In accordance with the Constitution, following the death of President Malam Bacai Sanhá, an interim government and electoral process were established within 90 days. On 12 April 2012 (a day before the second round of the Presidential election) the army arrested the interim President and the Prime Minister (also a Presidential candidate,) and occupied the offices of the incumbent party. The New York Times called this a “cocaine coup,” referring to the close ties between the Bissau-Guinean army and the drug cartels dominating the country’s economy. On 18 May 2012, the UNSC imposed sanctions in the form of a travel ban on five members of the military command, who took responsibility for the coup (UNSCR 2048). Six additional individuals were listed on 18 June 2012.
In January 2013, José Ramos Horta was appointed SRSG and played a pivotal role in the transition process and in strengthening UN peacebuilding activities in the country. In May 2013, the Security Council extended and expanded the mandate of UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS). The Secretary-General had recommended the imposition of further sanctions and the establishment of a Panel of Experts targeting drug traffickers and organized crime, but the Council did not take the idea forward.
A transitional government was established and elections were planned for November 2013, but were delayed several times until they took place successfully in April 2014, with a presidential run-off in May. Ramos Horta completed his tenure as SRSG following the elections in June, and Miguel Trovoada took over the role in July 2014. With the election, Guinea-Bissau normalized its relationships with the African Union and aid from the European Union was resumed. In the months that followed, with ECOWAS presence on the ground remaining in place (ECOMIB), the situation in Guinea-Bissau progressed overall and peacebuilding activities were carried out under the auspices of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and the SRSG.
While the military did not interfere in the 2014 elections, a power struggle emerged between the elected President José Mario Vaz and Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira, who disagreed about the power distribution in the Bissau Guinean semi-presidential constitutional system. On 13 August 2015, José Mario Vaz dissolved the government of Simões Pereira, intensifying the rift between himself and the ruling PAIGC party, a source of political instability in the years that followed. The immediate reappointment of Simões Pereira as Prime Minister by his party was rejected by Vaz, who then unilaterally appointed Baciro Djá to the position – a decision later cancelled by the Supreme Court. On 17 September 2015, following intense diplomatic activity from ECOWAS and states in the region, Carlos Correia was appointed and sworn into office as Prime Minister. Correia successfully formed a government, but Vaz dismissed it in May 2016 – the fourth cabinet to be dissolved since the elections in May 2014.
This situation has weakened state institutions, caused a delay in the implementation of reforms agreed upon since the 2014 presidential elections and significantly harmed the provision of public services. Due to the political situation, international donors have been reluctant to honor pledges made in the March 2015 roundtable, a significant fact given that 80% of the country’s regular budget depends on external financial support. In 2016, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Union and the IMF suspended financial support to the country to encourage progress in political negotiations.
In spite of the profound political instability (which reduced the momentum for military demobilization), the security situation remained stable largely due to the presence of ECOMIB in the country. While the army has not intervened in the country’s politics, questions began to reemerge about how long this will last given the endemic political instability.
In September 2016, ECOWAS negotiated an agreement to end the political crisis. The Conakry Accord focused on the appointment of a consensual Prime Minister and government, and the promotion of an inclusive national dialogue towards constitutional reform. In November 2016, Prime Minister Djá (who had been unable to pass a program of work and national budget) was dismissed and Umaro Sissoco Embalo was appointed instead. Mr Embalo, however, had not been a consensual candidate – a key condition established in the Conakry agreement – leading to numerous protests, as well as the continuation of the political crisis.
This violation of the Conakry Agreement provoked a strong reaction from ECOWAS. Following a new round of talks in April 2017, ECOWAS threatened sanctions on those who would impede progress of the Conakry agreement, and reiterated their plans to withdraw ECOMIB, a move deplored by national civil and political leaders who feared the consequences to the country’s political situation. The Security Council issued a Presidential statement in September 2017 communicating the Council’s readiness, following ECOWAS, to consider additional measures in support of the political process.
