Humanitarian Situation Report Guinea-Bissau: 5 November 1998

Situation Report
Originally published
Politico-Military Situation

1 November, Abuja/Nigeria - President Vieira and Brigadier Asumane Mane signed an agreement which covered the following elements :

  • Re-affirmation of cease-fire agreed last August;
  • Withdrawl of all foreign troops with simultaneous deployment of ECOMOG interposition force;
  • Guarantee of free access to humanitarian organisations and agencies;
  • The immediate opening of the Oswaldo Vieira (Bissau) airport and the sea-port;
  • The creation of a government of national unity;
  • Legislative and presidential elections to be held not later than the end of March 1999.
Initial indications from UN sources based in Guinea Bissau suggested that the population accepted the Vieira/Mane announcement with some scepticism or at best caution. However, new reports cite two significant movements of returnees to Bissau (1) from Prabis/Cumura and (2) from Bijagos, suggesting an increase in public confidence.

3 November, Dakar/Senegal - Dr. Inusse, Resident Coordinator a.i. and WHO Representative, Guinea Bissau, spoke with the Ambassador of Guinea Bissau and consulted with the Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea Bissau to (1) assess the situation following the signature of the peace agreement; (2) review access to Guinea Bissau, including by land from Senegal.

4 November, Dakar/Senegal (10:00AM) - Dr Inusse briefed the UN Heads of Agency concerning his discussions with government authorities. UN Agency Heads also provided details gathered from the field by UN local staff, including the following information :

Political Positions Within the Military Junta
There are differing positions within the Military Junta. While the majority, including the Supreme Command, agrees with the document signed by President Vieira and Brigadier Mane, there is a minority which is against an interposition force in Guinea Bissau.

Gov/Junta Interpretation of "Interposition Force"
Sources today informed that both the Government and Military Junta in Bissau interpret the Interposition Force mentioned in the agreement as an ECOMOG force on the border, only. A reading of the agreement may appear to leave room for a "swap" from Senegalese and Guinea Conakry forces to ECOMOG forces in Bissau as well as perhaps throughout the country. This is neither the Government nor Military Junta interpretation.

Junta Role in Government of National Unity
The Military Junta has announced the ministerial positions they wish to fill within the new Government of National Unity of Guinea Bissau : (1) Ministry of Defense; (2) Ministry of the Interior; (3) Ministry for the Ex-Combatants. They also submitted four names for the position of Prime Minister.

Military Aspects of the Implementation of the 1 November Agreement
We were informed that the Gambia, Niger and Benin will provide troops, while the UN may be requested to provide logistical support to the ECOMOG operation, in one form or another. This is an aspect that the Security Council will be asked to consider.

Bissau Airport (Bissalanca Airport)
The Ambassador of Guinea Bissau, the Guinea Bissau Minister of Health and of Foreign Affairs judge that it is too soon to open the Bissau Airport.

Current Situation in Bissau (City)
According to UN local staff based in Bissau, last Sunday night (on the eve of the signature of the agreement) military forces on both sides we on alert. Both sides were well armed and apparently both armies had been recently refurbished.

President Vieira\Brigadier Mane in Guinea Bissau
On November 4, the Minster of Health informed Dr. Inusse that both President Vieira and Brigadier Mane had both returned to Bissau City. On 5 November, UNICEF O-I-C in Bafata informed that Brigadier Mane is expected in Bafata as of today.

Vieira Radio Announcement
President Vieira made a radio announcement on November 4 exhorting all parties to work together toward a Government of National Unity. It is also reported that the EU delegate has met with Vieira to discuss, among other issues, the rehabilitation of the country.

Movement of IDP
On November 4, it was reported that there are an estimated 25 - 30,000 IDP in Safim and that IDP populations are feeling cautious about returning to Bissau for the time-being.

Security Issues

Given urgent humanitarian needs, the D.O. yesterday requested UNSECOORD to provide clearance for a WFP and UNICEF mission by plane and by road: Tambacounda/Bafata/Tambacounda and Dakar/Bafata/Dakar.

