UNITED NATIONS — The top UN envoy for Guinea-Bissau on Monday stressed the need for continued international engagement with the country after the expected departure of the UN peacebuilding mission by the end of the year.
Recent political developments in the country have led to a politically charged atmosphere with mounting mistrust among stakeholders. Mutual accusations and reported acts of intimidation against those opposing the new political dispensation have created a hostile environment, making it difficult to reach a compromise for the sake of political stability and consensus-building around national peacebuilding priorities, said Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, the UN secretary-general’s special representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). “A prognosis of the current impasse and beyond underscores a need for continued and robust engagement by the international community to avoid a deterioration of the political and human rights situation, consolidate past democratic gains, and preserve the much-needed peace and stability,” she told the Security Council.
The political crisis and the parliamentary paralysis that emerged following the 2019 presidential election prevented UNIOGBIS from supporting urgent reforms, including the review of the Constitution, the electoral law and the law on political parties, she said. “Regretfully, therefore, UNIOGBIS mandate is unlikely to be fully implemented before the mission’s departure.” Entrenched postures and divisions among political stakeholders pose a serious threat to stability and sustainable development. All political forces must be encouraged to commit to constructive dialogue and consensus-building around national priorities. The military and security forces must consistently be reminded not to interfere in politics. The security sector reform remains paramount, she said.
The implementation of key reforms and the continuation of efforts in key peacebuilding priorities — protection and promotion of human rights and rule of law, women’s participation and gender parity, the fight against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime — are an imperative beyond UNIOGBIS. Local elections should also be considered among the peacebuilding priorities, she said. “As UNIOGBIS advances toward its closure in less than five months, I would like to stress that the support provided by the international community to the 2019 electoral process was necessary but not sufficient to address the long-term political instability of Guinea-Bissau. Therefore, I wish to emphasize the need for the country to remain high on the international community agenda, with paramount focus on reforms and the strengthening of state institutions.”
The recent political crisis linked to the electoral dispute is self-explanatory of the structural weaknesses of Guinea-Bissau. The country and its people need international support to uphold stability, sustain peace, and advance socio-economic development, she said. The latest episode of political crisis started with the dispute over the outcome of the presidential poll toward the end of 2019. Umaro Sissoco Embalo finished second in the first round of voting on Nov. 24. He won the second-round run-off on Dec. 29 against Domingos Simoes Pereira, who led in the first round. Pereira refused to concede and challenged the outcome.
The saga seemed to be over after the endorsement of Embalo’s presidency by the Economic Community of West African States. Pereira’s opposition PAIGC party, which holds by far the largest number of seats in Parliament, continues to challenge the president’s authority.The PAIGC is contesting the parliamentary vote of June 29 that approved the program of the Nuno Nabiam government. The PAIGC continues to question the legality of the session, alleging procedural errors, and denouncing threats and intimidation against members of parliament that preceded the session. The PAIGC continues to reiterate its call for a political solution, said Sori-Coulibaly.
While President Embalo has expressed the wish to form a broad-based government with Nuno Nabiam as the prime minister, the prospects of a breakthrough are low given the PAIGC’s strong opposition to joining the government under the current circumstances. A sustainable solution that promotes stability requires all sides to compromise, but this appears far-fetched at the present time as both sides remain deeply entrenched in their positions, she said.
Concerns about insecurity and human rights abuses, such as the July 26 raid on Radio Capital FM, which is considered allied to the opposition, as well as the arbitrary arrests, intimidation and detention of persons and political figures perceived as opposing the current administration have been reported. These occurrences have heightened political tensions, she said.