- Guinea-Bissau seems to be on a good road towards political stability, which could assist the development of the impoverished nation, a new report says. However, the socio-economic situation in the country is still disastrous due to lack of international support, which again could trigger political setbacks. A possible upcoming aid package given to stop emigration however raises hopes in Bissau.
Guinea-Bissau has made some progress towards political reconciliation, but the West African country remains so poor and enduring tensions are still strong enough that the risk of a major setback is ever-present, less than a decade after the end of a bitter civil war, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report issued yesterday.
"A strong commitment to improve the political climate continued to emerge" during the past three months, Mr Annan said in his latest report to the UN Security Council on the work of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau, known as UNOGBIS.
He cited progress in the national dialogue process, the efforts of Guinea-Bissau's two major political parties to heal serious internal divisions and advances in reconciliation efforts within the defence and security forces.
But Mr Annan's report pointed out that the socio-economic situation is dire, with a sharp drop in revenue from the staple cashew nut crop, a poor rice harvest this season and the problem of salary arrears in the public sector combining to exacerbate social tensions. Salary arrears earlier had been the pretext of public unrest, leading to political turmoil in the impoverished country.
While the government of Guinea-Bissau has been able to create political stability and adopt economic reform programmes prescribed by the IMF, the much awaited international donor support and foreign investments nevertheless have failed to materialise in the hoped manner. In his report Mr Annan therefore also called on the international community to give generously during a donors' round table for Guinea-Bissau in Geneva in early November.
These pleads have however been made numerous times by the UN, without the expected results. Guinea-Bissau has few international allies since most donors pulled out during the civil war. Also, and despite a favourable investment climate, investors' confidence has not been restored as the potential of new political crises is always looming.
Bissau authorities nevertheless hope that the next few months may become a turning point, beginning with the upcoming donors' conference. As irregular West African migrants find it more difficult to disembark from Senegal, Guinea-Bissau has now become a starting point. The Spanish government and the European Union immediately reacted to the pleads for help from Bissau to stop this trend, which could result in generous development packages, as earlier given to Mauritania, Senegal and Mali.
Meanwhile, however, the UN and the Bissau government hold that the situation in Guinea-Bissau is so unstable that the "international community must continue to support Guinea-Bissau's efforts to achieve political stability." Mr Annan therefore said he planned to revise UNOGBIS' mandate slightly and extend its operation until the end of next year. UNOGBIS was created in 1999.
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