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LACK OF REFORMS COULD UNDERMINE PROGRESS IN GUINEA-BISSAU, WARNS BAN

By UN

The progress made by Guinea-Bissau following last year's political crisis could be jeopardized unless major reforms in the areas of defence and security are carried out, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.

Recent months have witnessed rising political and security tensions in the country, where a series of political assassinations last year had threatened security and stability but where order was restored with the election of Malam Bacai Sanhá in the June 2009 presidential election.

However, as Mr. Ban notes in his latest report on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country, known as UNIOGBIS, the brief detention of the Prime Minister and of the Chief of General Staff and other senior military officers by some members of the armed forces on 1 April constituted “a major setback” to the process of consolidating stability and implementing key reforms.

In addition, the violation of the UN premises on 1 April by elements of the armed forces is “unacceptable and condemnable,” says the Secretary-General, who urges the national authorities to comply with their obligation to protect UN installations, personnel and assets.

“The important progress made by the Government and people of Guinea-Bissau towards strengthening democratic institutions and implementing major reforms, which had generated positive momentum with and among international partners, could rapidly be compromised unless drastic changes are made by key national stakeholders to advance crucial reforms, including the reform of the defence and security sectors, and to stabilize the country,” he states.

Mr. Ban adds that the President, the Prime Minister and other key national stakeholders would need to take concrete actions to preserve the gains made so far and to consolidate the State-building process in the country.

It is crucial, he writes, that the country's civilian and military authorities agree on a rapid and acceptable solution to the sensitive issue of the military leadership in Guinea-Bissau. “I call on the armed forces to demonstrate their resolve to remain subordinate to the civilian leadership, who enjoy legitimacy as a result of fair and transparent elections.”

He stresses that continued dialogue and functional relationships among all State institutions are fundamental and would help to avoid future situations similar to the events of 1 April. Full respect for the separation of powers would also ensure the proper functioning of State institutions.

Dialogue should also be aimed at seeking broad national consensus on other major issues, including security sector reform, and should pave the way for the convening of the national conference planned for 2011, says the Secretary-General.

Guinea-Bissau is one of four countries currently on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission – along with Burundi, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic (CAR) – which was established in 2005 to help countries emerging from conflict make an irreversible transition from war to sustainable peace.

Mr. Ban points out that security sector reform is of utmost importance, noting that without it, efforts to launch resource mobilization initiatives, such as the planned high-level event of the

Peacebuilding Commission on security sector reform and the donor round-table conference for development assistance, would be severely undermined.

He also highlights the growing influence of transnational crime, including drug trafficking, in some sections of the military and the State apparatus, and in the economy, which threatens to further compromise the fragility of the State.

“Security sector reform is a sine qua non condition for stabilization,” Mr. Ban stresses. “However, unless strong action is taken against organized crime and drug trafficking, efforts to restructure the defence sector will be undermined.

“The scourge of drug trafficking, which affects the entire subregion, would need to be addressed by national, bilateral and multilateral partners through well-coordinated and more robust strategies and initiatives,” he adds. Accra / Ghana/ Africa / Modernghana.com