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João Bernardo Vieira

João Bernardo Vieira
Vieira in November 2007
2nd President of Guinea-Bissau
In office
1 October 2005 – 2 March 2009
Prime MinisterCarlos Gomes
Aristides Gomes
Martinho Ndafa Kabi
Carlos Correia
Carlos Gomes
Preceded byHenrique Rosa (Acting)
Succeeded byRaimundo Pereira (Acting)
In office
16 May 1984 – 7 May 1999
Vice PresidentPaulo Correia
Iafai Camará
Manuel dos Santos 'Manecas'
Vasco Cabral
Preceded byCarmen Pereira (Acting)
Succeeded byAnsumane Mané
In office
14 November 1980 – 14 May 1984
Prime MinisterVictor Saúde Maria
Vice PresidentVictor Saúde Maria
Preceded byLuís de Almeida Cabral
Succeeded byCarmen Pereira (Acting)
3rd Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau
In office
28 September 1978 – 14 November 1980
PresidentLuís de Almeida Cabral
Preceded byConstantino Teixeira
Succeeded byVictor Saúde Maria
Vice President of Guinea-Bissau
In office
March 1977 – 14 November 1980
PresidentLuis Cabral
Prime MinisterFrancisco Mendes
Constantino Teixeira
Preceded byUmaru Djaló
Succeeded byVictor Saúde Maria
Personal details
Born(1939-04-27)27 April 1939
Bissau, Portuguese Guinea
Died2 March 2009(2009-03-02) (aged 69)
Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
Cause of deathMurdered by soldiers
Resting placeBissau Municipal Cemetery (2009-2020)
Fortaleza de São José da Amura (since november 2020)
Political partyPAIGC
SpouseIsabel Romana Vieira[1]
ReligionCatholic Church
Military service
Allegiance Guinea-Bissau
Branch/serviceRevolutionary Armed Forces of the People
Years of service1961–1999
Battles/warsGuinea-Bissau War of Independence

João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒuˈɐ̃w bɨɾˈnaɾðu ˈninu viˈɐjɾɐ, ˈʒwɐ̃w -]; 27 April 1939 – 2 March 2009) was a Bissau-Guinean politician who served as President of Guinea-Bissau from 1980 to 1999, except for a three-day period in May 1984, and from 2005 until his assassination in 2009.

After seizing power from President Luís Cabral in a military coup in 1980, Vieira ruled as part of the Military Council of the Revolution until 1984, when civilian rule was returned. Opposition parties were allowed in 1991, and Vieira won a multiparty presidential election in 1994. He was ousted at the end of the 1998–1999 civil war and went into exile. He made a political comeback in 2005, winning that year's presidential election.

Vieira was killed by soldiers on 2 March 2009, apparently in retaliation for a bomb blast that killed Guinea-Bissau's military chief General Batista Tagme Na Waie hours before.[2] The military officially denied these allegations[3] after unidentified Army officials claimed responsibility of Vieira for Na-Waie's death.[4]

Vieira described himself as "God's gift" to Guinea-Bissau during his tenure in office.[5]

Early life

Vieira was born in Bissau, then a city of Portuguese Guinea. Originally trained as an electrician, he joined the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) of Amílcar Cabral in 1960 and soon became a key player in the territory's guerrilla war against Portuguese colonial rule.

Vieira was a member of the Papel ethnic group, which comprises approximately 5% of Guinea-Bissau's population. By contrast, most of Guinea-Bissau's army officers, with whom Vieira had a tense relationship throughout his career, are members of the Balanta ethnicity, which dominates the country.[5]


Early career and Presidential Regime

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As the war in Portuguese Guinea intensified, Vieira demonstrated a great deal of skill as a military leader and rapidly rose through its ranks.[citation needed] Vieira was known to his comrades as "Nino" and this remained his nom de guerre for the duration of the struggle. He was the cousin of slain military leader Osvaldo Vieira.

Following regional council elections held in late 1972 in areas under PAIGC control, which led to the formation of a constituent assembly, Vieira was appointed president of the National People's Assembly. The guerrilla war began to turn against the Portuguese as expenditure, damages and loss of human lives remained a burden for Portugal. Following the coup d'état in Portugal in 1974, the new Portuguese revolutionary government which overthrew Lisbon's Estado Novo regime began to negotiate with the PAIGC. As his brother Amílcar had been assassinated in 1973, Luís Cabral became the first president of independent Guinea-Bissau after independence was granted on 10 September 1974.

On 28 September 1978, Vieira was appointed as Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau.

By 1980, economic conditions had deteriorated significantly, which led to general dissatisfaction with the government. On 14 November 1980, Vieira toppled the government of Luís Cabral in a bloodless military coup, which initial reports credited to racial strife between the black population of Guinea-Bissau and the mulatto population of the related Republic of Cape Verde, embodied in the Cabo-Verdian origin of President Cabral. In the wake of the coup, the bordering Republic of Guinea quickly recognised the new government and sought to end a border dispute over an oil-rich region,[6] while the PAIGC in Cape Verde split away and forming a separate party. The constitution was suspended and a nine-member military Council of the Revolution, chaired by Vieira, was set up. In 1984, a new constitution was approved that returned the country to civilian rule. In June 1986, six politicians were executed for the failed coup d'état against Vieira.[7] However, in February 1993, Vieira's regime ended Capital punishment in the country.

