October 1, 2007 - Drug trafficking threatens consolidation of democracy, says Ban Ki-moon
UN News Centre - Despite recent progress in the fields of public finance and cooperation with international finance institutions, the consolidation of democracy in Guinea-Bissau is being impeded by numerous challenges, particularly drug trafficking, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a new report made public today.
"Drug trafficking threatens to subvert the nascent democratization process of Guinea-Bissau, entrench organized crime and undermine respect for the rule of law," Mr. Ban writes in the report to the Security Council on the latest activities the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS ).
"There is no reliable data on drug seizures, the volume of drugs in transit through Guinea-Bissau or the local consumption of narcotics," he notes. "However, there is a growing consensus that Guinea-Bissau is a major drug trafficking transit point in the subregion."
Anti-aircraft artillery have been deployed to the Bijagos archipelago after reports that unidentified aircraft have been transporting cocaine, and investigations were resumed in September into the alleged involvement of several high-level officials of former Prime Minister Aristides Gomes in the disappearance of nearly 700 kilograms of cocaine seized by authorities.
"Given the country's inability to combat this new phenomenon alone, a collective response is required," Mr. Ban writes. "Vital technical and financial support from regional and international partners is therefore urgently needed. Guinea-Bissau must join forces with regional and international partners to tackle this growing threat through cooperation within law enforcement frameworks."
Between July and August, civil society organizations raised concerns over infringements of the freedoms of the press and expression with regard to media reports on drug trafficking. Journalists reporting on the drug trade said that they had been pressured and intimidated, the report says.
On 24 July, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) voiced concern to the Government over the case of two journalists, one of whom was charged with libel after allegedly suggesting that the Navy Chief of Staff may have been linked to drug trafficking.
"These developments marked a reversal in the positive trend of the past three years, during which time Guinea-Bissau was not cited by the press watchdog [Reporters without Borders] as being among those countries with a poor record of respect for freedom of the press," the Secretary-General says.
He also appeals for the consolidation of the stability pact signed on 12 March by the country's three main political parties - the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde and Guinea, the Social Renewal Party and the United Social Democratic Party - which led to the swearing in of the Government of Prime Minister Martinho Dafa Cabi.
"I am concerned about the fact that, while the political stability pact continues to provide a platform for a more consensual approach to governance and for Government sustainability, the continuing divisions and rivalry for power among political parties could undermine crucial stabilization efforts and discourage the country's partners and potential investors," he says.