UN’s Special Envoy in Guinea-Bissau Quits His Post

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.

Joseph Mutaboba, former UN peace-building chief in Guinea-Bissau
Joseph Mutaboba, former UN chief of the peace-building support office in Guinea-Bissau, is leaving the job.

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.

Master of Science in Humanitarian Studies at Fordham University

[This article was updated on Dec. 7, 2012.]

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Dulcie Leimbach

Dulcie Leimbach

Dulcie Leimbach was a fellow of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of CUNY from 2012 to 2017. She is the founder of PassBlue, for which she edits and writes, covering primarily the United Nations, West Africa, peacekeeping operations and women's issues. For PassBlue and other publications, she has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal) as well as from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio and Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles.

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, where she edited its flagship magazine, The InterDependent, and migrated it online in 2010. She was also the senior editor of UNA's annual book, "A Global Agenda: Issues Before the UN." She has also worked as an editorial consultant to various UN agencies.

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 Colorado, graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver before she worked in New York at Esquire magazine and Adweek. In between, she was a Wall Street foreign-exchange dealer. Leimbach has been a fellow at Yaddo, the artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and was a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She grew up mostly in Oyster Bay and Huntington, Long Island, where her family moved a dozen times, ending up in Santa Barbara, Calif. Her first exposure to the UN was at age 8, on a summer Sunday visit with her mother and sisters, where she was awed by the gift shop. Leimbach now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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