Documents considered by the Committee on 27 October 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

11 European Security and Defence Policy and Guinea-Bissau


Council Decision amending and extending Joint Action 2008/112/CFSP on the European Union mission in support of security sector reform in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau (EU SSR GUINEA-BISSAU)

Legal baseArticle 28 and 43(2) TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 4 October 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 56 (8 September 2010); also see (31072) —: HC 19-xxx (2008-09), chapter 6 (4 November 2009); (30551) — HC 19-xv (2008-09), chapter 12 (29 April 2009); and (29349) — : HC 16-ix (2007-08), chapter 12 (23 January 2008)
Discussed in Council25 May 2010 Competitiveness Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; further information requested (reported on 8 September 2010)


11.1 The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website paints a troubled and unhappy picture of Guinea-Bissau's move to independence, via a protracted guerrilla war and then Portugal's own 1974 "carnation revolution": firstly, one-party rule, then a coup in 1980 which "began a pattern of military coups and instability, which has persisted until quite recently". That coup was led by Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, who became the first directly-elected President in 1994, after the acceptance of multi-party democracy in 1991 (a presidential democracy which allows for multiparty politics and an elected national assembly).

11.2 The period from 1998 to 2004 was notable for a further coup attempt; protracted stalemate between loyalist and rebel forces; the intervention of troops from neighbouring Senegal and Guinea, as well as from the regional peacekeeping force, ECOMOG; elections in December 1999 and January 2000; and the eventual election of opposition leader Kumba Yala in February 2000.

11.3 The first half of this present decade then consisted of further manifestations of unresolved tensions between the government and the military hierarchy: a further attempted military rebellion; subsequent rule by President Yala "characterised by chronic political instability"; his eventual deposition in a bloodless coup in September 2003 supported by all political parties, including Yala's own; the installation of a businessman as interim President; and legislative elections in March 2004 in which no party came out with an overall majority.

11.4 A further period of political turmoil followed the June 2005 presidential elections, following which ex-President Vieira eventually emerged as the winner in a close finish, and was sworn in as President on 1 October; including ex-president Yala's return from exile in late 2006; and culminating in the collapse of the government coalition in March 2007. After a stand-off the opposition leader Martinho N'Dafa Kabi became Prime Minister in April, and the political situation in the country steadied. The mandate of the legislature ended on April 21st 2008. The President then passed a temporary constitutional amendment allowing the continuation of the legislature until further elections could take place. These occurred on 16 November 2008 and resulted in a new Prime Minister, Carlos Gomez Junior, being appointed in January 2009. Following the March 2009 assassination of President Viera, presidential elections were held in June 2009 and resulted in the election of the currently serving President, Malam Bacai Sanhá. The entry (which was last reviewed on 1 July 2010) closes as follows:

"Media reports have bought to public attention a growing problem of drug trafficking via Guinea-Bissau. Drugs coming from Latin America are being smuggled to Europe via the country, taking advantage of the mangrove swamps and jagged coastline, and the poor capacity of the government to deal with the problem. On 9 April the current Air Force head, Ibraima Papa Camara, and former navy chief Bubo Na Tchuto were named "drug kingpins" by the US. Bubo Na Tchuto's political influence in Guinea-Bissau remains apparent."[73]

Joint Action 2008/112/CFSP

11.5 The then Committee cleared the Joint Action in January 2008. It established EUSSR Guinea-Bissau, which was to be launched in May 2008 and last for 12 months. The preamble noted that the promotion of peace, security and stability in Africa and Europe was a key strategic priority of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted in December 2007, and that security sector reform (SSR) in Guinea-Bissau was essential for the country's stability and sustainable development.

11.6 The Mission's tasks include:

  • advising and contributing to the development of detailed resizing/restructuring plans for the armed forces;
  • assisting in the development of an underpinning doctrine for employment of the Armed Forces, including the areas of command, control and logistic support, and mainstreaming the counter narcotics effort;
  • supporting the development of detailed plans for the restructuring of police bodies into four services;
  • advising on the planning and development of an effective criminal investigations capacity.

