The United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) is to close its mission in Bissau on 31 December, 21 years after the first such office was first created, amid signs that the country is set to enter a new political crisis.
Set up following the political-military conflict that stretched through 1998 and 1999, claiming thousands of lives, the UN mission began as the UN Peace-building Support Office in Guinea Bissau (UNOGBIS), beginning its work in the country in June 1999.
The aim was to help restore peace to the country and a return to constitutional order with the holding of elections.
That objective was achieved, but a coup d’état in September 2003 removed the then president-elect, Kumba Ialá.
Since then, a succession of coups, political and military assassinations, and the spread of drug trafficking have plagued Guinea-Bissau, maintaining the instability in the country, without the UN being able to respond effectively, with the result that there was another military coup in 2012.
Prior to that, in 2009, the UN decided that the political mission should be more comprehensive and renamed the UN Integrated Office for Peacebuilding in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBOS).
With a coup in 2012, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on a number of military personnel that remain in place today, and agreed to a request form the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to allow it to lead a mediation effort, which also included the deployment of a military force to ensure the security of state institutions and their representatives.
Elections were again held in the country in 2014, but in 2015 Guinea-Bissau began a new cycle of instability and political crises of more or less seriousness, with successive governments and prime ministers taking office, though without the violence of the past.
José Mário Vaz, who was elected president in 2014, became the first in Guinea-Bissau’s history to complete his full term.
The hope was then that the most recent elections held in the country, the legislative and presidential elections that took place last year, would end the cycle of instability, but this did not happen.
Guinea-Bissau began this year with a moment of great political tension, with the candidate who was declared by the National Elections Commission to have been defeated in the second round of the presidential elections contesting the official results and lodging an appeal against them.
The current president, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, eventually took office unilaterally after the commission confirmed his victory; he then dismissed the government that had emerged after the last legislative elections, which were won by the PAIGC party.
The prime minister he dismissed, Aristides Gomes, remains in refuge at the UNIOGBOS headquarters in Bissau, his future uncertain.
The country appears unable to shake off its recurring political crises, with the president of the National Electoral Commission recently announcing to journaists after a meeting with the president that parliament may being dissolved and snap elections called.