Guinea-Bissau Humanitarian Situation Report, 16 - 30 Nov 1999

Situation Report
Originally published
Political / Military / Economic Situation
** Elections **

Election day dawned hot and quiet. The elections of 28 November unfolded in a "climate of civic responsibility, serenity, transparency and honesty", international observers declared in a press statement the following day. Voter participation was approximately 80% in Bissau, in spite of logistical delays which caused some polls to open late in the afternoon.

Preliminary results from the Bissau region, which represents 20% of the total electorate, were released by the national elections commission (CNE) and indicate Kumba Yala as the front runner, with almost 50% of total votes cast for the presidency. Interim president Malam Bacai Sanhá was a distant second with 19%. In the legislative elections, Bissau residents voted for RGB (35% of votes cast), and 32% voted for Yala's PRS party; former ruling party PAIGC was third with 15%. Electoral law stipulates that results are to be published within seven to ten days following closing of the voting. The presidency must be won with 50% + 1 vote, or a run-off between the top two candidates is to be held 21 days following the publication of official results.

In Bissau one incident marred the elections at a polling station on the main access road; frustrated voters burned tires and blocked the road when voting materials failed to arrive. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowd and voting was held in the late afternoon. Transport problems delayed elections in the southern regions and in the Bolama - Bijagós region. Voting was extended in some locations to the following day. No major security incidents or civic unrest were reported. The national red cross society had aid stations in major urban centers and roving ambulance services.

Pre-electoral climate:

On 16 November, the regional electoral commission of Bissau was vandalized by unpaid and disgruntled poll workers. The workers looted the offices of furniture and office supplies. (Nô Pintcha, 19/11/99).

The wide circulation of a "Magna Carta"on 16 November generated concern that the military junta would co-opt the electoral process. The Carta would have obliged the government to inform the "Junta Command" of nominations and would protect the interests of former combatants. At a press conference on 19 November, Prime Minister Francisco Fadul, speaking on behalf of Junta leader Ansumane Mane, said the Junta had not written the document. (Reuters, 19/11/99).

In an interview with IRIN on 25 November, Prime Minister Fadul said the Magna Carta was not meant to be circulated publicly - it had been drafted by a legal expert for discussion by Junta members, but had been leaked to the press. The local daily, Diário de Bissau, published the Magna Carta in its integrity on 20 November, as well as the proposed Pacto de Regime, a modified version of the former, on 26 November; neither document was signed. During the interview, Fadul commented on Junta concerns to safeguard the principles of the military uprising. Fadul mentioned a proposal to create a "national security and defense council", and underlined his belief in creating an irreversible democracy.

Fadul spoke of the achievements of his caretaker government. He noted in particular: donors pledged US $215 million at the UNDP-sponsored Emergency Round-Table; two-thirds of Guinea-Bissau's external debt - US $600 million - has been negotiated for debt forgiveness; and EU cooperation resumed in July, only two months after the 7 May conflict.

Campaigning throughout the country culminated on 26 November with big rallies by all parties in Bissau. Crowds jostled in the streets, dancing and shouting their support in a carnival-like atmosphere. Political leaders gave speeches on platform trucks accompanied by loud music. There were no reported conflicts.

At a joint press conference on 26 November, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General, the UN Resident Coordinator/ UNDP Representative, and the Delegate of the European Union affirmed that donor support had been provided to the US $4.5 million budget to hold elections. UNDP has provided technical assistance to the CNE in civic education, census and computers, finances and logistics. On 26 November, nine of the twelve presidential candidates met for a televised debate on their proposed platforms, under an initiative supported by UNOGBIS.

On 27 November, a meeting between Junta leaders and political parties regarding the proposed Pacto de Regime was held. The Pacto would have created a consultative organ, with Junta representatives, to monitor good governance. The document was not signed, and many political parties did not attend the meeting. Discussions regarding the future role of the Junta continue, although it has made public declarations that the Junta will dissolve when a new government is in place.

Other developments:

The Fourth Guinea-Bissau/Libya Joint Commission met on 12 to 15 November in Bissau to discuss bilateral cooperation. One of the primary points of discussions concerned the repayment of an estimated US $3 million debt. Libya expressed interest in collaborating with national authorities in oil exploration and transportation enterprises.

José Camnate, leader of the parliamentary Commissão da Boa Vontade, was named Bishop of Bissau. Ten months after the death of the first bishop in Guinea-Bissau, (Italian Don Settimio Arturo Ferrazzetta, a prominent figure in the peace negotiations), Father Camnate of Guinea-Bissau was appointed.

