Guinea-Bissau: UN will continue to ensure former PM Aristides Gomes’ safety

Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, the UN Secretary-General’s representative in Guinea Bissau, said that the United Nations would continue to guarantee the safety of former Guinean Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, who had been a refugee in the country’s political mission for several months.

“The United Nations has the role of protecting people who feel threatened in their country or in the context in which they live,” Rosine Sori-Coulibaly said in an interview with Lusa on the occasion of the closure of the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea Bissau (Uniogbis) on the 31st.

Aristides Gomes was prime minister of Guinea-Bissau and was under the protection of Ecomib, the intervention force of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which withdrew from the country.

“He felt threatened and asked for the protection of the United Nations. This is our role and not the first time, in fact, that in Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere, we have given protection to those who think there is a risk to their life or their rights,” said Rosine Sorri-Coulibaly.

She also said that giving protection to Aristides Gomes is part of the United Nations mission and “is not a problem”.

“The Uniogbis mission will close, but the United Nations remains. If anyone is under the protection of the United Nations, the United Nations stays and the protection will continue”, she stressed.

“We hope that the problem will be solved in a good way, respecting the law of the country, but also the rights of that person, and within our programme of struggle and protection of human rights we will continue to work”, she said.

Former Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau Aristides Gomes has been a refugee in the Uniogbis mission for several months after being sacked by the current president of the country, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, and after his residence, in Bissau, was surrounded by security forces while under Ecomib protection.

The Attorney General’s Office announced in October that there are two cases in the Public Prosecutor’s Office in which Aristides Gomes appears as a suspect and wants to hear him, having sent notifications to Uniogbis, without having received any reply.

Aristides Gomes is prevented from leaving the country after the Public Prosecutor’s Office imposed a mandatory stay measure on national territory.

Aristides Gomes’ lawyers claim that the Public Prosecutor’s Office has nothing against the former prime minister and accuse the Public Prosecutor’s Office of “political persecution”.

The Uniogbis is holding the mission’s closing ceremony today but several United Nations agencies will continue to work in Guinea-Bissau.