Guinea-Bissau, like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, moved toward multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. Through pressure from groups like the Democratic Front (FD) led by Aristide Menezes, the ban on political parties was lifted in 1991 and elections were held in 1994. In the first round of the presidential election, held on 3 July 1994, Vieira received 46.20% of the vote against seven other candidates. He finished first, but failed to win the required majority, which led to a second round of voting on 7 August. He received 52.02% of the vote against 47.98% for Kumba Yalá,[8] a former philosophy lecturer and candidate of the Social Renewal Party (PRS). International election observers considered both rounds generally free and fair.[citation needed] Vieira was sworn in as the first democratically elected President of Guinea-Bissau on 29 September 1994.

Civil war

Vieira was re-elected for another four-year term as President of PAIGC in mid-May 1998 at a party congress, with 438 votes in favor, eight opposed, and four abstaining.[9]

Vieira dismissed military chief of staff Ansumane Mané on 6 June 1998, accusing him of smuggling arms to Casamance separatist rebels in Senegal.[10] Mané and his supporters in the military promptly rebelled, and the country descended into a civil war between forces loyal to Vieira and rebels loyal to Mané. According to Birgit Embaló, soldiers in Guinea Bissau were upset at their pay, leading the military to self-finance itself through smuggling.[10] Mané was widely supported by soldiers and war veterans, as well as by some of civil society and members of the political opposition to Vieira's government.[10]

A peace agreement was signed in November 1998, and a transitional government was formed in preparation for new elections in 1999.[11] On 27 November 1998, the National People's Assembly passed a motion demanding Vieira's resignation, with 69 deputies supporting the motion and none opposing it.[12]

A renewed outbreak of fighting occurred in Bissau on 6 May 1999, and Vieira's forces surrendered on 7 May.[11][13] He sought refuge in the Portuguese embassy[13][14] and went into exile in Portugal in June.[14] On 12 May, former Prime Minister Manuel Saturnino da Costa was named acting President of PAIGC, replacing Vieira.[15] Vieira was expelled from PAIGC at a party congress in September 1999 for "treasonable offences, support and incitement to warfare, and practices incompatible with the statutes of the party".[16]


Vieira in December 2005

After President Kumba Yalá was overthrown in September 2003 military coup, Vieira returned to Bissau from Portugal on 7 April 2005.[10] Arriving in the city's main football stadium by helicopter, he was met by over 5,000 cheering supporters. Although Vieira's supporters had collected 30,000 signatures for a petition urging him to run for president, he did not immediately confirm his intention to do so, saying that he was returning "to re-establish [his] civic rights and to register to vote in the coming elections" and that he wanted to contribute to peace and stability. He also said that he had forgiven his enemies and that he hoped others would forgive him for any harm he had caused.[17] On 16 April, it was announced that he intended to stand as a candidate in the June 2005 presidential election.[18] Although many considered Vieira to be ineligible because he had been living in exile and because of legal charges against him pertaining to the 1985 killings of suspected coup plotters, he was cleared to stand in the election by the Supreme Court in May 2005, along with Yalá. The Court unanimously ruled in favor of his candidacy on the grounds that he had already ended his exile by returning in April and that no court records of the murder charges could be found.[19] His old party, the PAIGC, backed former interim president Malam Bacai Sanhá as its candidate.[18]

Vieira and others African Heads of State at the Peace Flame Ceremony in Bouaké (Ivory Coast)

According to official results, Vieira placed second in the 19 June election with 28.87% of the vote, behind Malam Bacai Sanhá, and thus participated in the second round run-off. He officially defeated Sanhá in the run-off on 24 July with 52.45% of the vote[8] and was sworn in as President on 1 October.[20]

According to The Economist he probably invited Colombian drug traffickers to finance these elections.[21]

On 28 October 2005, Vieira announced the dissolution of the government headed by his rival Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, citing the need to maintain stability; on 2 November he appointed his political ally Aristides Gomes to the position.[22]

In March 2007, PAIGC formed a three-party alliance with the Party for Social Renewal (PRS) and the United Social Democratic Party (PUSD), and the three parties sought to form a new government.[23] This led to a successful no-confidence vote against Aristides Gomes and his resignation late in the month; on 9 April, the choice of the three parties for the position of Prime Minister, Martinho Ndafa Kabi, was appointed as Prime Minister by Vieira.[24] In Kabi's three-party government, Interior Minister Baciro Dabo was considered to be the only close ally of Vieira who was included.[25] Later, after PAIGC withdrew from the three-party alliance to protest Kabi's actions, Vieira dissolved the National People's Assembly and appointed Carlos Correia to replace Kabi as Prime Minister on 5 August 2008.[26]

On 6 August 2008, navy chief Bubo Na Tchuto was behind a failed coup attempt against Vieira.[10]

