Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 11 - 27 Feb 1999

Situation Report
Originally published
(12th report since the 31 January crisis, covering the period of 11 to 27 February 1999)

1. MILITARY ASPECTS: On 6 February 1999, a military commission was created to address military issues. Members include the Chief of Staff of the Loyalists, junta and ECOMOG. The first sequence of meetings resulted in an agreement on disarmament, quartering of soldiers, process of unification of the two armies, and a calendar for the withdrawal of foreign troops. It must be reminded that the Foreign Troops Command (Senegalese and Guinea Conakry) had not participate in this meeting and, therefore, did not feel committed to the conclusions.

2. According to this agreement, 1,200 foreign troops should have left the country by 14 February and the rest by end of February. In practice, as of 27 February, a total of 576 Senegalese soldiers have left the country (a first group of 276 soldiers on 15 February and a second group on 25 February 1999, as oppose to the official figure of 800 or 900, according to local newspaper sources.

3. The main reasons stated to delay the departure are associated with logistic issues. However, according to international observers, not less important are the issues of confidence building among the Guinea-Bissau people and the security for the President.

4. According to a Senegalese military source, a new deadline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops was proposed on 26 February. This time the proposal was made by the Senegalese and Guinea Conakry military command to the junta and ECOMOG. This new date is now fixed on 15 March 1999.

5. The number of ECOMOG troops to be deployed in Guinea Bissau remain a debated issues on the local Guinea-Bissau radio stations and Senegalese newspapers. Soon after the cease-fire on 4 February, President Nino Vieira had expressed his views that there should be as many as 5,000 ECOMOG troops. However, in the document prepared by the military, (see point one above) reference is made to a maximum of 1,450. Even this lower number is faced with a severe shortage of funds required to deploy any additional troops beyond the 600 already in place. In a declaration made on the local radio, after a meeting he held with President Vieira, the French Ambassador defended the need to increase the number of ECOMOG troops to at least 1,200. In addition to France, who is supporting the cost of all 600 ECOMOG troops already deployed, there are indications that Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and US may contribute to deploy additional ECOMOG troops.

6. POLITICAL ASPECT: Key events, occurring during the period of this report, are:

7. On 11 February 1999, the Prime Minister designated and the junta stated a fundamental change of their political position regarding the establishment of the new government. Despite the risk involved, they accepted to dissociate the empowerment of the government and the departure of the foreign troops. They committed themselves to proceed on 20 February, even if the foreign troops are still in the country. The change of policy is the result of recommendations by the international community to that effect and also the recognized need to put an end to the long paralysis of the State apparatus which has resulted in a total stagnation of the national economy, a serious deterioration of the living conditions of the population.

8. On Sunday,14 February 1999, President Nino Vieira and Brigadier Ansoumane Mane met in presence of the EU Commissary for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Emma Bonino, at the EU delegation in Bissau. That meeting was significant at two levels: it was the first time the two met in Bissau; they committed themselves to accelerate the installation of the Government of National Unity by agreeing to create an eight-person commission with the participation of ECOMOG to proceed without any further delay with the empowerment on 20 February 1999.

9. On 15 February 1999, Brigadier Mane traveled to Lome to meet with President Eyadema, also President of ECOWAS. He was joined the day after by President Vieira and had meetings until 18 February. The main outcome of this meeting was the commitment by both to never resort to military operations to address differences.

10. On Saturday, 20 February 1999, the new Government of National Unity was sworn in during a four hours and half long ceremony during which speeches were made by the Prime Minister of Togo (in name of President Eyadema), the Executive Secretary of CPLP, the Prime Minister, Francisco Fadul and President Nino Vieira.

