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Guinea-Bissau: Mixed feelings after double killing

The speaker of Guinea-Bissau's parliament, Raimundo Pereira, has been sworn in as interim leader after an attack on Monday killed the President Joao Bernardo Vieira, hours after the killing of the army chief Batista Tagme Na Waie. The interim president has two months to organise a new presidential election, in line with the country's constitution. As the army has withdrawn from the streets, bloggers have reported that life in the city has begun to return to normal in the less than 24 hours after the murders, but there is still uncertainty about both what has happened and the immediate future.

The situation might have calmed down since Monday, but many people remain very scared, fearing the return of war. A Portuguese teacher living in Guinea-Bissau, Ana Cláudia [pt] reports on a conversation with her best friend the day after the assassination:

Foi a olhar para ela e a ouvir as explicações dela que “acordei” do estado de ignorância ou inconsciência em que estava até então. Veio carregar o telemóvel. Depois com olhos de quem tinha estado a chorar e com voz de assustada contou: “Não dormi. Toda a noite muitos tiros. (…) Os meninos ficaram em casa. (…) Sim, vou voltar para casa depois de carregar o telemóvel, vou ficar com os meninos. (…) Ninguém dormiu nada. Todas as pessoas estão muito assustadas. Algumas pessoas já começaram a fugir.”
A fugir? Então atingiu-me. As pessoas estavam com medo.
Ainda na 5ª feira passada, à tarde, ouvi guineenses louvar e chamar com alegria pelo Presidente Nino / General Cabi que passava na Avenida 14 de Novembro ao regressar ao país após duas semanas de ausência, e por isso muitos guineenses choram a sua morte e estão muito tristes, mas mais do que isso esta madrugada o povo guineense assustou-se, reviveu os momentos de terror da guerra que acabou há menos de 10 anos.


I went to look at her and heard an explanation that “awoke” me from the state of ignorance or stupidity that I had been in up to then. She came to charge her mobile phone. Then, with the eyes of someone who had been crying, in a frightened voice, she said: “I did not sleep. [There were] Many shots all night. (…) The boys are at home. (…) Yes, I'll go home after charging the mobile, I'll stay with the boys. (…) Nobody has slept. Everyone is very scared. Some people have started to flee”. To flee? So it hit me. People were scared. Only last Thursday afternoon, I heard the Guinean people praising President Nino/General Cabi who were passing along [the main road] 14 de Novembro on their return to the country after two weeks of absence. So many Guineans have mourned his death and are very sad, but more than that, this morning the Guinean people are scared of reliving the moments of terror of the war that ended more than 10 years.

HPC [pt], another Portuguese lady living in Guinea-Bissau, confirms this general mixed feeling of fear, hope and tiredness. She says she notices how sad people are, but believes that only people from Guinea-Bissau can “carry on with the same smile” in such a situation. She felt like taking some pictures, but the police would not allow it:

Houve medo nos bairros de Bissau. Lá está-se vulnerável pois não há grossas paredes para proteger nem que seja do estrondo das bombas. Está-se rente ao chão … à mercê.

Para além do medo há vergonha. Vergonha de terem um país que só é notícia pelas piores razões (como se diz em linguagem de noticiário). Um país onde se matam os dirigentes políticos e onde nunca se sabe quem o fez. E não há nada mais triste do que ver os guineenses com vergonha.

Quanto aos acontecimentos, depois de uma segunda-feira de reclusão, hoje fui tentar trabalhar e tive que fugir para casa porque havia confusão no Bandim. Primeiro constou que sem tiros, logo a seguir já os havia. Vim por atalhos porque a polícia tinha cortado o trânsito na Chapa. Passei por bairros e pensei “Tenho que fotografar isto para o blog” e senti-me culpada por esse olhar de repórter de meia-tigela.

