SSR, fighting impunity key to attracting broader cooperation, SRSG tells Security Council

6 Nov 2010

SSR, fighting impunity key to attracting broader cooperation, SRSG tells Security Council

5 November 2010 - Plans to reform Guinea-Bissau's security sector, reintegrate former combatants and end impunity in the country, if properly pursued, would create the conditions for wider international cooperation with the West African country, Joseph Mutaboba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council this morning.


"The emerging momentum has reopened a window of opportunity for enhanced collaboration between the international community and the leadership of Guinea-Bissau, following months of impasse," said Mr. Mutaboba, who also heads the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), acknowledging the frustration of some international partners owing to recent setbacks.

"UNIOGBIS, under my leadership, will continue to ensure that this opportunity is not missed," he declared, describing the elements of a road map drawn up by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries. He advocated greater support for the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in Guinea-Bissau, the Government of which was most recently shaken by military events on 1 April.

Joining Mr. Mutaboba today were Maria Luisa Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil), Chair of the Guinea-Bissau configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, Sebastião Isata, Special Representative of the African Union Peace and Security Council to the country, and João Soares Da Gama, its Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Introducing the Secretary-General's latest report on the situation in the country, Mr. Mutaboba said the International Contact Group on Guinea-Bissau, as well as the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, ECOWAS and, in particular, the Government of Angola, had been actively discussing implementation of the road map and considering the activation of an inter-agency task force to support it. Aligned with the existing National Strategic Framework for Security Sector Reform, the plan provides for the protection of key national institutions as well as the training and mentoring of defence forces and police institutions, which are already supported bilaterally by Portugal, Brazil and UNIOGBIS, among others.

He said that once the endorsement of the joint framework was finalized by national and regional partners, UNIOGBIS would be prepared to present a comprehensive briefing to the Security Council. He underlined the importance of timelines and benchmarks to measure progress in that effort, as well as the need for clear signs of commitment to military restructuring from national leaders, while urging greater international support for security-sector reform initiatives. Unfortunately, the continued detention of the former Chief of Defence Staff demonstrated the continuing predominance of the military leadership over the judiciary, he noted, urging the national authorities to show the resolve to fight impunity and promote national reconciliation.

On the positive side, he noted, there had been recent initiatives to flush out "ghost" civil servants and pay genuine ones regularly, the national reconciliation and dialogue process had been launched, the National Justice System Policy adopted and a legal framework for security-sector reform instituted. In addition, President Malam Bacai Sanhá and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior had met recently with the international diplomatic community as part of continuing efforts by UNIOGBIS to engage the leaders in genuine political dialogue and overcome the alleged mistrust between them. UNIOGBIS also continued to insist that assistance in investigating the country's 2009 political assassinations was linked to the transparency and credibility of the proceedings.

In the effort to pursue a holistic response to drug trafficking and organized crime, he said, UNIOGBIS was exploring a memorandum of understanding that would allow vessels from international partners to conduct policing activities in Guinea-Bissau's territorial waters with the collaboration of enhanced elements of the national police. It also continued to advocate for assistance with control of air and sea ports, as well as borders, he said, noting the limitations of regional partners despite their ongoing initiatives. In that context, he said, the legal, political and operational conditions for the establishment of a transnational crime unit had been met. UNIOGBIS would follow up, but more robust international action was needed to "name and shame" those involved in illicit trafficking, and to freeze or confiscate their assets.

Ms. Ribeiro Viotti ( Brazil) said Guinea-Bissau's partners believed it was important for the country to show stronger commitment to the principle of civilian control over the military, to the fight against drug trafficking and to effective reform of the security sector. Their continued engagement was necessary to help the country build democratic governance, she said, adding that there was a need to identify the kind of support the international community could provide. The Peacebuilding Commission had sought to help find ways to remain engaged on the basis of the principle of mutual accountability.

Recalling that the country-specific configuration had met on 16 July with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, she said he had reiterated that security-sector reform was the Government's top priority. He had deplored drug trafficking and indicated Guinea-Bissau's need of continuing international support to fight it. Members of the configuration had expressed concern over the events of 1 April, and stressed the need for civilian control over the armed forces. The configuration was reflecting on how best to help Guinea-Bissau move forward on security-sector reform, she added.

She said an effective fight against illegal drugs required functioning State institutions, especially in the areas of justice and security, adding that firm political will, reinforced by a regional approach, was key to securing the necessary international assistance. Emphasizing the importance of subregional initiatives, she called for more and better support for implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan and the West Africa Coast Initiative.

In order for peace to take hold, she said, the foundations for socio-economic development must be strengthened with support for capacity-building. Guinea-Bissau had made significant progress in managing the economy and inducing development, she said, adding that the Government had been able to pay civil service salaries on time due to increased export income, with tax revenues having risen by some 47 per cent. Improved fiscal management could soon meet the requirements of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, she added, urging international partners to look beyond current setbacks and support long-term political and economic stability. Meanwhile, the national authorities, including the military, must restore full international confidence.

Mr. Isata said Guinea-Bissau's decades-long instability resulted from the effective absence of the rule of law and the spread of drug trafficking, corruption and poverty. In order to restore constitutional normality, the African Union had decided to open a permanent office in the country as a first step towards the deployment of a joint African Union-ECOWAS stabilization mission.

Encouraging signs included the announcements by the President and the Prime Minister accepting the deployment and agreeing to put an end to their differences, he said. They had also accepted African Union proposals for the creation of a truth and national reconciliation commission and legislation criminalizing drug-related activities. However, the creation of a special rapid-deployment police force remained imperative.

Considering those positive signals, he said, the holding of a donors' conference would constitute an incentive for efforts to reform the security sector, which would be the cornerstone for the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and good governance. Such a conference would also contribute to the alleviation of Guinea-Bissau's pervasive poverty, which was a source of instability.

Mr. Soares Da Gama (Guinea-Bissau) said the difficult episodes his country had undergone over the past 12 years were due in part to a failure to integrate men and women who had fought in the anti-colonial war of liberation. Many former combatants, afraid of being abandoned as had happened before, remained on active duty despite advanced age. Exacerbating the situation were economic and financial difficulties, the lack of infrastructure and the absence of production facilities to process cashew nuts. That task was now being done in India, which deprived Guinea-Bissau's youth, 60 per cent of the population, of employment opportunities.

In order to address the situation, the Government wished to modernize the army and make it accountable to civilian authorities, he said. The planned reforms were an urgent but sensitive undertaking as Guinea-Bissau continued to seek political stability. For that reason, a national reconciliation conference would be convened where political actors, the military and civil society would try to move forward on the path to consolidating peace.

The Government was also strengthening its credibility with international financial institutions through reforms aimed at achieving the HIPC completion point before the end of 2010, he said. Civil servant salaries were now paid regularly, reducing social tensions. The Government was determined to fight drug trafficking through legislation on trafficking, possession and processing, and by strengthening the capacity of the police and judiciary.

Such progress had been made despite limited logistical means, he stressed, welcoming the decision by ECOWAS, in cooperation with the European Union, to enable implementation of its Regional Action Plan, as well as visits by military leaders to seek bilateral help from Brazil and Cuba. Despite Government efforts, however, Guinea-Bissau continued to depend on international cooperation to complete its reforms, he said, emphasizing the country's need for a pension fund for former combatants and for public-administration reform.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:50 a.m.

Source: DPI