The mandate of the United Nations political mission in Guinea-Bissau should be adjusted to support a two-phase process towards full restoration of constitutional order and medium-term stability in the country, which last year faced a military coup, according to a report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented to the Security Council today.
“It is important that the United Nations system and subregional, regional and international partners work together to support a responsible, legitimate and effective State, operating under the rule of law and able to provide security, essential services and economic opportunities to its people,” the report says.
Jose Ramos Horta, Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), who led an assessment of the Office’s mandate that was reflected in the text, today told the Security Council that if appropriate support is given towards more pro-active preventive diplomacy programmes, “Guinea-Bissau could become a shining example of a success story.”
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 2012.
The coup d’etat came ahead of a presidential run-off election that was slated for 22 April between Carlos Gomes Júnior and a former President, Kumba Yala, prompting calls from the international community for a return to civilian rule.
According to the Secretary-General’s recommendations, the first phase of the restoration of constitutional order and stability would culminate in presidential and legislative elections, and focus on creating “a political environment built on confidence and non-interference in the electoral process.”
“It is my humble view that the problem of Guinea-Bissau should be squarely placed at the feet of the political elite who have failed their people for almost four decades,” Mr. Ramos-Horta told the 15-member Council.
He added that it was “imperative” that the Security Council and the UN Member States support Guinea-Bissau towards the elections. He also urged the Council to give “serious consideration” to the Government’s request that the UN take leadership in the electoral process “so as to avoid possible elections-related disputes or violence.”
Speaking earlier today to UN Radio, Mr. Ramos-Horta said the UN has been working with the African Union and other partners to see how to assist Guinea-Bissau “fast track the process of transition into elections” which he hopes will be held by November.
He also praised the African Union, which recently said it could reinstate the country’s membership after barring its participation in the regional bloc a week after military leaders seized power.
The second phase proposed by the Secretary-General, which would conclude at the end of the term of the next elected Government, should focus on post-election stability, on strengthening State and democratic governance institutions – notably security, justice and defence – and on the functioning of both central and local State structures.
Addressing the Security Council, Mr. Ramos-Horta urged the international community to provide support for post-election rebuilding of the key institutions of the State, including through collocation of international experts for a period up to five years.
He also urged a “major re-thinking” of the Defence Forces “based on a sober analysis of the security needs of the country and adjusted to the financial resources available.” While the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is taking the lead in this process, Mr. Ramos-Horta noted that there are other partners outside the region who are “ready to contribute towards a new national army that is more professional, imbued with a democratic culture, smaller, less costly and yet more effective.”
Among other top priorities in the country, the Secretary-General highlighted the negative impact of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking on peace, stability and development efforts in Guinea-Bissau.
In his briefing, Mr. Ramos-Horta called for mobilization of “robust financial and human resources” to assist the authorities in Guinea-Bissau and the entire chain of handling of drugs from source countries through to consumption countries to face this challenge.”
In recent weeks, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assisted with the arrest of former navy chief, Bubo Na Tchuto, and an indictment was put out for Guinea-Bissau’s Armed Forces Chief of General Staff, General Antonio Indija. Mr. Ramos-Horta called these events a “turning point” in the fight against drug trafficking.
Again speaking to UN Radio, Mr. Ramos-Horta said he supported efforts of countries such as the United States to “forcefully intervene” to curb the drug trade and noted that if a criminal gang uses Guinea-Bissau as transit point, “sooner or later, you will have someone, in this case the Americans, landing on your shores and taking action.”
He also gave a serious warning to people involved in the business to “start clearing everything, cooperating with authorities.”
The current mandate of UNIOGBIS, which was established in 2010 to replace the previous peacebuilding support office known as UNOGBIS, which in turn was put in place in 1999 after an 11-month civil war, expires later this month.