Support for Guinea-Bissau’s elections, fight against impunity vital – UN envoy

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The United Nations envoy to Guinea-Bissau is urging continued support for national reconciliation and the fight against impunity in the West African country, which is gearing up for elections following last month’s double assassinations of the President and of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.
The UN News Centre reminds President João Bernardo Vieira and General Batista Tagme Na Waie were killed in early March, and the country is now being led by Interim President Raimundo Pereira.
The Commission of Inquiry into the attacks began its work on 12 March. A parallel inquiry has been set up by the military to investigate General Tagme`s assassination.
“A sound commission of inquiry is essential to end the cycles of violence and impunity in the country,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon`s Special Representative Joseph Mutaboba told the Security Council, as he briefed the 15-member body on the latest developments.
He noted that the Prosecutor General has expressed concerns about the lack of security for members and witnesses against threats and intimidation, and over the lack of cooperation from the military with regard to information exchange on the military inquiry.
In addition, the military commission detained a number of military and civilians. According to the Guinea-Bissau League of Human Rights, some of the detainees show signs of physical mistreatment, the Special Representative reported.
Describing the security environment in the country as “volatile,” Mr. Mutaboba called on the Council to send a signal to the Government and the Security Forces that they are responsible for protecting and upholding the human rights of the people of Guinea-Bissau.
Ban, in his recent report on Guinea-Bissau, reiterated his call for a “credible and transparent process of investigation” into the incidents, and urged the country to maintain the rule of law while simultaneously protecting the rights of defendants and ensuring that they receive a fair hearing.
Regarding the elections that are now scheduled for 28 June, Mutaboba noted that many people question the appropriateness of elections so soon after major violence and before the socio-political and military environment has had time to settle.
“We support elections as part of the democratic process and respect for the Constitution, but we must take on board those perceptions and be aware that there is a growing disconnect between the population and the democratic process, which in the eyes of many, treats the population as electoral fodder and gives them nothing in return.
“It is important therefore that the population must see some quick improvements in their lives if democracy is to mean anything to them,” he stated.
The Special Representative said that the Government was forced by the events of early March to focus its energies on managing the political and military crisis. At the same time, it is also grappling with a precarious fiscal situation and faces enormous difficulties in clearing salary arrears and tackling the social issues that it promised to resolve.
“There is an urgent need to focus on the basic needs of the military and the population in general,” he stated, highlighting in particular the need for security sector reform, as well as tackling the challenges of organized crime and drug trafficking.