PSC session on the situation in Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Date | 6 November, 2019

Tomorrow (6 November), at 3pm the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will have a session on the situation in Guinea Bissau, which was postponed from the October program of work of the PSC. The representative of Guinea Bissau, Chair of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), African Members to the UN Security Council (A3) Cote D’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa are expected participate in the session. The Director of Peace and Security Department and Director of Political Affairs to make statements on the latest political developments and the elections planned on 24 November.

The last time the PSC held discussion on Guinea Bissau was on 11 June 2019 where it urged ‘the President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau to urgently initiate consultations, with a view to appointing a Prime Minister, in accordance with the will of the people, as expressed in the legislative elections of 10 March 2019 and, in due course, to announce the date of the presidential election scheduled for this year before the expiration of his current term on 23 June 2019’.

On 16-18 June the PSC, acting on its communique of 11 June, undertook a field visit to Guinea-Bissau. During the visit the PSC held consultations with various Guinea-Bissau political actors, including President Jose Mario Vaz. During the two days visit the delegation of the PSC urged the president to announce the date for Presidential elections before June 23rd, 2019 and appoint the Prime Minister. The delegation also pressed all parties to constitute the National Assembly and review the National Constitution.
On 18 June, the day the PSC concluded its visit, the President announced that presidential elections would be held on 24 November. He also appointed Aristides Gomes as prime minister on 22 June following a high- level mission of ECOWAS to Bissau on 19-20 June. ECOWAS had to mobilize further diplomatic efforts during its 29 June summit to have President Vaz accept the composition of the new government under Prime Minister Gomes. ECOWAS summit gave Vaz a deadline of 3 July to appoint a new government, based on the prime minister’s proposal, and a new attorney general, to be chosen by consensus. In apparent exchange, the summit ECOWAS summit decided that Vaz remains in office, after expiry of his term, until the election, although the management of the affairs of the state was left in the hands of the new government under the new Prime Minister Gomes. On the same day, Vaz appointed the government and a new attorney general based on Prime Minister Gomes’ proposal. The composition of the government mainly consists of PAIGC members and supporters.

With the political wrangling continuing unabated even after the formation of the new government, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, the AU, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and ECOWAS undertook a mission to Bissau. The communiqué of the 7 October joint field mission of these international bodies strongly urged for the presidential election to be held during 2019.

On 14 October, the Supreme Court of Justice of Guinea- Bissau announced the provisional list of 13 candidates for the upcoming presidential elections, including the incumbent President who is expected to run as an independent candidate after being unable to secure the nomination of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MADEM-G15). Other candidates include former Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira of PAIGC, who was the initial candidate to lead the new government formed on 29 June, and Nuno Gomes Nabian for the United People’s Assembly – Guinea-Bissau Democratic Party (APU-PDGB). Although Nabian’s APU/PDGB is part of the governing coalition, it has recently formed an alliance with opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS) to unite the Balanta ethnic group, which has strong links with the military, in support of Nabian’s candidacy. The former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoko Embalo is to run under the flag of MADEM G-15.

Other issues of concern that are of interest to the PSC include the manoeuvring of some elements to delay the election and cause the breakup of PAIGC, whose candidate is considered likely to win. The incumbent President as well continues to speak on the need for major reforms including constitutional reforms before the holding of the presidential elections. This request may also stem from the intention of postponing the elections beyond 2019, since the proposed changes require a long period of time.

It is against the backdrop of these rising political tensions that President Vaz issued a decree on 28 October dismissing the government of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes and appointing a new Prime Minister. With only three weeks left for the election to take place later this month, the decision by the President has further aggravated the tense political situation in the country causing serious consternation. With the terms of President Vaz having ended but ECOWAS agreeing for him to stay on without executive power until the 24 November election, the contestation over the legality of the decree he issued dissolving the government has put the country in a constitutional crisis, giving rise to questions on the compatibility of this action with the AU ban on unconstitutional changes of government. On 29 October, ECOWAS issued a communiqué calling the President’s decree illegal and reiterating its full support for Aristide Gomes and his government. Furthermore, it threatened to impose punitive measures against those found to be obstructing the upcoming election.
In his statement issued on 30th October, the AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat also expressed his deep concern regarding the Presidential Decree dissolving of the Government and reiterated his support for the efforts of ECOWAS calling on all the political actors to respect its decision and honour the commitments made in this regard. In the same vein, the UN Secretary-General issued a statement the same day expressing serious concern on the unfolding developments in Guinea-Bissau and calling on all political stakeholders to abide by the decisions taken by ECOWAS regarding the governance arrangements in Guinea-Bissau until the presidential election on 24 November.

