April 2, 2009 – Recent Guinea-Bissau killings underscore urgent need for reform, says Ban
UN News Centre - Last month's assassinations of Guinea-Bissau's president and his chief of staff have highlighted the need for the West African nation's justice, defence and security sectors to be reformed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.
President João Bernardo Vieira and his Chief of General Staff, General Batista Tagme Na Waie, were killed in early March. This past November, renegade military elements attacked the residence of Mr. Vieira but he survived the attack, which occurred just one week after legislative elections were staged in a peaceful and orderly manner. In the report made public today, the Secretary-General reiterates his call for a "credible and transparent process of investigation" into the incidents. He also calls on the country to maintain the rule of law while simultaneously protecting the rights of defendants and ensuring that they receive a fair hearing. The West African country has struggled to combat drug trafficking and organized crime, and also to sustain economic growth and political stability amid a series of civil conflicts, coups d'état and uprisings in recent decades. Interim President Raimundo Pereira has pledged to organize presidential elections in 60 days, and Mr. Ban appeals to the international community as a whole "to not abandon the country at this critical moment and to provide technical and financial assistance." Last November's elections have shown how Guinea-Bissau's people "voted for hope and improvement in their daily lives," he writes. The instability over the past ten years "has been a major stumbling block to peace and development, and has resulted in the squandering of opportunities for recovery," he adds. The report calls on all political actors to "put aside political ambition" and cooperate in finding solutions to meet the needs of the country's people. In a related development, Mr. Ban's Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, condemned the 30 March attack on Francisco Fadul, the President of the Audit Court, at his home by uniformed armed men, apparently in connection with critical statements he made on the radio the previous day. The envoy also spoke out against the illegal arrest late last month - and apparent mistreatment in custody - of a lawyer by the armed forces. "The Constitution of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau enshrines the right of all citizens to exercise freedom of expression without impediment, limitation or any form of censure," Mr. Mutaboba said in a press statement, calling on national authorities to ensure respect for the rule of law and human rights, both of which are the "cornerstone of a healthy democracy." Guinea-Bissau is one of a handful of States on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which aims to help post-conflict countries avoid sliding back into war or chaos.