‘Frank and Sincere Dialogue’ Vital to Ending Protracted Political Crisis in Guinea-Bissau, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council
Country Representative Tells of ‘Relative Calm’ as Members also Hear from Peacebuilding Configuration, Portuguese-Speaking Countries
The drawn-out political crisis in Guinea-Bissau was taking a toll on development and could only get worse in the absence of “a frank and sincere dialogue” involving all parties concerned, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the West African country told the Security Council today.
Miguel Trovoada briefed the 15-member Council on the situation in “a veritable political-judicial impasse”, as he presented the report of the Secretary-General on developments in the country and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS, document S/2016/141).
“The more that State institutions and the main political actors remain divided, the more the current political situation will become more complex, delaying the implementation of critical reforms,” he emphasized. All concerned parties — in particular the President, the President of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and political parties — should put the national interest first and engage in “a frank and sincere dialogue, strictly respecting the Constitution and laws”.
Failure to do so, he warned, would perpetuate the cycle of political instability that had dogged Guinea-Bissau for too long and undermine the prospects of its citizens — who had displayed “remarkable civic spirit” — to enjoy such basic social services as health and education. He also expressed concern about growing organized crime, citing recent break-ins at the residences of a member of the Government and an international United Nations official.
Also briefing the Council, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said it was reassuring that political discord had not translated into violence, but disheartening to see instability forcing international partners to delay the disbursement of financial resources pledged at the Brussels Donors’ Conference in March 2015. It was of the utmost importance, he added, that the Security Council endorse the continuation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Security Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), whose mandate would expire in June. “Political will, constructive and consensual dialogue, coupled with courageous leadership, as we know Bissau-Guineans are capable of, are needed now more than ever, and should become a powerful force to outweigh the actions of spoilers,” he stressed.
Maria Antonieta P. D’Alva (Guinea-Bissau) said the political crisis had compromised the State’s functioning and jeopardized all gains achieved after 2014, including the general elections and the “encouraging” results from the Brussels Donors’ Conference. She appealed for continued international engagement with her country to consolidate stronger institutions and work more closely to guide national authorities — and all political stakeholders — through an open and frank dialogue to prevent other crises.
Despite existing tensions, there had been relative calm, she said, adding that while the Government had the primary responsibility to bring about peace, Bissau-Guineans also counted on the international community to remain engaged. That parties involved in the current political crisis had been carrying out legal steps to solve differences through the national courts was a point to be commended, she said. “These little democratic achievements are in part the result of a series of institutional reforms initiated by the Government.”
On the priority of security-sector reform, she urged partners to fulfil their commitments by providing financial support to the pension fund for the demobilization of military and police officers, as well as to the special fund for retired former freedom fighters. By implementing all reforms, Guinea-Bissau could achieve peace and stability, which in turn would create an enabling environment and attract foreign and domestic investment while creating jobs for young people and empowering women, among other things. Noting that Timor-Leste had disbursed $250,000 to be used for the national dialogue and reconciliation process, as per its Brussels pledge, she encouraged others to make similar gestures, noting that the Government planned to host a meeting in Bissau in March to review results from the Brussels Donors’ Conference.
Sofia Mesquita Borges (Timor-Leste), speaking for the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries, called upon all stakeholders to engage in constructive, inclusive political dialogue, and to respect both democratic principles and the Constitution. “Statesmanship is required to move forward,” she said, emphasizing that constitutional order was being upheld. It was crucial to resolve the political crisis in a manner that respected the Constitution and the rule of law, because the impasse had stalled security and justice reforms for more than six months.
She went on to call for continuing international support to help Guinea-Bissau implement State reforms and development plans, stressing that national stakeholders had the primary responsibility for stabilizing the environment. Pointing out that Timor-Leste had provided the first $250,000 tranche of its pledge, made in Brussels, to support national reconciliation and dialogue, she said: “This is indeed a crucial moment for Guinea-Bissau.” The extension of the UNIOGBIS mandate in its present format would rightly express the commitment of the United Nations to the country and its people, she said, calling also for the early convening of the International Contact Group to support the national dialogue process.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:41 a.m.