The Chair of the 2048 UN Sanctions Committee on Guinea-Bissau, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea has also been actively seized with the matter. He was in Bissau last week as part of the Committee’s mission to the country in carrying out its mandate. The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission is also engaged on the situation in Guinea Bissau and the Chair of the PBC Configuration on Guinea Bissau, Ambassador Mauro Vieira of Brazil was in Bissau last week to encourage the holding of a free, fair, credible, transparent and peaceful presidential election on 24th of November. He has written a letter to the President of the Security Council on 30 October 2019, sharing his observations from the visit. The decree was issued to dissolve the government after he returned from his visit and he urged Bissau Guinean political actors to exercise maximum restraint and resort to dialogue to resolve their differences.

The United Nations Security Council met on 30th October under any other business to discuss the latest developments in Guinea-Bissau and Cote d’Ivoire as the penholder initiated a presidential statement. On 4 November, the UNSC adopted the presidential statement. In the Statement, the UNSC expressed its
full support for the communiques that ECOWAS and AU Commission issued on 29 and 30 October respectively and the urgent need to hold the presidential election on 24 November.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may urge the government of Guinea Bissau and the other political actors to hold the election on 24 November as per the set timeline and work towards a fair, free and peaceful election come 24 November. It may express serious concern on the recent developments in relation to the dissolution of the government by President Vaz, which may constitute a breach of AU rules on constitutional governance, and reiterate its support to the ECOWAS efforts including its plan to take punitive measures. It may call upon all political stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect the ECOWAS decision, refrain from aggravating the already tense political situation in the country and exert every possible effort to resolve their differences in full compliance with outcome of the March 2019 parliamentary elections and the ECOWAS plan. The PSC may welcome ECOWAS’s decision to extend the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea- Bissau (ECOMIB) for a period of six months starting from 1 October 2019. It may request the AUC to strengthen support to the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission (SRCC) for Guinea Bissau and his office particularly in relation to the upcoming election. Apart from requesting the AUC to deploy electoral and human rights observers to the country, it could also consider appropriate action in accordance with the Lomed Declaration of 2000 and Addis Ababa Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance.


Briefing on the situation in Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Date | 18 November, 2019

Monday (18 November) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold a briefing session on the situation in Guinea-Bissau. The briefing is taking place in line with the PSC communiqué of the 892nd session, which decided ‘to review the situation in Guinea Bissau on 18 November 2019’. Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission (SRCC) for Guinea Bissau, Ambassador Ovidio Pequeno is expected to brief the Council.

On 29 October, following the dismissal of the entire cabinet of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes by President Jose Mario Vaz, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a communiqué labelling the President’s decree as illegal. It also threatened to take punitive measures against individuals that hinder the election scheduled to take place on 24 November.

At its session held on 6 November 2019, the PSC received a briefing from the SRCC. It also heard statements from the Minister of Justice of Guinea- Bissau, Niger, as chair of ECOWAS and the African members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), A3. In the communique it adopted following the session, the PSC declared ‘null and void’ what it termed ‘the unconstitutional Decrees issued by President Vaz’. It called on the newly appointed officials to recuse themselves from their assigned positions and recognized Aristides Gomes’s government as the only legitimate government of the country. It fully endorsed ECOWAS’s warning to apply punitive measures against individuals undermining the peace process and affirmed the inviolability of the 24 November schedule for holding the presidential elections.

On 8 November, the Extraordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government was held in Niamey, Niger. The communiqué, which deemed the President’s move as unconstitutional, demanded the immediate resignation of the new Prime Minister Faustin Fudut Imbali who was appointed by President Vaz on 29 October. While this precipitated the resignation of Imbali on the same day, ECOWAS also urged the legally instituted Prime Minister Gomes to resume his work.