There was fear in the neighborhoods of [the capital] Bissau. They were vulnerable because there are no thick walls to protect them even from the noise of the bombs. They are exposed… close to the ground. Beyond fear, there is shame. They are ashamed of having a country that is only in the news for the worst of reasons (as they say in news jargon). A country where political leaders are killed and you never know who did it. And there is nothing sadder than seeing an ashamed Guinean. As for what is going on, after spending Monday at home, today I tried to go to work and had to flee back home because there was confusion in Bandim. At first there were no shots, it started soon after. I came back via shortcuts because the police had stopped the traffic in Chapa. I went through some neighborhoods and thought “I have got to shoot it for the blog” and I felt guilty for this two-bit reporter's view.

Ana e Simão [pt] reported the city was calmer on the 3rd of March:

As estradas de entrada e saída da cidade reabriram, sem militares nos controlos. O comércio voltou a funcionar. Mas tudo é imprevisível. A pessoas revelam uma alegria e alívio contidos (morreu um homem sanguinário, responsável em grande parte pela situação a que o país chegou). Contêm também a tensão e a expectativa, foi aparentemente um bom acontecimento, mas a Guiné sempre foi imprevisível. Volta-se a tentar fazer a vida normal, volta-se a ter esperança:
-“É agora que o país levanta – (onde é que já ouvi isto?). Que Nino descanse em paz e nos deixe descansar.”

The in and out roads to the city have reopened, with no military controls. Businesses are back to work. But everything is unpredictable. People show restrained joy and relief (a bloodthirsty man has died, he has a great responsibility for the shape this country is in). They restrain tension and expectation, it was apparently a good event, but Guinea has always been unpredictable. Back to trying to make life normal, back to hope: – “Now the country rises – (where have I heard this?). I hope Nino will rest in peace and let us rest.”

And blogged again on the 5th, this time on people's expectations for the upcoming elections:

É impossível sabermos a curto prazo – e provavelmente a longo prazo – pormenores sobre os assassinatos. O que sabemos é que os funerais estão marcados para sábado (Tagme Na Waye) e 3ª feira (Nino Vieira). Sabemos que se vão marcar eleições ainda este ano e sabemos que Kumba Yalá se vai candidatar e com certeza proporcionar campanhas animadas. Sabemos que a melhor alternativa é o Dr. Henrique Rosa, mas tem pouca aceitação fora de Bissau.

It is impossible to know in the short term – and probably in the long term – details of the murders. What we do know is that the funerals are scheduled for Saturday (Tagme Na Waye) and Tuesday (Nino Vieira). We know that elections will be held this year and we know that [former president] Kumba Yala will run for office and surely he will provide a lively campaign. We know that the best alternative is Dr. Henrique Rosa, but he has little support outside [the capital] Bissau.

One of the most vocal bloggers during this conflict, António Aly Silva [pt] has published some pictures with strong content showing the scene where the president was assassinated. He says he wished his blog had gained attention for less sadder reasons, and this was not the first time:

Desde o fim da guerra de 1998/99, já assistimos a quantos assassinatos na Guiné-Bissau? Antes mesmo dessa guerra, quantas personalidades deste País desapareceram em circunstâncias ainda hoje por esclarecer? Quantos filhos desta terra, os mais bem intencionados, foram eliminados? Quantos não vimos partir, um por um, traídos, submetidos a julgamentos humilhantes, muitas vezes sumários e, de seguida, abatidos como gado? Se o povo guineense não se erguer, será espezinhado e humilhado. Como tem sido desde 1973.

Since the end of the 1998/99 war, how many killings have we witnessed in Guinea-Bissau? Even before this war, how many personalities in this country have disappeared in still unclear circumstances? How many children of this land, the best intentioned people, have been eliminated? How many have we seen leaving, one by one, betrayed, subjected to humiliating trials, often gagged, and then slaughtered like cattle? If the people of Guinea do not rise up, they will be trampled and humiliated. As they have been since 1973.

