ECOWAS Mission in Guinee-Bissau [ECOMIB]
The United Nations said 12 May 2017 it was ready to take necessary measures to respond to the protracted political and institutional crisis in Guinea Bissau should the situation deteriorate further. “The members of the Security Council reiterated their commitment to continue to monitor the current political crisis and expressed their readiness to take necessary measures to respond to further worsening of the situation in Guinea Bissau,” said a statement issued by the 15-member body.
In the statement, the Council reaffirmed that the Conakry Agreement of 14 October 2016, which was brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is a primary framework for resolving the political crisis. It called upon the Bissau-Guinean stakeholders to comply with the accord and the ECOWAS road-map in addressing their differences and the country’s challenges.
Regarding the planned withdrawal of the regional body’s 500-strong force that has been deployed to the country since the April 2012 coup, the Council urged the international community to give all necessary support to ensure a complete and seamless transition of security architecture to the national defence and security forces.
The Council also expressed concern about the situation of the civilian population in the country, and urged all political actors to put the interest of the people of Guinea Bissau above all other considerations. The Council welcomed the active engagement of the UN Peace-building Commission with relevant stakeholders on the ground as well as with regional organizations to support efforts towards a political solution.
Following the April 2012 coup d’état, MISSANG withdrew from the country. The Angolan government announced on 12 June 2012 in Luanda that it concluded fully the withdrawal of MISSANG forces in the territory of Guinea Bissau. According to a press note from the Angolan government, which reached Angop, the process included a complete withdrawal by sea and air of all military personnel, as well as all military equipment and techniques of Missang. The ECOWAS Mission for Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) deployed 677 troops in May 2012, first to oversee the MISSANG withdrawal and, under an expanded mandate, to support the transition and ongoing security sector reform efforts.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mission in Guinee-Bissau was inaugurated in 2012 with over 600 military and police contingent. It was set up with the aim of stabilizing that country, which was undergoing political turmoil at the time. Initially composed of 800 military personnel from Senegal, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso, ECOMIB now had just over 500 troops in the country. For many Guineans, the withdrawal of ECOMIB showed that ECOWAS patience had come to an end in the face of non-compliance with the Conakry Agreement.
The Committee of Chief of Defense Staff (CCDS) of the ECOWAS Region met in Abuja, Nigeria, on March 23, 2016, to hold an Extra-Ordinary Session on ECOWAS intervention in Guinee-Bissau. Realities on ground necessitated the extension of the mission by the Heads of States of the Region.
ECOMIB included a substantial contingent of Senegalese troops, reviving antipathies from the 1998-1999 conflict and questions about the force’s neutrality. It was also criticized in Guinea-Bissau as ineffective since it is based far from Bissau, engages in few patrols, and human rights abuses by the military have continued. The ECOWAS mission must also guard against West African troops being drawn into narcotics trafficking themselves.
Despite the adoption by the United Nations Security Council on February 18, 2015, resolution S / RES / 2203 (2015) acknowledging the important role played by ECOMIB in the stabilization of Guinea Bissau and encouraging the international community to provide support, ECOMIB remained exclusively funded by ECOWAS. The Commission and the member states continued to work towards successful conclusion of the mission in Guinee-Bissau, despite the very difficult situation. The troop contributing countries of ECOMIB were Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, and Burkina Faso as well as the Police contingent from Nigeria.
The process of withdrawal of the ECOWAS peacekeeping force should have started 28 April 2017, but it did not happen for lack of guidelines. A ministerial mission of ECOWAS was in Bissau by 25 April 2017 and reiterated to the Guinean authorities the intention of the Ecomib force to begin the withdrawal process from 28 April. The process should be completed by 30 June 2017.
In the local press, several observers had been concerned about a possible increase in violence in the country and fear, even a new coup d'état. But the former head of the Armed Forces, Afonso Té, says that he trusts the Guinean military. "I think there will be no coup d'état," said Afonso Té. "The armed forces have already demonstrated their equidistance of political quarrels.
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