President of Guinea Bissau Murdered
Monday, March 2, 2009 9:15 PM
From: mamakhandi306@aol.com

Guinea-Bissau – Renegade soldiers killed Guinea-Bissau President
Joao Bernardo Vieira in his palace on Monday, hours after a bomb
blast took the life of his rival, the fragile West African nation's armed
forces chief.

The military said in a statement broadcast on state radio that no coup
was in progress.

The armed forces statement said the military would respect the
constitutional order, in which the head of the parliament succeeds the
president in the event of his death.

The statement attributed Vieira's assassination to an "isolated" group of
unidentified soldiers and said the military was now hunting them down. (

Born Joáo Bernardo Vieira (pronounced "VYAY-ra"--rhymes with "Ira"), April
27, 1939 in Bissau, Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea- Bissau); known during
guerrilla war for independence from Portugal as "Nino;"
Education: Originally trained as an electrician; attended revolutionary leader
Amilcar Cabral's Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde
(PAIGC) Party school, Conakry, 1961; received subsequent military training
in Nanking, People's Republic of China;
Politics: Socialist.

Joined Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC),
1960; political commissioner and military chief, Catio region, c. 1961-64;
military commander, southern front, 1964; became member of PAIGC
political bureau, 1964-65; Council of war, vice president, 1965-67; Southern
front Political Bureau delegate, 1967-70; became member of war council
executive comm ittee, 1970-71; PAIGC permanent secretariat, 1973--;
named PAIGC deputy secretary- general, 1973; elected president of
People's National Assembly, 1973-78; named minister of armed forces,
1973-78; prime minister, 1978-84; became president, 1980; gained control
of defense and security cabinet posts, 1982; reelected president, 1989,

Life's Work

When Joáo Vieira became president of Guinea-Bissau by means of a nearly
bloodless coup in 1980, he inherited the leadership of one of the world's
poorest nations. The tiny West African country, sandwiched between Guinea
and Senegal, has a population of about one million, the vast majority of
which is engaged in subsistence farming. Throughout his presidency, Vieira
has been faced with an enormous challenge--to create an economy that
functions adequately in a country still reeling from centuries of colonial rule.
Moreover, he has had to attempt this while stuck between two conflicting

On one side is the blueprint for a socialist society conceived by Amilcar
Cabral, the main architect of Guinea-Bissau's battle for independence from
Portugal. Cabral, who was murdered in 1973, is considered by many to have
been one of the most important political thinkers to emerge in Africa since
World War II. The other path is the one proffered by organizations such as
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Western sources of
assistance that Vieira has been forced to court in the face of harsh
economic realities.

Vieira was born in=2 01939 in Bissau, the capital of what was then known as
Portuguese Guinea. Although he was trained as an electrician, Vieira
became interested in politics at an early age. By the end of the 1950s, the
climate in the nation was ripe for rebellion. The central figure in Guinea-
Bissau's revolutionary movement was Cabral, whose theories on class
relations and the connections between culture and liberation movements
have been influential across Africa. In the mid-1950s, Cabral founded the
Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), a party
committed to the liberation of Guinea-Bissau and the neighboring island
nation of Cape Verde from Portugal. Vieira joined Cabral's PAIGC in 1960,
and he soon became a key player in the uprising that ensued.

Led by Cabral, a guerrilla war against the Portuguese was launched in
1961. The Catio region in the southern part of the country came under
PAIGC control quickly, and it became the party's base of operations. Vieira,
who had already demonstrated a great deal of skill as a leader and military
strategist, was placed in charge of both political and military operations in
the region. He served in this capacity for roughly four years, during which he
spent some time in China learning the finer points of guerrilla warfare. Vieira
was known to his comrades as "Nino," and this remained his nom de guerre
for the duration of the struggle.

In 1964 Vieira was appointed chief of military operations for the entire
southern front, an important arena of conflict. Over the next decade, the
PAIGC gradually gained control of Guinea-Bissau's countryside, and Vieira
established himself as a military hero along the way. In some areas, tales of
his exploits were turned into songs by local musicians. As greater portions of
the country fell into PAIGC hands, new administrative bodies were formed to
replace their Portuguese counterparts and to organize efforts to fix the
agricultural problems caused by the war. After the PAIGC's First Party
Congress was held in 1964, Vieira became a member of the party's political

From that point on, Vieira's ascent through party ranks was rapid. From
1965 through 1967 he served as vice-president of the party's war council.
For the next few years, Vieira was assigned to the southern front as the
ranking member of the political bureau. He gained responsibility for military
operations on the national level in 1970, and the following year he earned
memberships on the war council's executive committee and on the PAIGC's
permanent secretariat.

The revolution, as well as Vieira's career, began to pick up even more steam
in 1973. In January, Cabral was assassinated by what were believed to be
Portuguese agents. The death of Cabral created a void in the revolutionary
movement's leadership. In the shuffle that followed, Vieira was named
deputy secretary-general of the PAIGC. Shortly thereafter, the Republic of
Guinea-Bissau unilaterally declared its independence under the leadership
of Luiz Cabral, Amilcar's brother. Elections were=2 0held in the parts of the
country that had already been liberated, and Vieira was chosen president of
the People's National Assembly.