In another post [pt], a day after the President's assassination, António fears more violence:

Ex-ministros guineenses ligados a “Nino” Vieira estão a receber ameaças de prisão ou de morte na sequência dos assassínios no país, disse hoje o antigo chefe da diplomacia do país, Soares Sambú.

Há “pelo menos nove nomes” de personalidades políticas que estão a ser “perseguidas”.

Segundo Soares Sambú, a “lista” inclui nomes como os ex-ministros da Defesa Helder Proença, Marciano Barbeiro e Daniel Gomes, o ex-ministro da Economia e Finanças Issufo Sanhá, os dos antigos secretários de Estado Isabel Buscardini, Roberto Cacheu e Baciro Dabó (antigo chefe da antiga secreta guineense) e ainda o empresário Manuel dos Santos (“Manecas”), além do próprio Soares Sambú.

Sobre o paradeiro de João Cardoso, ex-chefe de gabinete do Presidente da República, Soares Sambú afirmou desconhecê-lo, admitindo porém que o homem forte do regime esteja em segurança, mas em local desconhecido.

Ex-Guinean ministers linked to “Nino” Vieira have received threats of imprisonment or death following the killings in the country, said the country's former head of diplomacy, Soares Sambú, today. There are “at least nine names” of politicians who are being “persecuted.” According Sambú Soares, the “list” includes the names of former Ministers of Defense Helder Proença, Marciano Barber and Daniel Gomes, former Minister of Economy and Finance Issufo Sanhá, former Secretaries of State Isabel Buscardini, Roberto Cacheu and Baciro Dabó (former Interior Minister) and the entrepreneur Manuel dos Santos (“Maneco”), in addition to that of Soares Sambú. As for João Cardoso's whereabouts, Soares Sambú claimed not to know where the former head of the President’s cabinet is, but assumed that the strong man is safe, however in an unknown location.

Nino Vieira had a troubled political career. He was the president from 1980 to 1999 and again from 2005 to 2009. In 1980, Vieira seized power and ruled for 19 years. In 1994, he won the presidential election but was ousted at the end of the 1998–1999 civil war. He made a political comeback winning the 2005 presidential election and had been in power ever since. Apparently, not everyone will miss the leader. In a comment left on Global Voices in Portuguese, Miguel Angelo calls for the President's assets to be confiscated:

Como Gunieense, essa triste notícia vem abalar mais ainda a nossa penosa reputação.
O nosso país tem até hoje a fama de lugar intolerante e de gente que não se entende. Como pode isso? O verdaeiro culpado disso é o prórpio Nino. Ele se transformou em ditador sem mais nem menos. Depois do golpe que ele deu em 14 de Novembro de 1980, prometeu na altura que iria fazer eleições livres e que não estava interessado a ficar no poder. Ficou direto 18 anos. DEZOITO ANOS!!!! Ninguém merece!!!

Uma geração inteira Somado a mais esses anos, só deu vergonha ao País. Agora a Guiné é um país de tráfico, do medo, da corrupção no mais alto nível e sem contar as roubalheiras e sem vergonhices de todo o tipo. Parece que não são pessoas capazes de entender que sem rotatividade no governo, não há democracia de verdade. São sempre as mesmas pessoas, o mesmo Nino e a sua corja.

For a Guinean, this sad news comes to further undermine our painful reputation. Our country is today infamous for being an intolerant place with people who do not understand Anything. How can this be? The culprit of this is indeed Nino himself. He became a dictator just like that. After his coup on 14 November 1980, he promised at the time that he would call free elections and claimed he was not interested in staying in power. He stayed in power for 18 years straight. EIGHTEEN YEARS! Come on! An entire generation. After all these years, he only brought shame to the country. Now Guinea is a country of trafficking, of fear, of corruption at its highest level, not to mention swindles and shamelessness of all kinds. It seems that people are not able to understand that without changing the government, there is no real democracy. They are always the same people, the same Nino and his gang.

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