Guinea-Bissau is the third country to be placed on the PBC's agenda, following Sierra Leone and Burundi. The underlying cause of the conflict in the small West African nation is largely political. After the country gained independence from Portuguese colonial rule, the country saw a series of coups d'état and military upheavals. Although some liberalization measures and economic progress were achieved since the country's first free elections in 1994, Nino Vieira's regime gradually gave way to authoritarianism which fostered discontent among the opposition parties and the military. Delayed salary arrears and the government's inability to deliver basic public services contributed to the breakout of conflict, resulting in a violent military uprising and the subsequent civil war of 1998. Vieira returned to power in the elections of 2005.
Political uncertainty has continued and broad consensus-building remains a challenge. The country was plunged once again into a political crisis in early March 2009, when President Vieira and the General Army Chief of Staff were assassinated, leaving behind a political vacuum. Since the double assassination, the peacebuilding process in Guinea-Bissau has been beset by a new wave of political assassinations.
The new administration of President José Mario Vaz is starting to re-engage with the PBC to pick up efforts on peacebuilding. But the situation in Guinea-Bissau remains fragile due to persisting socioeconomic difficulties, budgetary problems and threats linked to drug trafficking, organized crime, and lack of government capacity amidst a political crisis. Substantial support from the international community has been crucial to ensure economic gains in the country, but the government's inability to pay salary arrears and deliver basic services to the public persists. There is still a strong need for increased support for security sector reform, sustained national, regional and international efforts to combat drug trafficking and organized crime, and infrastructure development, which have been set back by the weak fiscal basis of the government and rising global fuel and food prices.
The PBC at Work
The UN first began its engagement in December 1998, when the Security Council passed Resolution 1216, requesting the Secretary-General to make recommendations on a possible role of the UN in the Guinea-Bissau peace process.
In April 1999, the Council decided to establish the current UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS). UNOGBIS has played a crucial role in accompanying peacebuilding efforts, facilitating the transition to civilian rule following the military coup in 2003 and assisting preparations for the 2005 elections. UNOGBIS is mandated to promote national reconciliation, respect for human rights and the rule of law; support national capacity for conflict prevention; and to encourage security sector reform and support efforts to crack down on arms trafficking.
The Security Council has periodically been briefed on the country's situation by Shola Omoregie, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOGBIS, and Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), among others. In his report to the Council, Mr. Costa expressed concern about the high level of cocaine that is transported through Guinea-Bissau. The value of this illicit drug is greater than the GDP of the country. UNODC has explained that the local police and authorities were overwhelmed by the volume of drug trafficking, reinforced by an alliance between powerful local figures and international criminal organizations.
Following consultations, the Security Council referred the country in December 2007 to be considered by the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). On 19 December, Guinea-Bissau became the third country to be placed on the PBC's agenda, following Burundi and Sierra Leone.
Amb. Antonion de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil was selected as Chair of the country-specific configuration and guides the process of engagement between the government of Guinea-Bissau, the UN system and other key stakeholders. Since then, the Chair has conducted an exploratory mission to Guinea-Bissau, the country-specific configuration has discussed a mapping of resources and gaps for peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau, and a high-level delegation of the government has made a presentation on the country's priorities for peacebuilding.
Following close consultations with government authorities and development partners, the PBC adopted the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau on 1 October 2008. Developed over a period of 10 months, the document outlines ways to strengthen law enforcement, reform the security sector, stimulate the economy and modernize public administration in Guinea-Bissau.
The dismissal of Prime Minister Correira and his cabinet by President José Mario Vaz on May 12th 2016 both highlighted and worsened ongoing political stress. Since then, no stable government has been established and unrest continues both in the executive and legislative branches of government. Such instability has many worried the military take it upon itself to intervene, as it has had the habit of doing in Bissean history.