In Guinea Bissau UNICEF was designated by the D.O. as chair of the Security working group. UNICEF announces that a F.S.O. (Field Security Officer) is expected to arrive on 8 November.

Humanitarian Impact

Variable access into Guinea Bissau by humanitarian aid organisations For the last 3 weeks, the chronic problem of access to Guinea Bissau by road has been a daily concern. Numerous humanitarian deliveries have been stopped at Wassadou (Senegal), making passage into Bafata (Guinea Bissau) impossible. This is a serious concern, given that the only land route into Guinea Bissau is currently at Wassadou/Pirada. Today, OCHA received the following information concerning access from Wassadou:

  • Last night, ICRC was granted authorisation by the Minister of the Interior of Senegal to exit Wassadou, Senegal into Guinea Bissau. This was confirmed this morning;
  • Also this morning, WFP reported that the Wassadou border remains closed.
  • This afternoon, ADPP reported that they requested clearance from the Commissioner Diof of the Minister of the Interior of Senegal for travel to Tambacounda and to Guinea Bissau through Wassadou but were denied authorisation.
  • Also this afternoon, MSF reported that they received authorisation today from the Minister of the Interior of Senegal for shipment of medicines to Cacheu. Items for shipment include 3 1/2 MT essential medicines (antibiotics, malaria medicines, dressings), one (1) health kit (254 kilo). Approved passage is by air to Banjul, then to Cacheu by pirogue (small boat). Earlier, MSF had sought clearance to Bafata but the Commissioner of the Minister of the Interior had denied authorisation to Bafata.
Humanitarian Response


UNICEF staff reported poor sanitation conditions in Safim and are now working together with ADPP to construct temporary latrines and improve four wells in Safim. UNICEF continues to deliver water to the Bafata hospital. Discussions are being held with a local NGO for construction of wells in Gabu and Oio regions.

Food Distribution

Bissau : The 300Mt of Rice from Bissau has been received in the WFP warehouse in Bissau City. Food distribution started in Prabis on 2/11/98 to the estimated 80,000 IDPs. In addition to rice, a quantity of beans donated from the Portuguese Government and WFP canned beef are already stocked in Prabis.

Bafata/Cacheu : WFP has provided food to ICRC to complete the first round of food distribution intended for an estimated 5,000 IDPs (Bafata region) and estimated 7,600 IDPs (Cacheu region).

WFP is still waiting for figures from ADPP and CARITAS in order to re-start food distribution in Gabu region and Safim respectively.


UN Heads of Agency Mission to Guinea Bissau

To assess humanitarian impact and requirements in Guinea Bissau, a UN Heads of Agency Mission has been planned for 10 & 11 November (Tues./Wed, by air.). While the mission was initially envisaged for today, the Ambassador of Guinea Bissau, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN local staff considered that 5 November would be too soon for the Heads of Agency Mission to travel to Guinea Bissau. (UNSECOORD has already approved travel.)

The Inter-Agency process is working well in-country with the first draft Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) under finalisation. According to the agreed time-table, by the end of next week, the in-country team will have presented and shared the CHAP with Guinea Bissau government officials, NGOs active in the country, and Donors.

Donor Response

ECHO Flights to Guinea Bissau

Yesterday, ECHO met with ECHO funded NGO to share continuing concerns and new information regarding problems of access into Guinea Bissau (especially into Bafata from Wassadou, see above). ECHO announced that flights to Guinea Bissau are planned for Monday and Tuesday (9 & 10 Nov) in order to transport NGO personnel into the country.

New ECHO Funding Anticipated

15. A new decision to support NGO humanitarian assistance programmes in Guinea Bissau is expected to be announced by Brussels in the next days.

Spanish Government to Provide Fish

The Spanish Government will reportedly provide fish to the population in Guinea Bissau. They have also indicated that they will execute a water project in Bissau.

This report is available on the internet through RELIEFWEB:

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