Guinea Bissau: High profile killings linked to rivalry

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Monday’s high profile killings in the Guinean capital city of Bissau have neither been linked to a coup d’état nor connected with the booming drug trade in the poor West African country.

Rivalry between President Joao Bernardo Vieira and General Tagme Na Waie is widely suspected to be the cause of their killings. A culmination of mutual threats led the general to declare in January that he was the target of an assassination plot when forces faithful to the president opened fire on his vehicle as he approached the presidential palace. He blamed the president’s men. November 23, 2008, mutineers attacked the president’s residence in which two presidential guards were killed. The president accused the general for not intervening.

According to the AFP, Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira is suspected of having orchestrated the assassination of General Tagme Na Waie. “The General was gravely wounded and died from his wounds” colonel Bwam Nhamtchio was quoted as saying. The bomb blast, which took the general’s life and destroyed a section of the country’s military headquarters, occurred while he was in his office. It is believed that the bomb had been hidden under a staircase leading to the general’s office.

An order, following the death of the military chief, to prevent a possible unrest was sent to two private radio stations in the city to cease broadcasting, triggering the anger of the army section faithful to Gen Tagme Na Waie. Hours later, a rocket was seen fired into the presidents private home after which a group of armed soldiers were seen marching into the building.

President Vieira was still alive when the soldiers entered the largely destroyed house. The leader of the soldiers, reportedly, asked president Vieira if he was responsible for the killing of the army chief of staff that morning. When the president admitted to the assassination, the soldiers stabbed and shot him to death. They then hauled his body and that of one of his bodyguards who had been killed in the line of fire, into a waiting car, after which they left the president’s residence with some loot.

“President Vieira was killed as he tried fleeing from his home which was under attack by a group of soldiers faithful to the army chief, Tagme Na Waie, Monday morning around 4 am (GMT)” declared Zamora Induta, head of external relations for the Guinea-Bissau army.

Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament who has now presiding over state affairs must organise elections within 40 to 60 days. The West African regional group Ecowas, the African Union, the European Union and Portugal (Guinea Bissau’s former colonial ruler) have spoken against the killings and called for order and a respect for the rule of law.

Guinea-Bissau has suffered many coups and political unrest since it gained independence from Portugal in 1974. Presidents of the poor West African country have had to depend on the army to stay in power. The country has also become a major transit point for Latin American cocaine in transit to Europe. Some army officials are widely suspected to be involved in the illegal trade.

Meanwhile, Guinean armed forces faithful to the defunct president have vowed to pursue the attackers.

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