Article published on the 2009-03-02 Latest update 2009-03-02 14:48 TU
A military statement broadcast on national radio said 69 year-old Joao Bernado Vieira was killed by an “isolated” group of soldiers who are now being hunted down. But since the murder, the version of what happened and who was responsible has changed. The head of a military commission set up on Sunday night, Naval commander, José Zamora Induta had said that the killers' identities were unknown, and not soldiers at all.
The military said that it would respect the constitution, which calls for parliamentary chief, Raimundo Pereira, to succeed the president in the event of his death, and for elections to be held within 60 days.
It also denied accusations that the military command was involved in Vieira’s killing, in retaliation for the assassination late Sunday of armed forces chief-of-staff General Batiste Tagme na Waie.
Only hours after Waie’s death in an unexplained explosion on Sunday, soldiers converged on the presidential palace and a lengthy gun and rocket battle ensued.
The two men were considered political rivals, and both had survived several assassination attempts in the last months.
Despite the military's denials, the African Union is treating the situation in Guinea-Bissau as a coup d'état. “If you have decided to kill the president, in spite of everything you can say, it is a coup,” Jean Ping, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, told RFI.
“It’s a setback for the whole continent”, Ping said. “In the past seven months, we have noticed in the African continent, three coups d’état were organised.
“We thought that we were finished with this era,” said Ping. "It is a tendency we cannot accept, cannot tolerate.”
The African Union has not yet had the chance to meet to discuss its course of action, but Ping wouldn't rule out sanctions.
“We are meeting tomorrow to examine the situation and take action”, he said, listing a condemnation of the assasination, followed by a possible suspension of Guinea-Bissau's membership in the AU and potential sanctions “to restore, as quick as possible, the constitutional order.”