As part of the decision of the ECOWAS extraordinary Summit, a high-level mission of Heads of State and Government is dispatched to Bissau on Saturday 16 November. The mission led by Niger, Chair of ECOWAS involves Heads of State of Cote D’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria. The mission is expected to meet with President Vaz.

In addition to the political negotiation and as part of its preventive efforts, ECOWAS has also decided to strengthen its military presence in the country. To this end it has decided to increase the number of troops ‘to respond to all challenges, before, during and after the elections’. Before the heads of states and government visit, the missions of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff have already began their engagement with President Vaz, Prime Minister Gomes and other political actors.

While Prime Minister Aristides welcomed the move of ECOWAS to increase its military presence as a measure required to secure the presidential elections, some opposition parties including former Prime Minister and candidate to the presidency of the country Umaro Sissoco Embaló and the Social Renewal Party (PRS) have voiced their disapproval over what they considered as an invasion and interference in national sovereignty. The Prime Minister has also met with the Chiefs of Defence Staff of Niger, Nigeria and Togo ahead of the high- level mission’s arrival.

Apart from providing support for the electoral process, the move by ECOWAS also aims at preventing any form of unconstitutional change of government and military coup. Guinea-Bissau, which has experienced successive military interventions including most recently in 2012, has the conditions that make it vulnerable to similar risk. Although in its communiqué ECOWAS, like the PSC, encouraged the security forces to remain neutral, it is also preparing for any security risks and threatened sanction against individuals that may compromise the constitutional order. The ECOWAS Commission is also tasked to submit a list of individuals that disrupt the electoral process to undertake immediate measures.

The interference of drug trafficking and related crime in the political process of the country is also another major concerning security issue. After several allegations on one of the leading political parties, the PAIGC, its leader and candidate in the presidential elections on 24 November Domingos Simões Pereira, recently stated that the resources utilized by the party in the electoral campaign are not financed through organized crime. However, the government’s capacity in curbing organized crime has been limited, hence making drug trafficking a key security area that requires the support of neighbouring countries.

Despite the crisis affecting the country, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), Idrissa Djaló, has confirmed on Tuesday 12 November 2019, that all the necessary technical and financial conditions are fulfilled in order to conduct the presidential election on 24 November. Djaló has given his statement after visiting the Commission’s materials warehouse in the capital including model ballot papers with all the details of the candidates competing in the elections.

Indeed, apart from the constitutional crisis and the multipronged efforts of ECOWAS, another area that would be of interest for members of the PSC in tomorrow’s session is the technical and logistical preparations for the 24 November elections. This is an area in respect of which the AU Commission including the SRCC are expected to update the PSC on AU’s engagement to support the electoral process.
Right after the ECOWAS extraordinary summit, the UNSC members held consultations on 11 November. They concluded by issuing press elements expressing support and welcoming the efforts of ECOWAS. Earlier on 4 November the UNSC adopted a presidential statement endorsing the efforts of ECOWAS and welcoming the press statement of the AUC Chair.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. The PSC may commend ECOWAS’s efforts particularly the dispatch of the high level mission on Saturday and the meeting of Chiefs of Defence Staff. It is also expected to endorse the communiqué of the ECOWAS extraordinary summit held on 8 November. It may call on the political actors in Guinea Bissau to support the efforts by ECOWAS leading up to the 24 November elections. It may underline that any attempt of unconstitutional change of government will not be tolerated as established by various AU instruments and may urge political actors to refrain from any activities that may derail the political process. In this respect, it is expected to endorse ECOWAS move to increase the number of troops as important preventive measure. The PSC may also call on the government to strengthen its efforts in fighting drug trafficking, which continue to interfere in the efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace in the country. Given the short time remaining to the election, less than 10 days, the PSC may task the AUC to enhance its support for the electoral process working in concert with ECOWAS.


Briefing on the situation in Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Date | 11 June, 2019

Tomorrow (11 June) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a briefing session on the situation in Guinea Bissau. The PSC is expected to receive update from the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on the political stalemate in the country following the March 2019 parliamentary. Apart from the representative of Guinea-Bissau, the representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and representatives of the UN and the EU, who form part of the group of five international partners of Guinea-Bissau, are expected to make statements.

