SI denounces violation of freedom of assembly and other rights in Guinea Bissau
2 February 2018
In the capital of Guinea Bissau, amid deep tensions, the IX Ordinary Congress of the SI member party, PAIGC, which was scheduled to be held in Bissau from 30 January to 4 February, was forcefully impeded from opening by government authorities and police, in a violation of freedom of assembly and other rights, which SI guests to the Congress firmly denounced.
On the 29th of January, the day before the Congress was due to open, the party leadership received a communication from the police authorities that the congress would not be allowed to proceed, an act that led hundreds of militants to occupy the party headquarters on the 30th, where the congress was due to be held. However, in the early hours of 31 January, the police forced their way into the building, expelling close to 300 PAIGC members, detaining a number of them, and occupying the premises in order to prevent the holding of the congress.
A number of international guests had arrived on the eve of the congress, invited to attend by the PAIGC, including the Secretary General of the SI, some of the SI Vice-Presidents from the region, and other party leaders and representatives. PAIGC leader Domingos Simões Pereira, on the morning of the 31st, held a meeting with the international guests, in which he explained the difficulties encountered by the party following the decision by the government to prevent the holding of their ordinary congress, which should have opened the day before. He reiterated the will of the party to hold the announced event. By the perseverance of the party leadership and despite the arbitrary impediments imposed, the congress finally opened on the 31st close to midnight in an outdoor space in the grounds of a hotel in the capital. The congress was then inaugurated in the open air, with speakers addressing the gathering out loud and with a hand-held megaphone. Thus, with the attendance of a large number of party delegates the working sessions of the congress were initiated.
The following morning, the 1st of February, the leader of the PAIGC, along with a number of leaders of different political parties of Guinea Bissau, held a special meeting with the Socialist International representatives and other guests invited to the congress, at which the media was also present. In this meeting, the leaders and representatives of the Guinea Bissau political parties participating closed ranks with the PAIGC. The Secretary General of the Socialist International addressed the gathering denouncing the act by the authorities as an undemocratic attempt to silence the voice of the people and to dismantle crucial rights and freedoms protected by the constitution and the law and fundamental principles of a democratic system, and he conveyed the unequivocal solidarity of the SI with the PAIGC and all the democratic political forces in the country. Other members of the SI Presidium and party leaders and representatives from different political forces also addressed the meeting expressing their rejection of these developments.
Later that day, an official statement was issued by a delegation of ECOWAS, the organisation of West African states, in which it called on the Bissau government to respect previous Accords on the political situation in Guinea Bissau or to face sanctions, and deplored the lack of respect for freedom of assembly. At the same time, it launched an appeal to the authorities of Guinea Bissau to fully comply with the rule of law and to respect human rights, including the right to free assembly, while exhorting the national security and defence forces to maintain a neutral republican position in regard to the country’s political actors.
Following all these developments, the IX Ordinary Congress of the PAIGC resumed close to midnight on the 1st of February at the party headquarters, in line with the sustained efforts of the PAIGC leadership, of their members, the other democratic political actors of the country, and the unanimous support of all the specially invited international guests to the event.
Addendum: Joint statement issued on 3 February 2018 by the African Union and the United Nations on Guinea Bissau
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, express concern over the protracted political crisis in Guinea-Bissau despite the multiple opportunities offered to the main political stakeholders to arrive at a consensual arrangement. They denounce the actions being taken by those who seek to obstruct and prevent a resolution of the crisis.
They condemn the recent actions taken by the national authorities to prevent the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) from convening and holding its Party Congress, including the directive given to national security services to evacuate and shutter the party’s headquarters. They call on all relevant authorities to strictly adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law and to immediately remove all restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, political participation and freedom of speech.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations fully endorse the recent decisions on Guinea-Bissau taken by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the margins of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 27 January, and endorsed by the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on 29 January 2018, and welcome the communiqué issued by the ECOWAS ministerial mission that visited Guinea-Bissau on 31 January and 1 February. They support the measures being taken by ECOWAS against “political obstructionists” in the country. They reiterate their endorsement of the centrality of the Conakry Agreement which, inter alia, provides for the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister, and call on the main political stakeholders to faithfully and urgently implement this Agreement, as well as the ECOWAS Roadmap to which they have all signed up to.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations reaffirm their commitment to continue to closely follow all political developments and to support ECOWAS in its efforts to ensure a swift resolution of the protracted crisis in Guinea-Bissau, and stand ready to employ additional measures, should the situation warrant it.
Declaração conjunta da União Africana e das Nações Unidas sobre a Guiné-Bissau
O presidente da Comissão da União Africana, Moussa Faki Mahamat, e o secretário-geral das Nações Unidas, António Guterres, expressam sua preocupação com a prolongada crise política na Guiné-Bissau, apesar das múltiplas oportunidades oferecidas aos principais interessados políticos para chegar a um arranjo consensual. Os dois líderes criticam as ações que estão a ser tomadas por aqueles que procuram obstruir e evitar uma resolução da crise.
Condenam as recentes medidas tomadas pelas autoridades nacionais para evitar que o Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) reúna e realize o seu Congresso, incluindo a ordem dada aos serviços de segurança nacional para evacuar e fechar a sede do partido. Apelam a todas as autoridades relevantes para que respeitem rigorosamente os direitos internacionais dos direitos humanos e direito humanitário e removam imediatamente todas as restrições ao direito à reunião pacífica, à participação política e à liberdade de expressão.
O Presidente da Comissão da União Africana e o Secretário Geral das Nações Unidas subscrevem plenamente as recentes decisões sobre a Guiné-Bissau tomadas pela Autoridade dos Chefes de Estado e de Governo da Comunidade Económica dos Estados da África Ocidental (CEDEAO) à margem da Cimeira da União Africana em Adis Abeba, Etiópia, em 27 de janeiro, e aprovada pela 30ª Sessão Ordinária da Assembleia de Chefes de Estado e de Governo da União Africana em 29 de janeiro de 2018 e saúda o comunicado emitido pela missão ministerial da CEDEAO que visitou a Guiné-Bissau entre 31 de janeiro e 1 de fevereiro. Eles apoiam as medidas tomadas pela CEDEAO contra "obstrucionistas políticos" no país. Reiteram o seu apoio à centralidade do Acordo de Conacri que, entre outras coisas, prevê a nomeação de um primeiro-ministro consensual e solicita aos principais interessados políticos que implementem de forma fiel e urgente o presente Acordo, bem como o Roteiro da CEDEAO que todos subscreveram.
O Presidente da Comissão da União Africana e o Secretário-Geral das Nações Unidas reafirmam o seu empenho em continuar a acompanhar de perto todos os desenvolvimentos políticos e apoiar a CEDEAO nos seus esforços para assegurar uma rápida resolução da crise prolongada na Guiné-Bissau e Pronto para empregar medidas adicionais, caso a situação o justifique.