afrol News, 19 November - The President of Guinea-Bissau's military-civilian transition government, Henrique Perreira Rosa, yesterday asked the UN to assist paying his civil servants the salaries owed them for almost one year. This "urgent help" was needed to maintain stability, Mr Perreira said.
President Perreira currently is visiting UN headquarters in New York, where he has been received by the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council. The UN is eager to see steps towards political and economic stability in Guinea-Bissau to finally end its mission there. Mr Perreira therefore was in a good position to make his rather unique request.
The Bissauan President yesterday thus appealed to the UN Security Council to help his impoverished country pay its civil servants the salaries owed them and assist his transitional government in preparing peaceful elections.
After a closed-door meeting, President Perreira told journalists that he made these two requests of the 15-member body during his first-ever encounter with the Security Council.
- As you know we are the transitional authority, explained Mr Perreira. "We need immediate and urgent help to pay government employees a year's salaries," he said, adding that his government was preparing to submit a formal request for assistance from donor countries by the end of next month.
Unpaid salaries have been an important reason for the instability in Guinea-Bissau this year. The government of ex-President Kumba Yala failed to pay salaries, leading to waves of strikes by teachers, health care workers and other government employees.
These strikes partly brought a military junta to power in mid-September, accusing Mr Yala of "incompetence". At first, the international community turned against the military junta, but as it pledged to hold elections, create economic stability and bring respected civilians - such as Mr Perreira - into the government, the UN and neighbour countries actually seem to be silently content with the coup.
- We will hold elections in the future, according to the charter signed in Guinea-Bissau, that is to say, by March of 2004, Mr Perreira repeated to New York journalists. "We hope those elections will go well, but for that the international community must help us to establish a favourable atmosphere so people can vote freely - with transparency and freedom."
President Perreira, an economist and businessman, headed the Bissauan National Election Commission for the first multi-party elections in 1994. His government must now prepare for parliamentary elections by next March and for presidential elections a year later.
Rejecting earlier claims by ex-President Yala that Guinea-Bissau was unfit of a poll exercise, Mr Perreira said he was confident on the capacity to do this. He said the country still had the infrastructure and institutions necessary to hold the upcoming elections.
Joining President Perreira at the meeting to make his special requests to the Security Council were the President of the UN Economic and Social Council, Gert Rosenthal, the Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nana Akufo Addo, and Henrique Valle, representative of the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries.
David Stephen, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Representative for Guinea-Bissau, was also scheduled to speak at the meeting chaired by Foreign Minister João Bernardo de Miranda of Angola, which currently holds the Security Council's rotating Presidency.
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