Portugal officially withdrew from Guinea-Bissau in September of 1974,
following its own military coup. Guinea-Bissau's transition to an independent
state, however, was not entirely peaceful. In the absence of Amilcar Cabral's
unequivocal leadership, the PAIGC was plagued by internal power struggles
for the next several years. The question of unity between Guinea-Bissau
and Cape Verde, which was also under PAIGC rule, was the source of much
of the tension. To a large degree, this was rooted in racial and cultural
differences between black Guineans on the mainland and Cape Verde's
mixed-race population, much of which was of Portuguese descent, better
educated, and light-skinned.

In the first government of Guinea-Bissau's independent era, Vieira was
made one of four members of the PAIGC's permanent secretariat, the
highest-ranking body in the country's decision-making process. He was also
named minister for the armed forces. In the summer of 1978, Prime Minister
Francisco Mendez died in a car accident. Vieira was chosen as his
replacement. Over the next few years, the debate over plans for the
unification of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde intensified, as did the power
struggle between Luiz Cabral and the increasingly powerful Vieira.

Many Guineans resented being ruled by Cape Verdeans, who maintained a
powerful presence in the government after having served as the local admi
nistrators of the Portuguese colonial government. In 1979 Cabral removed
Vieira from his post as head of the armed forces, fearing that he had
become too powerful. By 1980 the country's economy had deteriorated
enough to generate widespread discontent with the Cabral government. In
an attempt to further erode Vieira's influence, Cabral proposed a new
constitution in November of 1980 that increased his powers as president
while reducing those of Vieira's prime minister position.

Four days after the passage of the new constitution, Vieira led a coup that
ousted Cabral from power. Since he had maintained the nearly complete
loyalty of the military, bloodshed was minimal, and the change was cheered
throughout most of the countryside. Once in power, Vieira reaffirmed his
commitment to the socialist policies first outlined by Amilcar Cabral. He then
scrapped the country's existing state council and council of ministers,
replacing them with a nine-member revolutionary council. All of its members
were black Guineans, and seven of them were military officers. Over the
next year or so, Vieira worked to solidify his control over the nation. A
reshuffling of the government in 1982 gave him control of the defense and
security cabinet posts in addition to his roles as head of state and
commander-in-chief of the military.

A series of challenges to Vieira's leadership took place over the next several
years. In 1983, amid rumors of an impending coup attempt, Vieira had
several members of the pre-coup leadership arrested. In addition, three
cabinet members were fired for embezzlement. This was apparently part of a
power struggle between Vieira and Prime Minister Vitor Saude Maria. Maria
was opposed to Vieira's proposed constitutional changes, which would
eliminate the position of prime minister, a situation eerily similar to the one
that preceded Vieira's own overthrow of Cabral.

Maria was relieved of duty in 1984, as were several other party members
who had supported him. Another attempted coup was thwarted in 1985. This
one was led by Paulo Correia, the first vice- president and the second-
highest-ranking PAIGC officer. Correia, who was opposed to Vieira's
economic stabilization program, was brought to trial and subsequently
executed along with five of his accomplices.

Through the second half of the 1980s, Vieira focused on liberalizing the
economy of Guinea-Bissau, working in cooperation with the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund. In 1987 he instituted a set of austerity
measures supported by these organizations, including a 41 percent
devaluation of the country's peso. The resulting hardships led to rumors of
another coup attempt and the arrest of about 20 army officers, though Vieira
denied that any attempted overthrow had taken place. Elections were held in
June of 1989, and Vieira was reelected to the presidency for another five

In 1990 Vieira announced that a multiparty system would be established in
Guinea-Bissau, and commissions were organized to facilitate the necessary
constitutional changes. Plans were outlined in January of 1991 for a
transition to be completed by 1993 that would end the PAIGC's role as de
facto government and separate the armed forces from the party. Meanwhile,
another coup attempt was widely reported toward the end of 1990, though
again it was vigorously denied by Vieira. New parties began springing up in
1992 in preparation for the promised free elections. In October of that year,
Vieira again reshuffled his cabinet, firing eight ministers who had been in the
government since its 1974 independence.

Vieira announced the following month that elections would be postponed
until March of 1993 due to conflict over the process. Just prior to the new
date, however, elections were again postponed because of another
attempted coup that included the murder of Major Robalo de Pina,
commander of Vieira's elite guard, the Rapid Deployment Force. Fifty
people were arrested, including Joáo da Costa, leader of the Partido de
Renovac`o e Desenvolvimento (PRD), the leading opposition party. Vieira
then announced that the long- awaited elections would take place in March
of 1994. Da Costa meanwhile emerged as the leading opposition candidate
against Vieira. In February, da Costa was acquitted of charges that he was
involved in any coup attempt when several witnesses retracted their
statements. By this time, however, the elections had been delayed again
due to a lack of preparation. When they were held, Vieira emerged
victoriously though he only garnered 52 percent of the popular vote.
=0 A
In the dog-eat-dog world of Third World politics, Joáo Vieira has been the
model of resilience. His ability to muster the support of powerful people and
consolidate it at the most crucial moments has been remarkable. In this
respect, his training and expertise in military strategy have paid off
handsomely. Nevertheless, the nation that he leads is still among the world's
poorest, and his attempts to modernize the economy of Guinea-Bissau have
yet to prove fruitful. Vieira has perhaps given up on the socialist dreams of
his political mentor, Amilcar Cabral. Whether his own dream of a thriving and
economically independent Guinea-Bissau can become a reality remains to
be seen.
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Press Release from PAIGC on
Reactionary Coup d'Etat of April 12,
2012 in Guinea-Bissau
by PerAnkh Khamniversity on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 1:37pm ·