11.7 In April 2009, the then Committee cleared a "no cost" six-month extension until 30 November 2009; and a further, very-low-cost six-month extension until 31 May 2010. As our recent Report notes, there had continued to be political distractions, but also the election of a new President and an indication "that the Mission will receive the necessary political support over the next six months to complete the tasks set out in its current mandate." The then Minister for Europe supported the extension: it stemmed, he explained, from a recent review and would enable the EU to: "reach a better understanding of plans by the wider International Community (notably the Economic Community of West African States and the UN) to increase their presence in Guinea-Bissau; conclude the mission's existing work; and "build bridges towards further implementation in the future." The extension "should be used by the Mission to complete the tasks of its current mandate (without taking on any additional ones) and to prepare the conditions for engagement by another SSR actor in the future." There was to be a strategic review on the future of EU engagement in Guinea-Bissau, which would be submitted to the Political and Security Committee[74] by the end of January 2010. The review would focus on "where, amongst other International Community interventions, the EU can add most value to stabilisation efforts in Guinea-Bissau in the future [and] …form the basis for making an informed judgement about any subsequent EU engagement in Guinea-Bissau after the end of the mandate of the Mission."

11.8 Three years after the first commitment by the then Guinea-Bissau authorities to security sector reform, there was a strong sense of disillusionment running through the then Minister's comments, and of this being the last chance for the latest President and government. But the EU had yet to lose patience with an ESDP mission and cut its losses. In clearing that latest extension, the then Committee therefore asked the then Minister to write with information about the outcome of the review and the PSC's assessment and recommendations, ahead of any final determination about what form any further EU involvement might or might not take.

The Council Decision

11.9 Nothing was heard from him. Instead, in an Explanatory Memorandum of 21 May 2010, the new Minister for Europe (David Lidington) said that a further four-month extension had been proposed in response to a military mutiny that took place in Guinea-Bissau on 1 April. It was:

"intended to demonstrate strong EU support to the weakened civilian government of Guinea-Bissau, allow the government time to reassert its authority over the military, while allowing time for the EU to reach a decision on whether the conditions exist for longer term CSDP engagement."

11.10 The Minister's position is set out in detail in our previous Report. In essence, this further extension would add €630,000 to the total expenditure of €7.13 million so far. One measure of progress would be the extent to which the Guinea-Bissau government met the demands set out in an EU démarche following the 1 April military mutiny, viz:

  • the immediate and unconditional liberation of the Armed Forces Chief and all of the other personnel detained in violation of the law;
  • the establishment of the legal responsibility of and disciplinary measures against those found to be responsible for the incidents of 1 April and the putting into place of a framework for the continuation of the reforms;
  • the affirmation of the primacy of the civilian authorities and the legitimate democratic authorities; and
  • a guarantee of the respect for all parts of the Vienna Convention and diplomatic immunity.

11.11 The Minister seemed not to hold great hopes for a positive outcome. The size of the mission would reduced, which he said was "an explicit acknowledgement that, until the current situation is resolved, there is little chance of the Mission achieving success, but this approach maintains a CSDP foothold in-country". Guinea-Bissau's own development, security and stability would, he judged, be damaged if the Mission were pulled out immediately. But "there should be a period of reflection in order to re-assess conditions on the ground before making a more informed decision on the future of CSDP engagement". So, there would be a further review of engagement two months into the proposed four month extension to consider whether the EU should launch a new mission after 30 September 2010. If conditions on the ground had not improved and made serious Security Sector Reform unlikely, then the Minister believed the EU should consider closing the mission.

Our assessment

11.12 We felt that it was for others to judge whether or not this was the right approach, given how much had been spent and how little had been achieved.

11.13 For our part, we noted that the Committee had heard nothing from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about developments since last November, despite its request to the previous Minister to write with information about the outcome of the January 2010 review and the PSC's assessment and recommendations, ahead of any final determination about what form any further EU involvement might or might not take.