Guinea-Bissau civil servants have new working hours from 1 December with 8.5 hours a day (previously 6.5 hours). The national labor union, UNTG (União Nacional dos Trabalhadores da Guiné) called the new working hours a measure that has been "brutally forced and technically untenable". The measure was to be implemented in conjunction with salary increases.


National borders remained closed due to the elections until the evening of 30 November, wreaking havoc on flight schedules.

Humanitarian Situation

- Food Assistance and Production

· Food Assistance and Food-for-Work

WFP food distribution to vulnerable groups continues, with an additional 50 MTs of food (Corn Soya Blend, flour, and oil), delivered to hospitals and nutritional centers in the regions of Quinara, Tombali, and Bissau, reaching 1,100 needy beneficiaries. In the Cacheu region, WFP delivered 10 MTs of food for daily distribution in school canteens, to reach 770 school children.

Newly approved Food-for-work projects include the rehabilitation of 80 kms of roads in the Cacheu region, with the delivery of 35 MTs of food as the first portion to support 725 workers. In Bafatá, WFP supported the construction of irrigation dikes for rice paddies with 30 MTs.

WFP is conducting field missions to identify implementing partners and potential beneficiaries in the school canteen program. Eastern regions of Bafatá and Gabú were visited; however the assessment could not be finalized for Gabú as a teachers' strike caused school closures. A mission to the southern regions of Tombali and Quinara, considered a particularly impoverished area, is in preparation.

· Agricultural Activities

FAO has provided US $375,000 from its regular budget to finance emergency technical assistance to 4,000 fisher folk affected by last years' crisis in the Bolama-Bijagos regions. The original project was included in the 1999 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal, its budget line has been increased to support regional supervision of the project. The project will build capacity of artisanal fishing, procuring fishing gear such as nets, hooks, floats, lines, box refrigerators, and outboard engines.

UNICEF has provided US $10,000 and the Ministry of Agriculture US $ 500 to help FAO rehabilitate a bore hole and build a well with an electric pump in the Granja vetenaria of Bissau. The project will provide irrigation for a project to produce vegetable seeds and contribute to the greenbelt around Bissau. The well will also provide potable water for surrounding neighborhoods.

On 21 November, FAO and OCHA traveled to Bolama to present insulated containers to local fishers at a ceremony attended by the Director-General of Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture. The containers are insulated with styrofoam to help conserve fresh fish and promote sales to fishmongers.

- Health, Education and Community Services

· Social Indicators

The preliminary phase in the development of a Multiple Indicator Cluster Study (MICS) is underway. UNICEF will coordinate the Study, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Economics and Finance, and technical cooperation from INEC (Instituto Nacional de Estatística e Censos) and INEP (Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisa).

The MICS will establish base-line data to measure socio-economic development. Prior to the electoral census conducted this year, the last census in Guinea-Bissau was in 1991. Social indicators such as infant mortality rates (140 per 1,000 births) and maternal mortality rate (914 per 100,000 live births) date back to 1997. The Study, with a targeted publication date of May 2000, will reflect social indicators in health, family structures, education, water and sanitation, and the status of women and children. In its current preparatory phase, terms of reference have been elaborated, a household-level questionnaire is being adopted to the country context, and the institutional framework with partner institutions is being drawn up. The MICS is projected to begin in January.

· Health

UNICEF has pre-positioned materials for the second round of National Immunization Days planned for 3 to 5 December. The vaccination schedule has been extended to three days, and UNICEF will also provide syringes for the 230,000 doses of measles vaccinations provided by WHO.

UNICEF is providing logistical support and has initiated a social mobilization program to promote awareness and increase coverage, in particular in Bissau. During the 30 and 31 October vaccination campaign, the nationwide average was 78%, but in the Bissau metropolitan region, only 52% of the target population received vaccinations. Roving vehicles with loudspeakers have been mobilized to enhance participation.

Training manuals for traditional healers, midwives and health volunteers are being printed by UNICEF to strengthen unidades de base. Funds are also being made available to support these roving health clinics which operate at the village level.

In anticipation of re-launching the Bamako Initiative, UNICEF has pre-positioned additional vehicles for supervision, including 15 motorcycles and the institutional means for reporting.

On 30 November, WHO presented medicines to the military hospital at the Base Aérea during a ceremony attended by the Prime Minister and the Representative of the UN Secretary-General. The medicines included approximately three-months' supply of malarial prophylactics (chloroquine, quinine, Fansidar) and glucose, lactate ringer, oral re-hydration salts, and disposable syringes. The medicines are part of those provided by WHO to the Ministry of Health. UNOGBIS donated 60 mattresses to the military hospital.

