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Guinea-Bissau: international engagement key for peace, says top UN envoy

March 2008 – Welcoming last night’s announcement by Guinea-Bissau’s President of the date of upcoming legislative elections, the top United Nations to the West African nation today said that the international community must remain engaged for peace to be consolidated.

“Change management is a long and delicate process in which expectations must be managed,” Shola Omoregie, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told an open meeting of the Security Council today.

“A failure to manage these expectations would result in disillusionment that might ultimately jeopardize the long-term commitment necessary for implementing these reforms.”

He warned that despite the rise in donor activity, the Government’s poverty reduction and security sector reform strategies remain “massively under-funded.”

The Special Representative – who also heads the UN Peacebuilding Support in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) – noted that last night, President Joao Vieira, “who had been ambivalent” on the date of the next legislative elections, set the date for 16 November.

“This announcement on the eve of this meeting of the Security Council will no doubt significantly reduce the tensions which have been building up in the country in the past few days,” he added.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in his most recent report to the Council on the country that the upcoming elections “will be a major benchmark for the state of democratic governance” and called on authorities to fix a poll date to boost confidence in the electoral process’ credibility.

In his address to the Council today, Mr. Omoregie underscored the importance of Guinea-Bissau’s partners providing resources for the November polls and to “prevent the national stakeholders from using the lack of funds as a pretext not to move forward.”

He called also for improved coordination for all sectors receiving overseas development assistance, particularly in the realm of security sector reform.

Additionally, the Special Representative stressed that Guinea-Bissau – which is rebuilding after a brutal civil war in which thousands were killed, wounded or forced from their homes – is concerned with the rising threat of terrorism. Following the arrest of two Mauritanian nationals in January in connection of the murder of four French tourists and ensuing threats of reprisals against Guinea-Bissau, authorities have asked for global assistance to enhance the country’s border controls.

“Sub-regional cooperation should be encouraged and supported in addressing the threats of terrorism, especially in a region with porous borders,” Mr. Omoregie noted.

After the Security Council backed a request from the Government, last December Guinea-Bissau joined Sierra Leona and Burundi to become the third country on the country-specific workload of the Peacebuilding Commission, which seeks to prevent countries emerging from war from sliding backwards.



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