UNITED NATIONS The U.N. special representative to Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday urged the Security Council to consider imposing sanctions against anyone who attempts to undermine the country's forthcoming general election.
According to a decree signed this week by the West African nation's interim president, Guinea-Bissau's long-delayed legislative and presidential election, intended to draw a line under a 2012 military coup, has been postponed again to April 13 from March 16.
"I recommend that the Security council consider a robust and prompt response, including targeted sanctions, to any attempts to undermine the electoral process and post-electoral stability," U.N. envoy Jose Ramos-Horta told the 15-nation council via video link.
"The newly elected government will face enormous challenges and it is paramount that international partners stand ready to resume engagement with the country from day one following the installation of the new democratically elected authorities," he said.
The coup-prone former Portuguese colony was plunged into its latest crisis after soldiers seized power in April 2012, days before the second round of a presidential election.
Soldiers under the command of General Antonio Injai, head of Guinea-Bissau's armed forces, toppled President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who was expected to win the runoff.
In a statement, Security Council president for the month of February said that the return to stability in Guinea-Bissau depends in part on credible elections.
"The members of the Security Council express their concern at the continuing delays in the electoral process and underline that such delays could have a negative impact on the country's social and economic well-being," the statement said.
"They urge the transitional authorities to create a conducive environment for the safe, full and equal participation of all actors, including women, in the electoral process."
Elections intended to set Guinea-Bissau back on a democratic path have been postponed twice since November last year despite pressure from the U.N. Security Council and regional powers to hold the vote.
Guinea-Bissau, one of the world's poorest countries, has gained notoriety as a transit point in the smuggling of South American cocaine into Europe. U.N. officials say, however, that smuggling has tailed off since 2012.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)