In February 2018, ECOWAS imposed targeted sanctions on 19 individuals close to President Vaz, including political associates and his son. The sanctions triggered a new round of mediation in which President Vaz agreed to appoint Aristides Gomes as Prime Minister and set 18 November 2018 as the date for new legislative elections. ECOMIB’s mandate was renewed for an additional 3 months to support the process. The legislative elections were ultimately held on 10 March 2019, but President Vaz refused to appoint the cabinet selected by Gomes, who remained Prime Minister with the support of ECOWAS.
A Presidential election was finally held on 24 November 2019, but the political situation remained unstable as the profound political crisis continued. In that vote, President Vaz received only 12% of the vote and Sissoco Embaló (a former Prime Minister) was announced the winner following a runoff with Simoes Pereira. This result was disputed and, as the votes were being recounted, both the UN and the National Assembly refrained from recognizing his victory. The standoff resulted in the National Assembly attempting to install an interim president, while Sissoco Embaló was sworn in at his own initiative at a hotel in Bissau on 27 February 2020, bypassing the Supreme Court as well as the National Assembly. The event was attended by his political allies, former President Vaz, and senior members of the military (including retired general Antonio Indjai, a sanctioned individual). The military also surrounded key government buildings (including the Supreme Court of Justice) in support of Embaló.
In the following months, Embaló succeeded in consolidating his power as President and obtained recognition from ECOWAS and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), in which they were supported by other international partners such as the EU and UN. Domestically, however, the political situation continued to deteriorate as the divergence between the National Assembly and the Presidency remained, and the country was heavily affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in violence following the government transition.
UN sanctions have remained in place to constrain potential spoilers of the political process and the Conakry Agreement, especially in the military. However, the list of individuals designated has not been updated to reflect the current state of the crisis, and does not include the political leaders bearing the most responsibility for instability in the country.
Coerce the “Military Command” to “restore and respect constitutional order, including a democratic electoral process” and establish “the primacy of civilian power."
Constrain individuals seeking to prevent the restoration of constitutional order or acting in support of these objectives.
Signal norms about the maintenance of constitutional order and the authority of regional organizations and UN bodies to resolve the matter.
Travel ban against individuals preventing the restoration of the constitutional order, undermining stability and rule of law, curtailing the primacy of civilian power, and furthering impunity and instability in Guinea-Bissau, as well as those acting on their behalf or otherwise supporting such individuals.
Maximum number of designees during the episode: 11 individuals, currently remaining on 10 individuals.
UN sanctions should have little impact on the general population since they are focused exclusively on specific individuals and entities.
Sanctions Committee created, no sanctions monitoring mechanism in place. Designation criteria were specified and targets designated. Enforcement authorities specified, PKO has enforcement role.
A more inclusive transitional government and roadmap plan was established in May 2013. Elections were successfully held in April 2014, a government was installed in June 2014, but as the crisis progressed, and following the disputed 2019 Presidential election, the military became once again a visible and significant power broker in the country's political landscape.
UNSC sanctions indicated the lack of legitimacy of the coup but have been only marginal in the conduct of the political process. The SRSG, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), UN Integrated Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), and especially ECOWAS, have played the most important roles.
Potential spoilers of the political and peacebuilding processes were largely constrained from interfering in the reestablishment of the constitutional order.
UN sanctions played a minor role when compared with diplomatic initiatives by the UN and regional actors (AU, CPLP, ECOWAS), including the presence of ECOWAS peacekeepers (ECOMIB).
Even though the initial resolution signaled the Security Council’s concern with the situation and support for regional arrangements, narrow sanctions measures indicated limited conviction at the outset. There has been some stigmatization of the targets, as indicated by international efforts in support of political transition.
While targeted sanctions were the main mechanism through which the UNSC sought to delegitimize the coup, other international actors (ECOWAS, CPLP, EU, UN PBC, SRSG) have since been more prominent in signaling international norms and stigmatizing unconstitutional changes of government in the country.
No unintended consequences of sanctions observed.