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UN Sees Encouraging Developments in Guinea-Bissau

A senior United Nations official says there have been encouraging developments in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau. But he adds that there is a lot yet to be done by the country’s leaders to consolidate the gains. The U.N. Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, says the encouraging developments include the reform of Guinea-Bissau’s security sector and regional efforts to stabilize state institutions in the country. In remarks to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, he pointed to signs of improvement in the the political dialogue among the country's leaders. But he said it is uncertain if the country’s president, prime minister and other leaders are able to address critical issues, such as handling the country’s military leadership.

Mutaboba said drug trafficking continues to pose a major challenge to Guinea-Bissau’s stability. The impoverished nation on Africa's west coast is seen as a major trans-shipment point for drugs destined for Europe. Mutaboba urged Guinea-Bissau’s leaders to demonstrate a firmer commitment to mobilizing national resources to address what he called “this scourge.”

“The context in Guinea-Bissau is mixed: on the one hand, the political and security situation is improving. But on the other hand, the economic reforms are yet to be sustained by other key reforms, notably in the defense and justice sector,” Mutaboba said.

Addressing the Security Council on behalf of Guinea-Bissau, the country’s defense minister, Aristides Ocante da Silva, acknowledged that there may be skeptics about his country’s progress.

“But we would like to invite the skeptics to share our relative optimism. We have the deep sentiment that our country is now recovering peace and stability for the long term, decreasing crime, better respecting human rights. Today there are no political prisoners and there is no arbitrary detention," Ocante da Silva said.

After the public discussion, the 15-member Security Council met privately and then released a statement noting the progress made by Guinea-Bissau’s government toward the maintenance of stability and important steps it has taken in achieving economic reform.

The statement, read by council president Nelson Messone of Gabon, calls for enhanced civilian control over Guinea-Bissau’s military and the prosecution of those responsible for criminal acts, such as political assassinations and drug trafficking.

“The members of the Security Council remain concerned at the persistence of trans-national organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking, which threatens peace and security in Guinea-Bissau and in the sub-region," Messone said.

The Security Council says there is also a need to tackle the problem of illicit drug trafficking in the countries of origin, transit and final destination.