordinated manner towards an inclusive and sustainable solution to the current crisis.

Guinea-Bissau is one of six nations on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission, which was set up in 2005 to help post-conflict countries avoid slipping back into war and chaos by providing strategic advice and harnessing expertise and financing from around the world to support recovery projects.

The others post-conflict countries are Burundi, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.