Monday, March 2, 2009
According to officials, João Bernardo Vieira, the president of Guinea-Bissau, was shot to death on Monday in his palace by renegade soldiers.
“President Vieira was killed by the army as he tried to flee his house which was being attacked by a group of soldiers close to the chief of staff Tagme Na Waie, early this morning,” Zamora Induta, a military spokesman, said to Agence France-Presse, insisting that “this was not a coup d’etat.”
“We reaffirmed our intention to respect the democratically elected power and the constitution of the republic,” he said. “The people who killed President Vieira have not been arrested, but we are pursuing them. They are an isolated group. The situation is under control.”
Induta also said that the president was “taken down by bullets fired by these soldiers,” and that afterwards they looted his home. “They were taking everything they could carry, his personal belongings, the furniture, everything,” Induta said.
The assassination is believed to be a revenge for a bomb blast that killed one of Vieira’s rivals, the army chief of staff General Batista Tagme Na Waie, just a few hours earlier.
The constitution says that the nation’s parliament chief, Raimundo Pereira, is to succeed Vieira in the case of his death.
Jean Ping, the chief executive of the African Union, said that the assassination of the president was a “criminal act”.
Guinea-Bissau, located on the western coast of Africa, has had a history of coups, and is one of the world’s poorest countries. It is notorious as being a transit point for the cocaine trade between Europe and South America.
João Bernardo Vieira, born in 1939, came to power in Guinea-Bissau during a coup in 1980, but was forced out in 1999 when a civil war started. In 2005, he returned from his exile in Portugal to participate in the nation’s elections, and won the vote.