11. The ceremony, chaired by President Vieira, with the presence of Brigadier Mane to his left, was attended by the Prime Minister of Togo, as representative of President Eyadema, currently President of ECOWAS, and at foreign affairs ministerial level, by representatives from Togo, Guinea Conakry, Gambia, Portugal, Cape Verde, by Ambassadors accredited to Guinea Bissau and the Delegate of the EU. Senegal was represented by the Minister of Interior and the Ambassador of Senegal to Guinea Bissau. Among the invitees were also the Permanent Commission of the Popular National Assembly, representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Bissau, members of the Good Will Mediation Commission and the Heads of UN agencies. The general tone of the speeches were conciliatory although both the Prime Minister and the President showed differences in content and tone in their presentation.

12. The Prime Minister expressed his desire to have his government marked by a culture of peace which implementation may be assured through a State of Right and political pluralism. He further insisted on the revitalization of the economy, fight against poverty, and social reintegration and a policy of good relations with the neighbors, in particular Senegal and Guinea Conakry.

13. The President, twice repeating the absurdity of the fight, thanked, also twice, Senegal and Guinea Conakry for their role in defending the legality of the constitution in Guinea Bissau. He insisted on the complex nature of the transition period that is now starting. He referred to the need for disarmament and the quartering of soldiers with the assistance of ECOMOG. Priorities stated, in his speech, are to contribute to a climate of concordance among all citizens of Guinea-Bissau through the implementation of the Abuja Agreement. He invited the MFDC rebels to take the example of Guinea Bissau to solve their problem, inviting those who are in the country to return to Senegal. Some analysts saw the reference to MFDC as a condition to be met before the Senegalese and Guinea Conakry soldiers leave the country. He felt just short of linking their departure to the withdrawal of the foreign troops (of which in particular the Senegalese troops).

14. On Monday, 22 February 1999, Prime Minister Fadul initiated a visit of government buildings in Bissau to initiate the movement of return of the ministries back to their respective installations. The same day the Minister for Internal Administration and the Secretary of State for Social Communications, both junta appointees, were refused access to their respective buildings by Senegalese soldiers who are still occupying them. The incident created an uncomfortable situation for both the President and the Prime Minister. A letter of protest was addressed by the Prime Minister to the President the following day. As of 26 February, the new Prime Minister as yet to move into his downtown Bissau office, maintaining his headquarters at a bunker near the international airport, in a junta controlled area.

15. Friday, February 27, 1999, the first meeting of the Council of Ministers was scheduled in Bissau.

16. During an interview the day the new government was sworn in, the Prime Minister indicated that, as a result of the latest fighting, the conditions in which the city of Bissau is, the elections, although a priority, cannot take place before September 1999. Three conditions need to be filled before elections can take place: reorganization of the armed and police forces; the return of refugees; and the stabilization of the population including the return of IDPs back to their place of origin. It may be as late as December or even January 2000.

17. The first official act of the Prime Minister was to have lunch, on 20 February 1999, with the ambassador of Senegal to show that the people of Guinea Bissau does not have anything against the people of Senegal.


18. Five days after the swearing-in of the new government, a prudent expression of confidence can be verified among the population of Guinea Bissau. However, many people are still staying outside of Bissau, waiting for clearer signs that peace is there to stay. It also should be added that the population of Guinea Bissau is now active with the collect of cashew nuts which campaign starts early March 1999.

19. Contributing to the confidence building, is the role played by ECOMOG to separate the belligerents along the front line. Both armies are now separated between 500 and one kilometer, reducing the risk of skirmishes. ECOMOG is also deployed at the airport and the port of Bissau, helping with slow resumption of some activities.

20. Public services, such as electricity and telecommunications, have resumed, but are still very sporadic. The international airport is limited to UN and NGO humanitarian flights for staff involved in assistance activities in and around Bissau.

21. It remains difficult to assess the exact number of people who returned to Bissau since 5 February. A survey made in preparation for food distribution suggests that there may be as many as 180,000 people in the city. But, it was also verified that, during the population survey, some families provided names of members that have not yet return to Bissau.

22. Nevertheless, as a temporary measure, resulting from the serious impact of the latest fighting leaving the population without any financial resources and the limited amount of food available in town, a general distribution policy was decided by WFP for Bissau, Prabis, Cumura and Safim.