11.14 Instead, a further review of engagement was now in prospect, two months into the proposed four month extension, to consider whether the EU should launch a new mission after 30 September 2010. In addition to clearing the document, we therefore also asked the new Minister to let us know the outcome and his views, so that we are not again presented with scrutinising a fait accompli.[75]

The Minister's letter of 4 October 2010

11.15 The Minister begins by rehearsing some of the background. He recalls that the PSC's January strategic review stated that, at the time, the Guinea-Bissau authorities were committed to taking forward security sector reform (SSR) but lacked the capacity to do so; and also mentioned that there were gaps in the international coverage of SSR, in particular reform of the military structures, which the EU might usefully fill. Member State working groups then considered the issue in more detail and concluded that because of the illegal drug trafficking and organised crime in West Africa and Guinea-Bissau, it was of strategic importance to the EU to continue the SSR effort through a CSDP mission. However, Member States were clear that the mission could only continue and have a chance of success if the Guinea-Bissau authorities demonstrated tangible and clear commitment to SSR, specifically by the adoption of the organic laws by the Guinea-Bissau Parliament which the mission had helped to draft. On this basis, the EU began planning for a new CSDP mission to be deployed from 1 June 2010. The new mission was to be smaller than EUSSR Guinea-Bissau, have a greater emphasis on military reform and a more direct coordination with the UN.

11.16 However, the Minister notes, planning for the new CSDP mission was brought to a halt by a military mutiny in Guinea-Bissau. He continues as follows:

"On 1 April 2010, rogue elements of the Guinea-Bissau military, led by the Deputy Chief of Defence (Major General Indjai), unlawfully detained the Chief of Defence (CHOD) Captain Jose Zamora Induta and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior. The Prime Minister was later released but Major General Indjai remains CHOD and no assurances been provided regarding the safety of Captain José Zamora Induta who remains under detention.

"In order to encourage a return to democratic oversight after the mutiny, the EU issued a demarche to the Guinea-Bissau Government which set out the conditions that would need to be met in order for CSDP engagement to continue. These conditions included the unconditional release of the detained CHOD and the prosecution of those responsible for the events of 1 April. Regretfully the Guinea-Bissau Government was unable to meet these conditions and the former Deputy Chief of Defence has since been appointed formally by the Guinea-Bissau President as CHOD."

11.17 As a result, the Minister then says: a second EU strategic review was undertaken and presented to the PSC on 9 July; it concluded that conditions in country would not enable the new CSDP mission to take real steps towards SSR and recommended that EUSSR Guinea-Bissau be closed from 30 September; and the PSC agreed with this conclusion:

"The Government supported the decision to close EUSSR Guinea-Bissau. The deployment of a new mission would have meant EU personnel working with individuals that had engaged in unconstitutional activity. This would have cast doubt on the credibility of any SSR work undertaken. Crucially, the events of 1 April brought into question the commitment of the local authorities to meaningful SSR, without which a new mission would have struggled to have the necessary impact. Although EUSSR Guinea-Bissau will be closed, the EU will be exploring alternative ways of remaining engaged in Guinea-Bissau in order to avoid abandoning Guinea-Bissau at a critical time. The UK position in any future discussions on this issue will be to ensure that continued engagement is effective and represents good value for money."


11.18 There can be little doubt that this is the right course of action. We again leave it to others to judge the utility of this exercise hitherto.

11.19 We look forward to hearing from the Minister in due course, should ways of remaining engaged in Guinea-Bissau necessitate a further Council Decision.

11.20 In the meantime, we are reporting the end of this chapter because of the interest in the House in European Security and Defence Policy.

73   See FCO Country Profile at Back

74   The committee of ambassador-level officials from national delegations who, by virtue of article 38 TEU, under the authority of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) and the Council, monitor the international situation in areas covered by the CFSP and exercise political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations, as set out in article 43 TEU.


75   See headnote: HC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 56 (8 September 2010).  Back

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