Special Representative Joseph Mutaboba. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The United Nations envoy for Guinea-Bissau today stressed the need for strong international engagement to help the country complete the current political transition and move ahead on priorities such as reforming the security sector and tackling drug trafficking and organized crime.

In a briefing to the Security Council, the Secretary-General?s Special Representative, Joseph Mutaboba, noted the ?challenging? political and security environment related to the country?s current political transition process, aimed at restoring full constitutional order.

?The death of President Sanh?, who was a moderating force with considerable influence on the country?s fractious political and military actors, has been a blow to peacebuilding plans and programmes in Guinea-Bissau,? Mr. Mutaboba said.

The West African nation is undergoing a political transition as a result of the death of President Malam Bacai Sanh? in January, which prompted early elections ? the first round of which were held on 18 March. A run-off is now scheduled for 22 April between former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and ex-president Kumba Yala.

The envoy, who is the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), added that the early presidential election has been an ?unanticipated severe disruption? given that planning for 2012 had focused on the legislative elections slated for later this year.

?The immediate impact of the early elections should not be underestimated,? he said. ?The Government has been severely constrained since January: firstly, because the powers of the Interim President are constitutionally circumscribed; and secondly, the candidacy of the Prime Minister and involvement of other office holders in the campaign have further significantly affected government business.?

The envoy added that a case in point is the situation with the 2012 budget which cannot be signed until there is an elected President.

A major priority in Guinea-Bissau, said Mr. Mutaboba, continues to be security sector reform, ?the cornerstone reform without which democracy and stability cannot be consolidated.?

Speaking at the same Council meeting, the Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, stressed the need to not lose sight of this priority area amid the election process, noting that an important issue in this regard is the special pension fund for members of the defence and security institutions.

?The launch of the pension fund for the armed forces and security forces remains one of the highest priorities for peace consolidation and stability in the country,? she said. ?It is very important that the new government, once installed, pursue the launch and implementation of the Fund as a matter of priority.?

Sustained efforts also need to be geared, she added, towards other peacebuilding priorities, such as strengthening the justice sector, consolidating the rule of law, fighting drug trafficking, and creating opportunities for youth employment.

UNIOGBIS was established by the Council in 2009 and tasked with promoting stability in the country, which has been beset by coups and political instability since it became independent in the early 1970s. Its current mandate runs until the end of February 2013.

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