The African Union's
Peace and Security Council will hold emergency talks today to discuss the
situation in Guinea-Bissau following the assassination of President Joao
Bernardo Vieira. Uneasy
calm has returned to the capital, Bissau after soldiers loyal to slain army
chief of staff General Batista Tagme Na Waie killed Mr. Vieira as he tried to
flee the presidential palace. Vieira's
death occurred only hours after the country's chief of staff was also felled in
a bomb blast. The late president's cabinet has announced seven days of national
mourning, promising a full-scale judicial inquiry into the assassinations.
army claimed responsibility for killing the president as he tried to escape
from soldiers reportedly loyal to the chief of staff. Soldiers blame President
Vieira for the death of their chief of staff, who has recently been critical of
the president. Under the country's constitution, the speaker of parliament is
expected to take over the reign of government pending an election in 90 days.
Bissau Guinean journalist Umaru Djau tells reporter Peter Clottey that most
people are struggling to come to terms with the rationale behind the
is sad to say, but I would think that there is a sense of relief in
Guinea-Bissau, particularly the capital city Bissau after the gunfire that took
place overnight and the assassination of the chief of staff Tagme na
Waie and consequently the President Joao Bernardo Vieira, and I think people are getting to the
sense that this may be over. And particularly the relief came after the
military said that they will respect the constitution of Guinea-Bissau. Therefore,
there is no attempt of any kind of coup d'état. The military's statement helped
calm most people after the assassinations," Djau noted.
said it is not clear whether the assassination of the late chief of staff was
we do not know that. This time there are lots of speculations in Guinea-Bissau
and also abroad. You know that Guinea-Bissau has been on the map as far as drug
activities are concerned worldwide and that is why a lot of people are saying
that Guinea-Bissau is a narco state so, therefore it will plunge into turmoil
and civil war. But as far as saying the death of the chief of staff was related
to drug trafficking is really just a rumor. We really do not know whether there
is a connection between his assassination and the drug-related activities in
Guinea-Bissau," he said.
So far, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. heaped praised on the
military, calling them "patriots" for not seizing power in a coup.
The constitution calls for parliament chief Raimundo Pereira to succeed the
president in the event of his death. Djau said the military knows the international pressure
scrutiny it will come under if it were to take over the country through the
barrel of the gun.
think due to international pressure the military decided not to take over the
government. I spoke with the military spokesman today, Arsenio Balde, and he promised me that they (military) will respect the
constitution of Guinea-Bissau and therefore they will let the constitution take
its own course, meaning that they will let the president of the national
assembly, Raimundo Pereira, to be the next president of Guinea-Bissau," Djau
He said although the
constitution demands a presidential election within 90 days after the demise of
a president, it would be difficult to see how that could be managed, due to the
financial challenges the country faces.
"According to the
constitution of Guinea-Bissau, there has to be an election within 90 days. So
I'm thinking that probably within 90 days there would be a way for
Guinea-Bissau to organize presidential election within that 90 days' time. But
as we know, Guinea-Bissau is a very poor country, so there are no guarantees
that that will happen," he said.
Djau said it is unclear whether
the cabinet will keep its word by launching a full-scale judicial investigation
into the assassinations.
"I don't know whether there
would be a full investigation. You know, Guinea-Bissau is known by its coup
d'état over the years, and there has never been complete investigation into
them. As you may recall, there have been three different chiefs of staff that
have been killed in the last three years or so, and there has not been any
complete investigation into the killings to let the people know who are behind
the killings. So there is no guarantee that there would be investigations into
these assassinations," Djau pointed out.
Tensions between President Vieira
and the army chief of staff reportedly turned sour in January, when Gen. Waie
received a call from the president's office, asking him to come at once. Waie
rushed outside and was nearly killed when assailants opened fire on his car, a
sequence of events that made Waie suspect that President Vieira was behind the
attempt on his life.
Meanwhile, the African Union, and the Economic Community of
West African States (ECOWAS) have condemned the assassinations. Some political analysts expressed fear the
assassinations could shake up Guinea-Bissau alliances with drug cartels that
use the country as a transit point for shipping cocaine to Europe, leading to