At Security Council, UN officials warn political turbulence in Guinea-Bissau puts past gains at risk

Miguel Trovoada, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Miguel Trovoada, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Guinea-Bissau, 28 August 2015 – With Guinea-Bissau facing political turbulence barely a year after the re-establishment of constitutional order, the top United Nations official there expressed hope today that political leaders would rise to their “historic responsibility” to preserve the gains made so far in the interest of the country and people.

Briefing the Security Council, Miguel Trovoada, Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in that country (UNIOGBIS), introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report on the activities of the Office and recalled that previous reports to the Council had always underscored how Guinea-Bissau’s fragility was rooted in failure to address the underlying causes.

“The lack of dialogue has opened the door to further distrust and deepened antagonisms, which has led to the current situation,” he told the 15 member body in a meeting that also included a briefing on the UN Peacebuilding Commission’s response to the crisis, by Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, of Brazil.

Mr. Trovoada said that before dismissing Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira, President Vaz had, in a message to the nation, explained the sequence of events leading up to an emerging constitutional crisis, he said. The public pronouncement by other prominent leaders was a harbinger of what was to come. The dismissed Government was broad-based and had comfortable support in Parliament, while the new Prime Minister, Baciro Dja, was not the official nominee of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde.

Mr. Trovoada said he had been maintaining frequent contacts with senior leaders of the Government and civil society with a view to fostering dialogue. On the positive side, all those who had a role to play had proclaimed their firm determination to respect the Constitution and popular demonstrations were being conducted peacefully.

During his meeting with leaders of the Armed Forces, they strongly affirmed their commitment to stay out of the crisis and submit to the democratic process. Given the recurrent crises and absence of lasting peace and stability in Guinea-Bissau, the international community must ensure that its support helped bring about the desired results.

For his part, Mr. Patriota said he had chaired a meeting of the Guinea-Bissau configuration on 17 August, following which the Commission issued a statement expressing concern that recent political developments might undermine progress achieved so far, risk destabilizing the fragile political situation in the country and compromise economic progress. The Commission also called for the resumption of political dialogue in order to address the current tensions.

Mr. Patriota offered three comments. First, the current crisis carried the risk of having a negative impact on the already fragile economic situation, on the stability of the country and on its democratic gains. Guinea-Bissau was making good progress towards stabilization and development since the elections of 2014 and the round table held in Brussels in March 2015. The main goal should be to prevent the escalation of the political crisis from undermining the progress achieved so far, he said.

Second, the nature of the crisis illustrated that there might be space for debates on better delineating the spheres of competence of the President and the Prime Minister, so as to avoid it from becoming a source of instability and fragility in an otherwise promising environment. Third, different partners of Guinea-Bissau had been consistent in their engagement over the crisis. The role being played by the region, as well as the coherence demonstrated by international partners, would remain a key element to achieve any sustainable solution. Nevertheless, the political deadlock could only be overcome by Bissau-Guineans themselves through a constructive dialogue based on the full respect for constitutional provisions and the rule of law.