23. In the mean time, the IDP population in Safim remains estimated to about 44,000, while tens of thousand others are in Prabis/Cumura, Bafata, Gabu, Oio and Cacheu.


24. WFP off-loaded 445 MT of rice in the port of Bissau. The exercise was rather slow as a result of bad conditions of the port. Also, problems with the payment of taxes contributed with the delay. The boat left Bissau on 18 February to go back to Banjul to load another 450 MT of rice due to arrive in Bissau on 26 February. A third shipment of 450 MT will be competed thereafter.

25. From Conakry, 126MT (along with 10,000 liters of fuel) arrived by road to Bafata on 14 February 1999. An additional 74MT is on its way to Bafata and is expected by 26 or 27 February 1999. Another 200 MT was shipped by boat to Bolama and should have arrived on 24 February. This needs to be confirmed.

26. A distribution plan was agreed upon at last week's Commission meeting for distribution to all major centers of IDPs and most vulnerable people in the country. The ration will include 2 kg of rice, half a liter of oil, half a kg of either peas or CSB and 1 kg of wheat flour.

27. HCR delivered 12 MT of soap to Bissau on 14 February for distribution, along with food, to the population of Bissau. HCR donated soap was also distributed to the IDP population in Safim, Nhacra, Nhoma, Bafata, Mansoa, Canchungo and Bissora during the same period.

28. Supply of water to Safim continued, utilizing the HCR truck water tank, supplied with UNICEF donated fuel and assisted by MSF and CARITAS.

29. The vaccination campaign against meningitis was completed in Bafata, on 18 February 1999 using the initial amount of 45,000 doses of vaccines donated by WHO and MSF. The operation was done under the coordination of the regional health directorate, MSF and the participation of WHO and UNICEF. WHO received an additional 100,000 doses part of which were already positioned in Bafata, for use in Oio and Gabu regions.

30. Measures are also taken to position 100,000 measles vaccines for a campaign in the southern regions of the country (Tombali and Quinara). The Vaccines are provided by WHO and the campaign is organized with the participation of MSF and UNICEF.

31. On the 19 February 1999, a donor meeting was held in Dakar to review the humanitarian programme based on the Interagency Consolidated Appeal and to update on the preparation of the Round Table, that was interrupted when the fighting resumed on 31 January 1999. 34 people, including 8 Embassies, NGOs and UN agencies attended the meeting. In addition, during the period of 11 to 17 February 1999, the UN Heads of agencies met, in Bissau, with the Ambassador of Portugal, the Chargé d'Affaires of France and Sweden to address the same issues.

32. On 27 February 1999, an FAO convoy left Dakar for Bissau, via Wassadou - Pirada with a small quantity of agricultural supplies. Another convoy is prepared to leave on Tuesday, 2 March 1999, with vegetable seeds, agricultural implements, fertilizers provided by FAO, AFVP and CFLI (Canadian Funds for Local Initiatives).

List of the New Government Members

1. Prime Minister, (J) Mr. Francisco Fadul

Minister level:

2. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, (P) Mrs. Hilia Barber

3. Economy and Finance, (J) Mr. Abubacar Dahaba

4. Defense, (J) Mr. Fancisco Benante

5. Internal Administration, (J) Mr. Caetano Intchama

6. Agriculture, Fishery and Natural Resources, (P) Mr. Pinho Brandao

7. Education, (P) Mr. Galdé Baldé

8. Justice and Labor, (P) Mr. Carlos Domingos Gomes

9. Public Health and Social Affairs, (P) Mr. Justino Fadia

Secretary of State level:

10. Social communications and Parliamentary Affairs, (J) Mr. Armando Procel

11. Treasury, (J) Mr. Rui Barros

12. Fighters for the liberation of the country, (J) Colonel Braima Camara

13. Commerce, Tourism, Industry and Handicraft, (J) Mr. Sulleiman Djassi

14. Energy, (P) Mr. Alberto Silva

15. Administrative Reform and Public Administration, (P) Mr. Martinho Cabi

16. Transport and Communications, (P) Mr. Pedro Rodrigues

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