Posted by: africanpressorganization | 29 August 2008

Guinea Bissau / Fourteenth High-Level Meeting of Heads of United Nations Peace Missions in West Africa / Bissau – Guinea Bissau 25-26 August 2008



Guinea Bissau / Fourteenth High-Level Meeting of Heads of United Nations Peace Missions in West Africa / Bissau – Guinea Bissau 25-26 August 2008


BISSAU, Guinea Bissau, August 29, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Final Communiqué


1.    The Heads of the United Nations Peace Missions in West Africa held their XIVth High-level meeting on 25th and 26th August in Bissau, Guinea Bissau, under the Chairmanship of Said Djinnit, SRSG (UNOWA). The meeting was attended by Ellen Margrethe Løj, SRSG (UNMIL), Y J Choi, SRSG (UNOCI), and Shola Omoregie, Representative of the Secretary-General (RSG) for Guinea Bissau. ECOWAS Commission President Dr. Mohamad Chambas participated in the proceedings as the guest speaker.


2.    The Heads of Mission reviewed the overall situation. They acknowledged the significant progress made in consolidating peace and restoring stability in the sub-region, through the leadership of ECOWAS supported by UN peace missions, while noting also that a number of the countries in the region were still experiencing persistent challenges of security, stability and democratization. Concern was also expressed over the continuing challenges posed by weak rule of law and legal process; the limited capacity of the law enforcement institutions and the need to strengthen security sector reform; the increase in organized crime operating in the region, particularly drug and human trafficking; and, the continued cross-border movement of affected populations.


3.    ECOWAS Commission President Dr. Chambas informed the Heads of Mission that ECOWAS was concentrating on four priorities in the region, namely: communications and infrastructure; accelerated economic growth and intra-regional trade; capacity building at the regional and national level; and consolidating peace and security, particularly through conflict prevention. He also highlighted the need for the region to safeguard and build upon, the development gains of the last decade in the lead up to the MDG. However, he underscored the need to remain dynamic and sensitive to emerging challenges in the region, such as organized crime involving drug trafficking. In this context, he invited the Heads of Mission to attend the ECOWAS regional conference on drug trafficking and organized crime to be held in Cape Verde in October.


4.    With regard to Côte d’Ivoire, the Heads of Mission acknowledged the significant progress made in the implementation of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA). The Heads of Mission also took note of the determination of the Ivorian political leaders to go for election as scheduled. However, they were concerned about the delays in the electoral process mainly due to logistical challenges. The Heads of Mission encouraged the concerned parties to take the necessary measures to start the identification and voter registration processes as soon as possible.


5.    The Heads of Mission reviewed the economic and security conditions in Liberia, noting the positive trends in consolidating the recovery process including the successful holding of the Liberia’s Partners’ Forum in Berlin from 26 to 27 June 2008. The Heads of Mission, however called for more efforts from the Government and the international community in order to strengthen and reform the rule of law, particularly the police and judicial institutions. Continuing concern was also expressed over the possible spill over of political developments from neighboring countries and in this regard underscored the need for increased inter-mission information sharing and the planning of joint activities, such as border patrols. The Heads of Mission welcomed the 17th Progress Report of the Secretary General on UNMIL and in particular, the recommendations for the second phase of the Mission’s drawdown plans for the police and military component. They emphasized that the gradual and phased drawdown plan will ensure the consolidation of the peace process, and allow the government space and time to pursue its reform agenda. In this context, they stressed the importance of delivering peace and security dividends to the Liberian people, inter alia, by addressing the socio-economic challenges facing Liberia, particularly continuing high levels of youth unemployment, within the context of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.


6.     On the general peace and security situation in the sub-region, the SRSG for West Africa (UNOWA) provided an update on recent activities of the mission, with particular focus on areas of continuing concern. He informed the participants that the Secretary-General’s recent report on UNOWA was well-received by members of the Security Council who had expressed considerable interest in the need for UN entities in the sub-region to work together, and in the importance of convening regular meetings of the heads of UN peace missions in West Africa as a valuable forum for sharing information, resources and advice. He stated that considerable time and attention was given to the situation in the Bakassi peninsula in his capacity as Chairman of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, to ensure that the final handover ceremony that took place on 14 August would be a success. Since the last heads of mission meeting, UNOWA had continued to focus on strengthening its relationship with ECOWAS.


7.    Regarding the situation in Guinea, the SRSG for West Africa noted that, since the joint visit he took to the country with Dr. Chambas in June, political tensions had decreased with an emerging consensus on the need to hold free and fair legislative elections. The Heads of Mission stressed the importance of continuing to work in conjunction with ECOWAS to ensure that stability there could contribute to consolidating peace in the Mano River Union countries. They noted that drug trafficking still posed a serious threat to security in the sub-region by penetrating government institutions. The Heads of Mission believed there was a need to enhance awareness of the problem in the countries affected, including at the leadership level, and they intend to play a role in this regard. The SRSG for West Africa added that considerable attention was given to addressing the political situation in Mauritania, following the recent coup that had been condemned by the international community. UNOWA had been working closely with the African Union towards the restoration of constitutional order in the country. The Heads of Mission noted the importance of quickly addressing the issue to ensure the coup did not have an impact on the sub-region. The SRSG for West Africa informed his colleagues on recent efforts in Mali and Niger towards addressing the security challenges facing the countries in the Sahelian band. As part of its activities in the area of security sector reform and based upon experience seen on the ground, UNOWA intends to convene a sub-regional workshop on the role of defence and security forces in providing security during elections. The Heads of Mission fully supported this initiative to exchange experiences and develop best practices in this area by participating in this workshop.


8.    With regard to Guinea-Bissau, the RSG informed the Heads of Mission about the recent political tensions surrounding the action of the Parliament to pressurize the President of the Republic to extend their mandate until after the legislative elections, and the subsequent challenge to this law lodged by some MPs in the Supreme Court. On 1 August, the Supreme Court issued its decision declaring the “Exceptional Transitional Constitutional Law”, which extended the mandate of Parliament unconstitutional. However on the same day, an attempted coup d’état was uncovered. The coup was foiled by the intervention of the Chief of General Staff. An investigation of the attempted coup d’état is underway. Meanwhile, preparations for legislative elections scheduled for 16 November are on track, and the Government has appealed to the international community for resources to organize the elections. The RSG informed the Heads of Mission that drug trafficking and organized crime remained the most urgent challenge for the national authorities of Guinea-Bissau. This was evidenced in the release of three suspects in a recent case, one of whom had an international arrest warrant against him in connection with cocaine smuggling in Mexico. He concluded that the inter-linkages between drug and crime fighting, rule of law and security sector reform were critical for the work of the United Nations and ECOWAS in the region.


9.    The Heads of Mission paid courtesy calls to President Joao Bernardo Vieira and Prime Minister Carlos Correia, and had the opportunity to hear their views on the challenges and the priorities confronting the country.


10.    The Heads of Mission agreed to hold the XV High-Level Meeting of the Heads of UN Peace Missions in Liberia on 5 and 6 December 2008





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