Report of the Secretary-General on developments in Guinea-Bissau and the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (S/2017/695)

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2343 (2017), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) until 28 February 2018 and requested that I report every six months on the situation in Guinea-Bissau and on progress made in the implementation of the resolution and the mandate of UNIOGBIS. The report provides an update on key political, security, human rights, socioeconomic and humanitarian developments in Guinea-Bissau since my report of 7 February 2017 (S/2017/111).

II. Major developments in Guinea-Bissau

A. Political situation

2. Since my last report, the political impasse in Guinea-Bissau has persisted, with no progress made towards implementation of the Conakry Agreement signed on 14 October 2016. The impasse at the National Assembly and the consequent non-approval of the Government’s programme and State budget have further polarized positions in the country. Despite various initiatives aimed at genuine dialogue to resolve the institutional crisis, there has been no sign of a breakthrough.

3. On 6 February, the Government of Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló submitted its programme to the National Assembly. On 22 February, the 15-member Permanent Commission of the Assembly rejected the scheduling of an ordinary session to consider the programme on the grounds that the Government had not been formed in compliance with the Conakry Agreement, and that the programme was not submitted within the 30-day deadline set out in the Agreement. Only the nine members of the Commission from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) participated in the vote, while the remaining six members, from the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), abstained.

4. On 23 February, PRS, which is the second largest party in Parliament after PAIGC, submitted a petition to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Cipriano Cassamá, requesting the nullification of the Permanent Commission’s decision and the convening of a plenary meeting of the National Assembly to consider the Government’s programme. On 3 March, the Speaker issued a decision rejecting the request, arguing that the party lacked the legal standing to appeal the decisions of the Commission. On 12 April, the PRS parliamentary group announced its decision to participate only in plenary sessions of the National Assembly.

5. Meanwhile, in the light of the lack of progress in the implementation of the Conakry Agreement, the Mediator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for Guinea-Bissau, President Alpha Condé of Guinea, sent his Minister of State and Secretary-General of the Presidency, Naby Youssouf Kiridi Bangoura, to Bissau, on 8 and 9 March. Mr. Bangoura held consultations with the political leaders of the country and with members of the international community to discuss the Mediator’s proposal for a reconciliation meeting in Conakry between the PAIGC leadership and the group of 15 parliamentarians who had been expelled from the party in January 2016. The proposed meeting did not materialize, however, owing to lack of consensus within the group of 15 parliamentarians.

6. From 10 March to 18 May, the President of Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Vaz, carried out a nationwide tour to seek the views of local stakeholders on national affairs. Throughout the tour, the President focused on three priorities: peace and stability; appropriate management of public funds; and the implementation of his “Mon na Lama” (“All hands on deck”) agriculture project towards the achievement of food self-sufficiency. The tour ended in Bissau, where both the President and the Minister of the Interior stated that the Government of Prime Minister Sissoco Embaló would “not be dismissed because of international pressure”.

7. A series of demonstrations marked the reporting period. On 9 March, a movement called “The Citizen” organized a protest in Bissau, demanding the resumption of the National Assembly’s activities and expressing support for the President and the Government. On 11 March, the “Movement of Conscientious and Nonconformist Citizens” held a counter-demonstration in Bissau, calling for the resignation of the President. Although PAIGC did not express public support for the protest, many party militants reportedly participated in it. On 8 April, the Movement organized a vigil, which was attended by approximately two dozen people, urging the President to find a solution to the political crisis or call for early general elections. Police used tear gas against the demonstrators, arrested seven people and subsequently released them. On 22 April, the Movement and other civil society organizations held another demonstration, gathering approximately 1,000 people, which was conducted peacefully. However, during a demonstration organized by the same movement on 27 May, which involved about 800 participants, law enforcement personnel and demonstrators clashed, causing injuries to 18 demonstrators and police officers, according to hospital sources.

8. In the light of these developments, the group of international partners based in Guinea-Bissau, composed of representatives of the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, the European Union and the United Nations, issued a press release on 26 May, noting with concern the rise of tension in the country, fuelled by inflammatory rhetoric, strikes and threats of violent street demonstrations. The group recalled previous declarations by ECOWAS, the United Nations Security Council and the European Union, urging political actors to show restraint.