23 July 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged voters in troubled Guinea-Bissau to participate peacefully in Sunday’s second round of presidential elections and called on both candidates to respect the final result and to settle any disputes through legal means. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he would closely watch the election run-off, describing it “as an important measure of national commitment to democracy and reconciliation.”Malam Bacai Sanhá of the governing African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and Kumba Ialá of the opposition Social Renewal Party are contesting the run-off after the two men obtained the highest number of votes in the first round, held on 28 June.The election is taking place after then president João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in early March. Since then a presidential candidate and a former defence minister have also been killed.Today’s statement emphasized the need for voters “to participate peacefully… as they have done in past elections,” and called on the candidates to “resolve any disputes that might arise through peaceful, legal means.”Mr. Ban said the United Nations was committed to working with whichever candidate wins, as well as the broader Government, the National Authority and other authorities to encourage further progress in Guinea-Bissau.“The Secretary-General hopes this election will make a clear step forward for Guinea-Bissau in achieving political stability and security, and in fostering the social and economic conditions necessary to consolidate peace and fully realize human rights throughout the country.”Aside from political instability, the West African country is plagued by deep poverty, a lack of infrastructure and a flourishing drug trade.Last month the Security Council agreed to extend the mandate of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (known as UNOGBIS) until the end of the year.
Mr. Annan’s first meeting was with leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, John Kufuor of Ghana and Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and the former Nigerian Head of State, Gen. Abdelsalami Abubakar.They also reviewed the status of the ECOWAS joint verification team that is trying to get into Liberia from Sierra Leone to assess the ceasefire.Mr. Annan then met with Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who is about to assume the Presidency of the African Union, to discuss the current Summit and a series of African issues, from Liberia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the need to fight HIV/AIDS on the continent.At a press encounter afterwards, the Secretary-General made an appeal to Africans everywhere to unite behind the fight against HIV/AIDS and to end the stigma and discrimination that is attached to that disease.The pandemic, he said, “is taking away essential men and women from education – teachers are being killed, from the health area – we’re losing doctors and nurses, from the security service, in the police and the army, we are losing people.”In response to a question on Liberia and the possibility of the United States sending troops there, Mr. Annan said the immediate challenge had been taken up by ECOWAS with the full support of the African Union. The US had not indicated exactly what it plans to do or the nature of its contribution, he added. “I expect it to take the right decision and grant support to the effort,” he said.Later this evening, Mr. Annan is expected to have a tête-à-tête meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki.Tomorrow, he will address the meeting of the African Union’s Heads of State, and he is expected to congratulate African leaders on their determination to implement the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and urge them to apply this determination to all the challenges facing the continent.