Since Guinea-Bissau’s military seized power in an April 12 coup d’état, the tiny West African country that relies on cashews as its main export hit an even rougher patch this fall, when armed gunmen struck an air force base in the capital, Bissau, on Oct. 21, killing six people.
Soon after, the military did door-to-door searches for the men who were said to be involved in the assault, the United Nations reported recently, finding two of them but leaving several others at large. The military blamed the attack on “foreigners,” orchestrated by a Guinea-Bissau military officer with deposed leaders from the April coup now living abroad.
Along with the searches, the military is reported to have carried out torture and summary executions, going so far as to seal off one of its more popular islands, Bolama, where the officer they accused of the attack, Capt. Pansau N’Tchama, was captured and four others found with him were killed.
What the UN did not say in the Nov. 27 report was that its special representative for the UN peace-building office in Guinea-Bissau, a Rwandan diplomat named Joseph Mutaboba, was rumored to have left the country, leaving his Rwandan bodyguards behind.
Now Agence France-Presse has reported that Mutaboba left his UN post for good in Guinea-Bissau, motivated perhaps by the military’s increasing “security operations” since the Oct. 21 attack.
The UN confirmed that Mutaboba is in New York and will be “completing his assignment” as special envoy in Guinea-Bissau by the end of the year; he has been in the post since February 2009. A search for his successor is under way, the UN added in a statement.
Agence France-Presse reported on Dec. 6 that Mutaboba had left Guinea-Bissau and that the transitional government had accused Mutaboba and others of trying to reinstate a former prime minister, Carlos Gomes Jr., the most likely winner of the presidential election that never took place because of the April coup.
The news service also said that in mid-October, the transitional officials requested that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, recall his envoy. Mutaboba is scheduled to address the Security Council on Dec. 11 regarding the status of Guinea-Bissau.
[This article was updated on Dec. 7, 2012.]
Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.
Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.