/ 3 March 2009

Guinea-Bissau to swear in speaker as president

Guinea-Bissau’s National Assembly speaker Raimundo Pereira will take oath as interim head of state on Tuesday afternoon after the President Joao Bernardo Vieira was killed on Monday, a parliamentary communiqué said.

Vieira was killed in his home early on Monday in an apparent revenge attack for the death of a key rival, armed forces chief General Batista Tagme Na Wai, throwing the tiny and unstable West African state into confusion.

In the event of a president dying in office, the speaker of Parliament becomes head of state for a fixed period until elections can be held. Under a Constitution the armed forces have pledged to respect despite fears of a coup.

Guinea-Bissau assassination not a coup, says AU
Meanwhile the African Union on Tuesday demanded a probe into Vieira’s assassination, but said it did not amount to a coup.

The emergency meeting of ambassadors to the pan-African body’s Peace and Security Council also did not announce the West African country’s suspension as had been expected.

”We do not consider that, at the present time, we are dealing with a coup d’etat,” Bruno Nongoma Zidouemba, who chaired the meeting for council member Burkina Faso, told reporters.

”A head of state was assassinated but we have not reached the stage where the situation can be defined as a coup,” he said.

Zidouemba explained that the military officers believed to be behind the assassination ”have stressed their allegiance to the Constitution and the rules of democracy in their country.”

The Peace and Security Council also demanded ”a probe to determine what exactly happened and identify the perpetrators” of both murders.

AU Commission chairperson Jean Ping had described the assassination as an apparent coup by members of the military in reaction to the killing of the country’s army chief hours earlier in a bomb attack. — Reuters, AFP