- Former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, has been named the UN's new top official for Guinea-Bissau. Mr Chissano's first major task will be to assure the smooth organisation of Guinea-Bissau's 19 June presidential elections. These elections have had a troubled start, as two of the top candidates still have not been cleared by the Supreme Court.
Mr Chissano - in his first UN mission after he handed over Mozambique's presidency to Armando Guebuza in February - has been named the Personal Envoy of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Guinea-Bissau. That in practical terms makes him the UN's top official in the troubled country, which also houses a UN peacekeeping mission, ONUGBIS.
The Mozambican ex-President - who is expected to be an obvious candidate for further African top position with the UN - has a broad knowledge of the situation in Guinea-Bissau, a fellow Portuguese speaking country. He has visited Bissau on several occasions during his 1986-2005 presidency and he took a lead in international demands for a transition to democracy after the September 2003 coup in Guinea-Bissau.
This transition is to end with Guinea-Bissau's 19 June presidential elections, where Mr Chissano according to the UN will be tasked with promoting "peaceful and credible" polls. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Friday said that this work would "an important step along a transition towards full restoration of constitutional order and stability" in Guinea-Bissau.
The upcoming presidential polls have slipped into a bad start due to the announced candidacy of two Bissau-Guinean ex-Presidents, former dictator João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira and recent President Kumba Yala. Both are reputed for having brought political and economic instability to the country and their candidacy has been negatively received by Guinea-Bissau's development partners.
The European Unio0n (EU) in April expressed growing concern at the decision by Mr Yala to stand candidate with the backing of the country's main opposition party, the PRS, especially condemning "his recent public declarations of radicalism and appeals for social and political unrest." Also Mr Annan recently expressed his concern with "the mounting political and social tensions in Guinea-Bissau."
The candidacy of Mr Yala and "Nino" Vieira, according to the EU, "goes against the Transitional Charter," which functions as Guinea-Bissau's current constitution. The charter bans the two ex-presidents from political activities for three more years, and their candidacy is currently being discussed at Bissau's Supreme Court.
The Bissau court this week indicated that it would reach a decision on these two candidacies before the weekend. Paulo Sanhá, the court's spokesman, told journalists that several candidacy registrations were representing "irregularities". He did not say how many irregularities were being discussed by the court, but confirmed that the candidacies of Mr Vieira and Mr Yala were on that list.
Mr Chissano is expected to start his work in Guinea-Bissau immediately. Any decision by the Supreme Court is bound to become controversial, meaning that the Mozambican ex-President will need to make use of his diplomatic skills already during this week.
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