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Guinea-Bissau: President's assassination sparks alarm at instability

Guinea-Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in the first hours of this morning, allegedly in an attack by renegade soldiers as he fled his home. The crime happened a few hours after his long term rival, the country's army chief General Batista Tagme, was killed by a bomb blast, late on Sunday. Although the reasons are still unknnon, the crimes have sparked alarm at instability in the young West African republic.

António Aly Silva [pt] has been following the news as it unfolds. In his latest post [pt], he brings the news that there will be 7 days of national mourning for the assassination of the president and two State funerals. He promises to publish exclusive pictures of the funerals tomorrow:

bissau22

Monday March 02 2009 at 4:51
Has Nino Vieira been assassinated (?)
Violent morning
We have been under fire from machine guns for over 30 minutes – and what machines! (AAS from mobile)
Sunday March 01 2009 at 10:32 PM
Military maneuvres in Bissau
Today, a violent blast hit the armed forces headquarters of Guine. I saw four injured people in the hospital, two of whom were burned and are in a critical situation. There are rumours that CEMGFA, chief general Tagme Na Waie is dead. It is Guiné-Bissau at its best. It is painful to write this piece of news.

This piece of news has prompted Jorge Rosmaninho [pt], who had put a final stop on the Africanidades blog last year, to blog again. He publishes the picture below and wonders: nino_tagme

Quem mataria quem, primeiro? Afinal morreram os dois.

Who would have kilked who first? After all, both have died.

Reporter Luis Castro [pt] provides some background info on the relationship between both men:

Conheço muito bem a realidade da Guiné-Bissau e os seus jogos de poder. Acompanhei a guerra civil de 1998/1999, eleições, golpes de Estado, estive preso, fui interrogado de arma apontada à cabeça, fui sentenciado de morte e tive de fugir resgatado pelos fuzileiros portugueses. O que aconteceu ontem e hoje não foi novidade para mim. De resto, há muito que o esperava. O confronto entre o Presidente Nino Vieira e o chefe de Estado maior, não é de agora. Recordo que Tagma Na Waie era infértil devido aos choques eléctricos a que foi sujeito nos testículos (disse-me em entrevista ) pelos homens de Nino e combateu-o ferozmente durante a guerra. Mais tarde, apesar de o ter ajudado a regressar à Guiné e ao poder, Tagma voltou a afastar-se de Nino. Tudo se agravou ainda mais quando o Presidente tentou que o programa do governo de Carlos Gomes Júnior fosse chumbado. O chefe de Estado maior pôs-se ao lado do PM, dizendo que o governo fora eleito e, como tal, deveria governar. Era previsível que um deles iria morrer. Era Nino ou Tgama. Morerarm os dois.

I know the reality faced by Guinea-Bissau and the game of power there very well. I have followed the 1998/1999 civil war, the election, coup d'état, I was arrested, questioned with a gun at my head, was sentenced to death and had to flee, after I was rescued by Portuguese army officers. What happened yesterday and today is not a surprise to me. On the contrary, I have expecteded it for a long time. The confrontation between President Vieira and the head of state is not recent. I recall that Tagma In Waie became infertile due to electric shocks that he were inflicted to his testicles (he told me this in an interview) by Nino's men, who he fought fiercely during the war. Later, despite having helped him to return to Guinea and to power, Tagma kept himself away from Nino again. Things went from bad to worse when the president tried to shut down the government program of [prime minister] Carlos Gomes Junior. The armed forces chief stood by the PM, saying that the government was elected and should govern as such. It was expected that either one or the other would die. Nino or Tgama. Both have.

Solidarity

Lusophone bloggers, also from former Portuguese colonies, have lamented the incident and sent messages of solidarity to the people of Guinea-Bissau: From Cape Verde, João Dono [pt] says:

Espero que, a semelhança do que aconteceu em Angola, a paz passa a reinar em na Guiné-Bissau. O homem com história de Nino Vieira só poderia ter este fim. Ele escolheu este caminho, um caminho que muito fez sofrer os nossos irmãos. Vamos acompanhar as horas e os minutos de angústia na Guiné-Bissau.

I hope that, like in Angola, peace will reign in Guinea-Bissau. A man with a history like Nino Vieira could only end like this. He has chosen this path, a path that has brought much suffering to our brothers. We will monitor the hours and minutes of trouble in Guinea Bissau.

Also from Cape Verde, Cesar Schofield Cardoso [pt] says:

Passando à revista às minhas tropas dei por falta de…tolerância na Guiné-Bissau. Os demónios voltam a ensombrar este país, irmão de armas, que ainda não aprendeu a largar as armas. Terão matado Nino Vieira, em retalhação ao assassinato do Chefe do Estado Maior. Tempo de ódio na Guiné.

Inspecting my troops I noticed that… tolerance in Guinea Bissau is missing. The demons have again overshadowed this country, our brother in arms, which has not yet learned to drop the weapons. They have killed Vieira in retaliation for the assassination of the army chief. Time of hate in Guinea.

From Mozambique, Manuel de Araújo [pt] says:

Muitas razoes para ajudarmos Guine-Bissau a encontrar o caminho da paz e da reconciliacao nacional. Onde andam os nossos pacificadores mor? Onde anda a CPLP? Onde anda a Uniao Africana? (…) Nao podem ajudar os nossos irmaos a respirar o ar puro da reconciliacao nacional?

There are many reasons for us to help Guinea-Bissau find its path to peace and national reconciliation. Where are our leading peacemakers? Where is the [Community of Portuguese Language Countries] CPLP? Where is the African Union? (…) Can they not help our brothers to breathe the pure air of national reconciliation?

From Angola, Eugénio Costa Almeida [pt] says:

Que a morte dos supostos arqui-inimigos sirva para a Sociedade Bissau-guineense criar uma Comissão de Verdade e Reconciliação e afastem dos espíritos as vinganças e façam da Guiné-Bissau um País enorme e próspero.

Hopefuly the death of the supposed arch-enemies will help the people of Guinea-Bissau to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will put an end to the spirit of revenge and make Guinea-Bissau a huge and prosperous country.

Guinea-Bissau has a population of 1.6 million people and since independence in 1974 the country has endured years of instability, and more recently the country has emerged as a route for smuggling cocaine from Latin American to Europe.

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