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Inauguration of Guinea Bissau's President to Go Ahead


The inauguration of former military ruler and winner of July presidential elections in Guinea-Bissau, Joao Bernardo Vieira, is scheduled to go ahead Saturday despite controversy in the party of the losing candidate. Some of its members still dispute the results.

The African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, known as the PAIGC, is split between its central committee that accepts the victory of Joao Bernardo Vieira as the new president, and other party members who believe their candidate was the rightful winner.

Their presidential candidate, Malam Bacai Sanha rejected Wednesday a statement by his party's central committee.

Mr. Sanha said that the election was stolen by Mr. Vieira and the results were manipulated in his favor. He said if the swearing in of Mr. Vieira goes ahead, there is a risk the government will not be able to control the anger of his supporters on the streets.

The PAIGC is currently the ruling party as it holds the most seats in the legislature and also leads the transitional government, which will be replaced in the coming weeks. Mr. Vieira is expected to choose a prime minister from that party since it holds a near-majority in parliament.

Official results say that Mr. Vieira won 52 percent of the second round presidential vote. European monitors said that the poll was generally free and fair.

Analyst Chris Melville, of the London-based research company Global Insight, says the acceptance by part of the PAIGC of July's result was strategic, because it gave it time to lobby Mr. Vieira for future posts in his government.

"The ruling party was in a strong position with a view to extracting political concessions from [the] president elect and possible financial concessions from Vieira's external backers," he commented.

Mr. Melville says that although Mr. Vieira ran as an independent candidate, he will have to make peace with the PAIGC in order to govern. Mr. Vieira said Wednesday he was willing to collaborate with Guinea Bissau's current Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.

Mr. Vieira's inauguration as president is scheduled to go ahead Saturday, and 17 heads of state have been invited to attend the ceremony.

Mr. Vieira first came to power in a coup in 1980. He ruled Guinea Bissau for 19 years, before he, himself, was overthrown by the army. A human rights activist, Ibrahima Kane, of the London based organization Interights, says that Mr. Vieira's last presidency disintegrated into a civil war, because of Mr. Vieira's clashes with Guinea Bissau's army.

"Personally I didn't want to see him back because of what he did before," said Mr. Kane. "But he came back to power because he was elected by the population. And to me that is a very, very important aspect. Now some of those people are opposed to his presidency, and I think these people are not democrats."

A former guerrilla fighter trained in China, Mr. Vieira became a known leader of the independence struggle against Portugal. During his election campaign, Mr. Vieira described himself as a 'gift from God' to the people of Guinea Bissau.

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