WHO and the Ministry of Health have completed a pilot study on HIV transmission and AIDS during pregnancy in the health posts of Catió, Bafatá and Cachungo.

UNFPA provided for the procurement of contraceptives (oral, injectables) for family planning coordinated by the Family Health Unit in the context of the re-initiation of the Reproductive Health/ Family Planning component of the National Plan for Health Development (PNDS 1998-2002). In addition, UNFPA has supplied provided approximately 100,000 condoms to support the National Aids prevention program. A senior officer of the Family Health Unit participated in a meeting on private sector involvement in national Reproductive Health programs.

The Director of the Bandim Health Project, Peter Aaby, was recognized for his research. His work, in particular on measles, describes how diseases are transmitted, and explains the high mortality rate for children in developing countries. The Danish Novo-Norbisk medical award is considered the most prominent in Scandinavia.

· Education

UNICEF has completed the construction of 12 additional classrooms in Bissau to accommodate student overflow for this school year. As of the first week of December, UNICEF will support the physical rehabilitation of the Tchico Té teacher training school in Bissau. Assistance valued at approximately US $30,000 will be used to re-equip the school with doors, windows, and desks.

The recent census conducted for the 1999 elections reflects that of the 502,678 persons who registered to vote, 63.6% are illiterate. Of the total registered voters, 40.9 % of the men are illiterate and 83.3 % of the women do not know how to write.

- Relief Activities and Rehabilitation

· Mine Action

The recently formed NGO HUMAID has begun de-mining actions upon request by government entities using former military de-miners. HUMAID has discovered that mines placed around the periphery of Bissau are plastic, mainly Spanish make (EXPAL P-4, and EXPAL C-3), which cannot be detected by metal detectors. The de-mining unit has been using steel prods attached to bamboo canes to remove the plastic mines. HUMAID reported two casualties in October, one civilian and one military.

HUMAID has elaborated a project document for de-mining in two phases, in Bissau and throughout the country, but is still waiting for funding. The de-miners are in need of anti-fragment protective clothing. HUMAID's founder, Ms. Elaine Grimson of Canada, died in Bissau on 30 November.

· Water and Sanitation

On 17 November, the European Union has approved a project valued at 4 million Euros. The project will build over 200 wells and drinking troughs for livestock in small villages around Bafatá and provide solar-powered water pumps in the Bijagós islands.

- Human Rights, Protection, and the Promotion of Solutions

· Refugees

Repatriation of 867 refugees from Guinea (Conakry) is scheduled to begin on 2 December. UNHCR is providing protection and assistance to some 5,500 Senegalese refugees from the southern Casamance region who are now located in northern Guinea-Bissau; and assisting 568 urban refugees from Sierra Leone and 230 urban refugees from Liberia.

· Human Rights

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) sent an investigative team to conduct an evaluation of the human rights situation.

· Capacity-building and reconciliation initiatives

Twenty new prosecutors have begun a training program on 23 November. UNOGBIS provided financial and technical assistance to the Office of the Attorney-General in the framework of assistance to the judiciary.

On 19 and 20 November, UNOGBIS and UNDP sponsored a two-day seminar on civic leadership for female political candidates for legislative elections in Bissau.

UNOGBIS and the UN Electoral Assistance Unit, with logistical support from UN Agencies in Bissau, coordinated the international observation of the elections. Observers represented the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Comunidade dos países de língua Portuguesa (CPLP), Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Angola, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, USA, Mozambique, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. A total of eighty observers, including international development workers recruited locally, participated in the observation in all regions of the country. Country-wide, 45 teams of two observers visited polling stations to report on the electoral process.

The OIF (Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie) sent an expert in electoral law to assist the Supreme Court with potential disputes. The expert, a member of the Supreme Court of Benin, arrived on 26 November and will be in country until 8 December.

The Secretary of State for Social Communication and GuinéTelecom, with the support of OCHA, created a press center for journalists covering the elections. International phone lines, fax, and Internet services were available until midnight.

- Coordination and Support Services

UN Agencies contributed personnel, material and logistical support to the electoral process. Vehicles and drivers were seconded to international election observation, coordinated by UNOGBIS and the UN Electoral Assistance Unit. UN Agencies assisted UNDP in the registration process, training of poll station workers, and distribution of material.

Contact: Wendy Cue Information Officer UNOCHA - Bissau Tel (+245) 20 35 77/ 20 36 17 Fax (+1 847) 589-1655

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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