Interaction among local representatives

Being posted in the same conflict situation - as has been the case in Guinea-Bissau, but, for example, also in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Mali - special representatives of ECOWAS and the AU necessarily have to engage with representatives of other organizations (or states) ‘on the ground’.14 On the one hand, this has happened occasionally and in changing constellations, for example, involving representatives of only two organizations, several of them, or including state representatives. On the other hand, in some cases, the main intervening actors have created local consultation frameworks or practices. A case in point are ‘local ICGs’, that is, smaller, less formal constellations of actors represented in ICGs more generally (see above). To date, such coordination frameworks in general and local ones specifically have received very little scholarly attention. An exception has been the work of Witt (2013), studying the workings of the ICGs on Guinea and Madagascar.

In the example of Guinea-Bissau, occasional interactions have been the standard until 2012 (despite recurring calls for a ‘local ICG’). More regular consultation, in particular among the five main organizational actors intervening in Guinea-Bissau - the P5 of Guinea-Bissau - has been established following the coup d’état of 12 April 2012, to resolve tensions that could not be resolved during previous meetings outside the conflict site (see above), and to coordinate and harmonize approaches and positions.

Driven by the UN Secretary General (UNSG), the P5 framework emerged in late 2013. Throughout 2012 and 2013, the UNSG had repeatedly called upon international stakeholders to increase their coordination and cooperation in Guinea-Bissau. The P5 of Guinea-Bissau, subsequently, developed less as a formal structure (except for a document stating the five organizations’ intention to cooperate), instead rather constituting a joint practice.15 The AU SRCC, Pequeno, became coordinator of the framework. Seniority played a role in this decision, as did a preference by UN actors for the AU to take the lead.16 In addition, the UN SRSG continued to be important, bringing the different actors together and coordinating the international community more generally. Its exact role, however, has depended a lot on the personality occupying the position (see also below). For example, José Ramos-Horta (formerly President of Timor-Leste and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) was instrumental in closing gaps between actors and positions between February 2013 and May 2014.

Overall, the P5 framework helped to successfully improve relations among its members, narrowing down differences despite some remaining tensions, establishing direct channels of communication and regular interaction.17 It has enabled them to jointly monitor, evaluate and respond to developing situations, exerting pressure on political actors in Bissau.18 In this way, while not an ECOWAS initiative in the first place, it was through this engagement of P5 representatives in Bissau (as well as the joint assessment missions; see above) that ECOWAS actors managed to overcome some of the opposition from actors at the CPLP and the EU. Gradually, these aligned with the approach of the West African organization, for pragmatic reasons, requiring the actors ‘on the ground’ to develop more cooperative relations. AU and UN actors played a supporting role in this, although stopping short of giving in to all ECOWAS requests (see Chapters 1 and 3).

Nevertheless, from late 2013, with increasing cooperation among the P5 members ‘on the ground’, the group managed to work together, above everything else focusing on the transition process, to return Guinea-Bissau to ‘constitutional order’. Especially ahead of the elections in early 2014, representatives of the P5 organizations interacted in Bissau almost on a daily basis.19 They held joint meetings, undertook joint missions out of Bissau (e.g., to Côte d’Ivoire and Abuja) and issued joint statements. The representatives of the P5 in Bissau also prepared the ground and provided infrastructure and logistics for coordination among the various election observations missions (see Chapter 4). At the technical level, this included joint briefings and meetings on organizational issues. At the political level, the mission heads Sawyer and Chissano (for ECOWAS and the AU respectively) as well as then-UN SRSG Ramos-Horta met several times to share information and discuss how to jointly approach stakeholders, issuing joint press releases, occasionally also including the EU (e.g., cf. UNIOGB1S 2013, 2014d, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c; ECOWAS Commission 2014b, 2014a; AU PSC 2014, 37-8; AU Commission 2014).

After the successful elections in 2014, the P5 of Guinea-Bissau shifted their attention towards tackling structural reforms.20 However, they quickly had to abandon any ambition in that direction when in August 2015 President Vaz dismissed Prime Minister Pereira, thereby triggering another crisis, and a political deadlock that persisted for two and a half years (see Chapter 1). During that time, interactions among the P5 of Guinea-Bissau were less frequent, also due to a less active role played by then-UN SRSG Miguel Trovoada (formerly President of Sao Tomé and Príncipe), appointed in July 2014. This changed again slightly when Modibo Touré took office in May 2016 (formerly Malian Minister of New Technologies, Telecommunications and Post Office, and Deputy SRSG in the Central African Republic).21 Nevertheless, due to the frequent turnover, UN SRSGs have lacked the long-term engagement and familiarity with realities ‘on the ground’ - contrary, for example, to AU SRCC Pequeño, who has been in the country since 2012. The P5 of Guinea-Bissau again developed a more coherent and coordinated response in the second half of 2016, supporting ECOWAS mediation initiatives vocally and materially. These resulted in the Bissau Roadmap (of September 2016) and the Conakry Agreement (of October 2016).22 At least publicly, the P5 organizations all pushed towards the adherence to and implementation of the Bissau Roadmap and the Conakry Agreement. Behind the scenes, however, interpretations and assessments differed and political actors in Bissau continuously sought to play on these differences between and within organizations, although in the end with limited success.23

Therefore, despite considerable improvement and arguably some success, interaction and cooperation among the members of the P5 of Guinea-Bissau continues to be beset by more or less visible tensions. For example, the EU delegation in Guinea-Bissau (including many Portuguese nationals) still tends to align more with the CPLP (especially the Portuguese position therein). However, since late 2016, the CPLP no longer has a special representative ‘on the ground’, instead being represented by the ambassadors of Portugal, Brazil and Angola in Bissau.24 Tensions have also persisted between representatives of ECOWAS and the AU, as well as among different ECOWAS heads of state engaging ‘on the ground’ with conflict in Bissau (e.g., Presidents Sall versus Conde, of Senegal and Guinea respectively; see also Chapter 4).25 Nevertheless, despite all these dynamics, in early 2018, pressure of the P5 organizations, led by ECOWAS sanctions and continuous high-level engagement, resulted in President Vaz appointing Aristides Gomes as an actual consensus Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, and the successful holding of parliamentary elections in March 2019 (see Chapter 1).

From the perspective of local observers, the engagement of the P5 of Guinea-Bissau has been important and to some extent successful (e.g., keeping down tensions). However, some have complained that on the one hand the P5 organizations, coming with their own approaches, did not fully understand Bissau-Guinean historical specificities. On the other hand, on occasion, they would have liked the P5 organizations to have taken stronger positions. Failing to do so, some local actors see them as co-responsible for the current situation.26

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