Guinea Bissau has been in political crisis for a number of years. Apart from the instability the country has faced from the military’s intervention in politics, in the aftermath of the 2014 elections, the major source of the crisis has been the power struggle between the various centers of power, notably the President, the Prime Minister and Parliament. In Guinea- Bissau’s semi-presidential system, the president is the head of state, with the power to appoint the prime minister. The prime minister, while accountable to the president, is the head of government from the party with the most seats in parliament and is vested with most of the executive power. The dismissal by President Jose Mario Vas in 2015 of Prime Minister Domingos Pereira plunged the country into political paralysis. According to the preliminary report of the AU Election Observer Mission, it led to a ‘de facto shut down’ of the National People’s Assembly. It was only after a protracted mediation effort of ECOWAS that the NPA has resumed parliamentary work and the date for election was set.

After delays from the initial timeline of November 2018, the parliamentary elections were held on 10 March. The votes were held in a stable and free atmosphere. The peaceful legislative elections were considered free and fair by AU and other international observers. In the elections, the ruling the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) won the highest number of seats in the NPA, giving it the power to form government. However, since PAIGC won only 47 of the 102 seats of the NPA, other parliamentary parties, notably the PAIGC breakaway party Movement for Democratic Change (MADEM), currently led by the president also play a role for appointment in parliament.

While many hoped that the elections would resolve the political instability, the various parties that secured seats in parliament, particularly the victories PAIGC and its rival MADEM have been unable to agree on appointments. Another stalemate emerged when the majority in parliament led by PAIGC rejected the candidacy of Braima Camará, who is the coordinator of the MADEM, as the second vice-president of the NPA. With the MADEM insisting on the candidacy of Camara for position of second vice-president, the resultant stalemate has hindered the full establishment of the office of the National People’s Assembly (NPA), the appointment of the prime minister and the formation of a new government. The president has made the appointment of a new prime minister conditional on resolving the NPA impasse. This raises suspicions that he’s trying to block Pereira – as head of the majority PAIGC alliance – from again becoming prime minister.

This new round of political deadlock now threatens the Stability Pact that was signed in February 2019 and the progress achieved under the Pact reflected in the convening of the peaceful and credible parliamentary elections held in March 2019. Instead of the commitment for the consolidation of the politics and institutions of the country based on the popular vote from the elections envisaged in the Pact, the political parties and their disagreement have returned the country back to the paralysis that ensued after the dismissal of the then prime minister.

The situation also presents further threats to the already precarious socio-economic and security situation in the country. The threat from drug trafficking in particular has increased. On 9 March, while the country was in the middle of the electoral campaign, police made a record seizure of 789 kg of cocaine. On 30 April, 72 kg of cocaine from Guinea- Bissau were seized by Senegalese customs in the Tambacounda region in eastern Senegal.

The current post-election stalemate also feared to affect the electoral calendar for the election of the president. The end of the constitutional term of the current President is on 23 June. If this timeline comes and passes without the formation of the new government, it is feared that this will result in a power vacuum.

On 24 May, the group of five international partners of Guinea-Bissau – the AU, CPLP, ECOWAS, European Union, and the United Nations – issued a statement expressing concern for the new political impasse and call for the “urgent” appointment of a new prime minister and government respecting the “sovereign will of the people of Guinea-Bissau” expressed in the 10 March legislative elections. They also encouraged the “urgent appointment of a new prime minister and the subsequent formation of a new government. Furthermore, the date of the presidential election must also be set to take place in 2019.”

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. It is expected that the PSC will urge the Guinea Bissau political actors to prioritize the national interest and proceed with the formation of a new government reflecting the sovereign will of the people expressed in the parliamentary election before the end of the constitutional term of the president.


Briefing on the situation in Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Date | 27 January, 2020

Tomorrow (27 January) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold a briefing session on Guinea Bissau. The AU Peace and Security Department and Department of Political Affairs may brief the Council. Also expected to make statement is the representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The briefing is expected to focus on the recent presidential election conducted in the country. On 24 November, Guinea-Bissau held the first round of its presidential elections. From the twelve candidates, no candidate garnered the 50 percent vote required to win the election. Two candidates, namely, Domingos Simões Pereira (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde – PAIGC) and Umaro Sissoco Embaló (Movimento para Alternância Democrática (MADEM) G- 15), qualified for the run off election, which was held on 29 December.

