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Guinea-Bissau is Broke If Not Broken, UN Responds With Press Release

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 -- What can be done about Guinea-Bissau? The UN Security Council on Tuesday issued a press statement which

"expressed concern at the alarming increase in organized crime, drug trafficking and the proliferation of illicit small arms in Guinea-Bissau, and calls on the international community to continue to provide the necessary assistance to strengthen the security institutions."

            To "continue to provide the necessary assistance" implies that the basic are currently in place. But in fact there are no jail cells in all of Guinea-Bissau, so that even if drug traffickers are caught, there is no place to hold them. Recently, the Guinea-Bissau police left traffickers get away, because they had no gas in their police cars to pursue them.

            Also not mentioned in or addressed by the Security Council's six-paragraph press statement is the fact that Guinea-Bissau's own interior minister alleges government complicity on the drug-running. Half of the cocaine that is seized ends up disappearing.

            A UN source on Tuesday contested Inner City Press' characterization of Guinea-Bissau as a "broken" state. "They're just broke," he said. "They have no money." The mainstay of the legal economy consists of cashew nuts. According to the UN's most recent quarterly report, issued on July 3, "civil servants are owed four months of salary arrears. The outlook for the rest of 2007 is grim... Guinea-Bissau is still under sanctions imposed by the African Development Bank due to its failure to meet scheduled debt servicing payments in January 2007."

Guinea-Bissau classroom, resources not shown

            On the sidelines of Tuesday's Council meeting, an African diplomat told Inner City Press that although not in the press statement, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime intends to try to do more in Guinea-Bissau. But as Inner City Press has previously questioned UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa about, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has found weaknesses and lack of back-up for UNODC's current programs, without even considering new programs in places like Guinea-Bissau.

            The OIOS report diagnosed that

"UNODC's most immediate concern was an expanding mandate and the apparent insufficient Regular Budget (RB) resources provided to it for its implementation - 11% of UNODC total budget for 2006-2007 is RB funded...OIOS attempted to obtain clarity on the amount and complexity of the new mandates given to UNODC and some resource estimates to cover the needs for those mandated activities including core functions which are claimed to be implemented with XB resources. However, UNODC did not have such information and analysis available and it was unclear what core functions or additional mandates did not have enough resources.  OIOS noted that additional initiatives started at UNODC's discretion were not always supported by additional funding."

            So is the "international community" providing additional resources for drug-interdiction work in Guinea-Bissau? There is a long coastline and 70 uninhabited islands, and few to no police.

            At the same time at the Security Council met -- most of the discussion outside the chamber, even on this four times a year review of Guinea Bissau, was about Kosovo, and sanctions on North Korea, Iran and on Sudan, a resolution on which is slated to be "tabled" later this week -- an announcement was made by IRNA from Tehran that Iran wants to partner with Guinea-Bissau.  Better hurry up...

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540