International community must stay engaged in Guinea-Bissau, says UN envoy
23 June 2009 - The challenges facing Guinea-Bissau, which has witnessed a spate of political killings and coup attempts since last August, are enormous, the top United Nations envoy to the country said today, urging the international community to stay engaged and provide the necessary support. Joseph Mutaboba, the Secretary-General's Representative in Guinea-Bissau and head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office there, known as UNOGBIS, told a meeting of the Security Council that the general situation in the West African nation is "fragile and insecurity palpable" among the elite as well as general population.
Guinea-Bissau, no stranger to civil conflicts, coups d'état and uprisings in recent decades, received another blow in early March with the assassinations of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and Chief of Staff Tagme Na Waie.
Then on 5 June, Baciro Dabo, a candidate in the 28 June presidential elections, and Helder Proenca, a Member of Parliament and former Minister of Defense, were also assassinated.
Mr. Mutaboba reported that there is a high degree of mistrust and scepticism, particularly over reports that the two politicians were killed because they resisted arrest
He said that although the events of the past several months do not provide the ideal setting for peaceful polls, the preparations for the 28 June elections, as well as for the international observation, remain on track.
The upcoming elections will be critical for the country, he noted, pointing out that the Government, which had won an overwhelming victory in the legislative elections seven months ago, has been weakened by the paralysis over the March and June events and mounting government and security challenges.
As a result, he said, the Government's focus has moved away from delivering on its electoral promises of paying civil service salaries and improving social services and infrastructure.
Therefore, it is important for the elected President, irrespective of what party he may come from, and the party that won the 2008 legislative elections to work together in the interest of creating a political environment for stable Government, said the Representative.
"This enterprise requires a selfless spirit among the political class, in particular, and a healthy spirit of collaboration between the institutions of the State," he stated. "Continued instability is the desire of spoilers who benefit from a weak state and organized crime and drug trafficking."
Speaking to reporters after briefing the Council, Mr. Mutaboba emphasized that the international community must significantly enhance its support for the country in every sector.
"The needs of the country are enormous and this could be the last opportunity for the UN and the international community to [assist] Guinea-Bissau's efforts to ensure sustainable peace and socio-economic development. If you fail, the country and the whole region will severely suffer."
Also briefing the Council today, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil said the upcoming vote, if properly conducted, may pave the way for true dialogue among the main political forces and lead to an environment conducive to national reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
"Such an endeavour, which is crucial for peacebuilding, must be encouraged and supported by the international community," said the Ambassador, who chairs the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which helps countries emerging from conflict consolidate their gains and avoid slipping back into war.
Also crucial for peacebuilding, she added, is addressing the country's serious socio-economic problems, as well as adopting a long-term strategy for its development.
Stating that the success of peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau requires a stronger and more coherent UN presence on the ground, she voiced support for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's proposal - set out in his recent report - to transform UNOGBIS into an integrated peacebuilding office.
"Giving the UN office in Guinea-Bissau a robust mandate with the corresponding mandate is the most politically wise and financial cost-effective decision the Security Council and the General Assembly can make today in support of the country."