- Amid UN appeals to assist for "continued political, financial and technical assistance" to Guinea-Bissau, Portugal has decided to give euro 42 million in aid over the next three years. Meanwhile, the UN's emergency funding for Guinea-Bissau is running out by the end of this month.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week appealed to donors for more aid to Guinea-Bissau so that the country "can be stabilised and carry out sustainable development plans," the UN reports. Despite a military mutiny in October, development aid for Guinea-Bissau would be used properly by the new government.
The US$ 18.3 million Emergency Economic Management Fund, created by a UN panel and administered by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has paid some salary arrears to government workers and provided basic social services. The UN's aid programme however has entered into its last month.
Meanwhile, the ex-colonial power, Portugal, has pledged to give euro 42 million in aid to Guinea-Bissau over the next three years, according to the Cape Verdean newspaper 'A Semana'. The funds were to be invested in areas such as education, health and institutional training, according to a cooperation accord signed on Monday by the governments of the two countries.
The UN and Portugal agree that current reforms in Guinea-Bissau are far reaching. Portuguese State Cooperation Secretary Henrique Freitas qualified them as "fundamental for the development of Guinea-Bissau." Mr Annan said that the Bissau-Guinean government had improved revenue collection and paid current salaries, "partially alleviating hardship in many households."
After the Lisbon signing of the cooperation accords, Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes expressed his hopes that the programmes included in them "will be executed," as opposed to previous accords signed for the 2000-2002 period, which had showed "unsatisfactory execution rates," according to him. "We hope that Guinea Bissau has the stability to be able to absorb this aid," said Mr Santana Lopes, who reiterated Portugal's "efforts" to garner international support for the ex-colony.
For his part, Guinea Bissau's transitional Prime Minister, Carlos Gomes Jr, who yesterday left from his four-day work visit to Portugal, thanked the support from the Portuguese government "in the difficult moments Guinea-Bissau went through" and guaranteed that his government "will be able to show a utilisation rate that will justify the sacrifice being made by the Portuguese government."
Prime Minister Gomes also requested help in the "consolidation of the democratic state" and the "process of political transition that will end with the upcoming presidential elections" scheduled to take place in May 2005. He further asked for support in monitoring the upcoming elections and for reforms in the country's Armed Forces. Mr Gomes yesterday continued his travel to Brussels to meet European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has received yet another report from Mr Annan on developments in Guinea-Bissau and activities of the UN peacebuilding office there. "The socio-economic situation remains critical," the report emphasises. "The government does not have the resources to meet recurrent expenditure and clear the huge backlog of salary arrears inherited from the previous government."
There is "growing exasperation that recurrent military interventions are preventing the resumption of development assistance, economic opportunities and improvement in living conditions," Mr Annan says, with reference to the 6 October mutiny that led to the assassinations of the Chief of General Staff.
It was particularly concerning that the mutinous soldiers had achieved their political agenda, he adds. The mutineers got their nominee, Major General Tagme Na Waie, appointed Guinea-Bissau's new Chief of General Staff and he has announced the military hierarchy's readiness to carry out a long planned reform of the military structure, Mr Annan says.
The mutiny had created polarisation "along ethnic lines, especially given the widespread perception that the revolt was inspired by Balanta elements in the armed forces, intent on assuming control of the military establishment," the UN fears. The population comprises 30 percent Balanta, 20 percent Fula, 14 percent Manjaca, 13 percent Mandingo, 7 percent Papel and less than 1 percent European and mixed race.
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