Thank you so much, Madam President. I, too, would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Zerihoun as well as Ambassador Vieira for their briefings today. And although Executive Director Fedotov has left us, we do want to express appreciated for the renewed vigor that he has to counter narcotics trafficking and transnational organized crime in Guinea Bissau. I also join others in welcoming the new SRSG Filho as he acquaints himself with his new portfolio. We very much look forward to working with him, and we want to express appreciation for his predecessor, SRSG Modibo Touré, for his service and passion to bring about positive change in the lives of the people of Guinea-Bissau.
Madam President, the United States is encouraged by the consensus appointment and swearing-in of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes as well as President Vaz’s renewed commitment to implement the Conakry Agreement. While we are hopeful these latest political developments signal a positive turn for Guinea-Bissau, past experience reminds us to remain cautious. Vigilance is still needed from all stakeholders to ensure fulfillment of the commitments made by Bissau-Guinean leadership. The people of Guinea-Bissau deserve as much, and this Council demands as much.
We urge President Vaz, Prime Minister Gomes, PAIGC leader Pereira, and others to follow through on fostering unity, implementing the Conakry Agreement and preparing the nation for long-overdue parliamentary elections this November.
Following the swift installation of an inclusive government, we call on its members to focus on creating a program of work, achieving service delivery to show they are serious about serving the people who put them in power. In all these endeavors, we encourage the inclusion of civil society and women’s groups. We applaud the influential engagement of the Women’s Forum for Peace and the National Women’s Council, and look forward to the National Forum of Women and Girls for Peace scheduled in Bissau for later this month.
As Guinea-Bissau finally sets out toward newly scheduled November legislative elections, we look forward to a free, fair, and transparent poll. We encourage all Guinea-Bissau’s partners in the region and the international community to find ways to support the government’s efforts to prepare for and execute the elections, including through financial support.
Madam President, narcotics trafficking and transnational organized crime destroy lives at all ends of the geographic spectrum. We genuinely appreciate the work that UNODC has done in Guinea-Bissau, work that we perceive has had a positive impact reducing drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. Establishment of the Transnational Crime Unit in Bissau, under the aegis of the West Africa Coast Initiative, served as a powerful tool integrating efforts across the region to combat trafficking.
We were glad to learn that the 20 suspended members of the unit were reinstated and heartened by the recent string of drug seizures at Bissau airport in April. We hope to see more such concrete results, with full investigations and accountability supported by the government and the security services, no matter where the trail leads.
However, in order to continue to see impact, we wish to see the return of UNODC staff to Bissau. We will work with our Council colleagues, the secretariat, and UNODC to find a way to make that happen.
We once again salute ECOWAS’ activism, including its February imposition of sanctions on spoilers of the Conakry Agreement, and all its forward leaning-efforts to foster enduring solutions to Guinea-Bissau’s crisis and implementation of the remaining provisions of the Conakry Agreement.
Madam President, as I stated in February, we believe the resolution we adopted to renew UNIOGBIS will bring real improvement to the mission, allowing it to focus on delivering an end to the stalemate. Only two months later, we have seen concrete political progress, and we expect to see a mission focused on political solutions and employing its good offices working in concert with ECOWAS. We appreciate continued implementation of Resolution 2404, as it was adopted, in determining the mission’s mandated tasks, size, and budget.
We are also encouraged by the positive events of the last month, but acknowledge Guinea-Bissau has a long road left to travel. Bissau-Guineans will encounter many challenges on that road, but obstructionist, intransigent, and selfish leaders should not be one of them. Leaders have now shown willingness to take some steps in seemingly good faith. We will anxiously track their progress in the weeks and months to come as they implement the Conakry Agreement, foster unity, deliver services to Bissau-Guineans, fight corruption and transnational organized crime, and prepare the nation for elections in November.
Thanks very much, Madam President.