Both the AU and ECOWAS have mobilized efforts to support the electoral process in Guinea Bissau. The AU has deployed African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM), led by Joaquim Rafael Branco, former Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe to monitor and report on the conduct of the election. The Mission comprises 13 Long Term Observers (LTO) and 40 Short Term Observers (STO). The LTO were deployed since 19 November 2019 up to 5 January 2020 while the STO were deployed in Bissau on
22 December until 3 January 2020. Similarly, ECOWAS has supported the election process with 1.5 million USD, deployment of ECOMIB and the deployment of pre- electoral, long and short-term observers and technical team.
According to the preliminary statement of the AU Election Observation Mission, while the runoff election was held in a peaceful political atmosphere, it observed that ‘social tension within the ranks of the public administration owing to delays in salaries [and] strikes by teachers.’ From final results released by the National Electoral Commission (CNE), opposition candidate Embaló won the December run-off ballot with 54% of the vote while Pereira garnered 46%.

Despite the commission’s confirmation of former Prime Minister Umaro Cissoko Embalo as winner of the December presidential run-off vote, Domingos Simoes Pereira contested the result at the Supreme Court with allegations fraud. This has cast a cloud of uncertainty about the post-electoral situation in the country including the political transition.

Embaló’s victory has already received recognition from various stakeholders in the region and the international community. ECOWAS welcomed the peaceful conduct of presidential elections and took note of the final results of the run-off presidential election announced on 17 January 2020 by the CNE and reconfirmed by the same authority on 21 January 2020. The ECOWAS in the communiqué released on 22 January further confirmed Embaló victory vis a vis his opponent Pereira. The ECOWAS Commission urged the various national institutions to finalize their activities and to prepare for the inauguration of the new president elect.
PAIGC and its candidate Pereira rejected ECOWAS’s statement arguing that it came while the institutions involved in the electoral process are still trying to agree on the election result and the legal process envisaged in the constitution has as yet to be finalized. The Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) ordered the CNE to carry out the national counting of the results. CNE says that it has already taken this step before publishing the results and announcing Embaló’s victory. The Parliament, on the other hand has stated that without the steps required by the STJ having been carried out by the CNE, it will not be able to swear in Embaló on the proposed date of 19 February. PAIGC has also urged the international community to respect the national sovereignty and the country’s electoral legal process.

On the other hand, Embaló reiterated that the entity to declare the winner of the elections is the CNE and not the Supreme Court of Justice.He further added that the recount of the votes is unconstitutional.

The National People’s Assembly (ANP) has also presented clarifications on the process by stating that the inauguration of the elected President of the Republic takes place in a special session convened by the President of the Assembly, within a maximum period of 45 days after the announcement of the definitive results. To this end, the President of the ANP will need to receive the minutes of the national counting before conferring power to the President. This also includes the clarification by the Supreme Court of Justice on the electoral dispute brought by Pereira.

The Supreme Court of Justice on its part stated that its ruling was not about recounting the votes for the second round of the presidential elections rather it’s about national counting operations, particularly ensuring that its uninterrupted and immediately after its completion the minute is shared with all the relevant institutions.

Agreement is yet to be reached between the various national bodies mainly CNE, the Supreme Court and the Assembly. The two candidates as well have divergent positions on the outcome of the election as well as on the process of determining the winning party.

It should also be noted that the election is only one of the many steps in the democratic transition of Guinea Bissau. The PSC at its 896th session underlined ‘the imperative for the people of Guinea Bissau to expedite the much- needed institutional reforms, including constitutional reform immediately after the election’. Once the new president takes office, there are a number of political and legal transformations expected to be underway to ensure a meaningful and sustainable democratic transition in the country.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communiqué. The PSC may back ECOWAS’s statement and may urge national institutions to complete their activities in a way that ensures legality and institutional harmony. It may call on the various political actors to exercise restraint from any form of violence and may call on them to resolve their dispute through a peaceful process, while ensuring that gains made during the electoral process are not lost. The PSC may reiterate its 896th session underscoring the need for implementing the institutional reforms, including the constitutional review process and security sector reform. It may also commend ECOWAS for the efforts and the activities it has undertaken during the presidential election.