UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] urged the people of Guinea-Bissau [JURIST news archive] Friday to ensure that the country's upcoming presidential election is free and fair and warned that any violence during the election would be a violation of human rights. The presidential election, to be held on Sunday, comes after Guinea-Bissau's former president Malam Bacai Sanha died in January. Pillay's concerns for a fair election [UN News Centre report] stem from the country's history [BBC news archive] of being ridden with coups and unruliness after breaking away from Portugal and gaining independence in 1974. Pillay also applauded the people in Guniea-Bissau for their peaceful participation is the election process so far. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement [text] calling on the country to maintain order during the elections. Nine people are reportedly candidates for the presidency.
Guinea-Bissau's reputation of unrest and violence has been in the news before. In August 2010 the EU declined to renew its mandate [JURIST report] of reforming Guinea-Bissau security forces, citing the breakdown of law and order in the country. In June 2010 the US refused to participate in international reform efforts [Reuters report] of the country's security sector without the removal of corrupt officials. In April 2010 Ban called on leaders in Guinea-Bissau to respect the rule of law and maintain constitutional order [JURIST report] in the wake of a confrontation between the military and government in which the prime minister was detained and later released.