Attacks and death

November 2008 attack

Rebellious soldiers attacked Vieira's home in the early hours of 23 November 2008, shortly after the November 2008 parliamentary election, in which PAIGC won a majority of seats. The soldiers fired artillery at the house and were able to enter it during a three-hour battle with Vieira's guards, but they were repelled before they could reach Vieira, who was unharmed. At least one of Vieira's guards was killed, and others were injured. Vieira held a press conference later in the day, in which he said that the attack had "a single objective – to physically liquidate me", while also asserting that "the situation is under control".[27] In a subsequent radio interview, he told citizens that they can count on the unconditional support of the president and questioned whether the country would continue like this, whether the state could do its job without interference, he accused the Army Chief of Staff, General Batista Tagme Na Waie, of being responsible for the attempted coup d'état and endangering stability, peace and democracy in the country.[28]

March 2009 attack

Tagme Na Waie, a key rival of Vieira, was killed by a bomb blast on 1 March 2009. Hours later, Vieira was shot dead by a group of soldiers while fleeing from his private residence in the early hours of 2 March 2009.[29] Diplomats from Angola attempted to take Vieira and his wife to the Angolan Embassy prior to his death, yet Vieira refused to leave while his wife, Isabel Vieira, was taken to safety.[30] Bissau was described as "tense but calm" following his death.[31] According to army spokesman Zamora Induta, Vieira was involved in the assassination of Tagme Na Waie,[5] and Induta stated that "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". The army denied that Vieira's killing marked a coup d'état and said that the constitutional order would be followed, meaning that the President of the National People's Assembly, Raimundo Pereira, would succeed Vieira.[32]

A doctor who was involved in Vieira's autopsy was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that Vieira was "savagely beaten before being finished off with several bullets".[33] British author Frederick Forsyth, who was in Bissau at the time of the attack, alleged a more detailed account of the president's assassination. He claimed that during a meal with the forensic pathologist investigating the case, he was informed that Vieira was in fact hacked to death by soldiers wielding machetes at his mother-in-law's house. According to this account, Vieira survived an explosion and the collapse of the presidential villa's roof and was then shot when he emerged, injured, from the damaged building; nevertheless he remained alive until being taken to his mother-in-law's house and hacked to death. Forsyth attributed the bloody events to mutual hatred between Vieira and Tagme Na Waie, and he characterized both of them as violent people.[34][35]

The council of ministers created a commission of inquiry in an emergency meeting to investigate the two assassinations.[36]

A state funeral for Vieira, attended by thousands of people, was held in Bissau on 10 March 2009. No foreign leaders were present. At the funeral service held at the National People's Assembly, his daughter Elisa urged an end to the violence. The eulogy for Vieira stressed his importance in the war for independence and his adoption of multiparty politics and liberal economic reforms in the early 1990s.[37]

International reaction

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), declared "'The death of a president', of a chief of staff, is very grave news," adding "It's not only the assassination of a president or a chief of staff, it's the assassination of democracy".[32]

The former secretary general of the UN Ban Ki-moon condemned the double murder and insisted on an investigation into the deaths while offering condolences to the nation.[38][39][40]

The African Union called the killing a criminal act and the European Union and United States also condemned Vieira's murder.[41]

Socialist International, of which Vieira's party is a member, stated "The International has followed with great concern the recent political difficulties in Guinea-Bissau and reiterates its firm view that there never can be any justification for the use of force to resolve political disputes and that political assassination is a completely heinous and criminal act."Library

Body transferred

In November 2020, at the initiative of President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, Vieira's body was reinterred in the bow declaring that the late president is the national heritage of Guinea Bissau. The corpse was again buried in the Fortaleza de São José da Amura along with other heads of state such as Malam Bacai Sanhá and Kumba Ialá, in the fortress where the General Staff of the Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces works.[42][43]

Career list

  • Political Commissioner and Military Chief for the Catió Region (1961)
  • Military Commander of the Southern Front (1964)
  • Member of the PAIGC Political Bureau (1964–1965)
  • Vice-President of the PAIGC War Council (1965–1967)
  • Southern Front Political Bureau Delegate (1967–1970)
  • Member of the PAIGC War Council Executive Committee (1970–1971)
  • Member of the PAIGC Permanent Secretariat (1973–????)
  • Named PAIGC Deputy Secretary-General in 1973
  • President of the People's National Assembly (1973–1978)
  • Vice President of Guinea-Bissau (March 1977 – 14 November 1980)
  • Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau (28 September 1978 – 14 November 1980)
  • Chairman of the Council of the Revolution (14 November 1980 – 14 May 1984)
  • Chairman of the Council of State (16 May 1984 – 29 September 1994)
  • President of Guinea-Bissau (29 September 1994 – 7 May 1999)
  • President of Guinea-Bissau (1 October 2005 – 2 March 2009)

See also


  1. ^ Latham, Brent (2 March 2009). "Guinea-Bissau President Vieira Leaves Legacy of Violence, Instability". Voice of America. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Guinea-Bissau president shot dead". 2 March 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Guinea-Bissau president 'killed in clash between rival soldiers'", The Guardian, 2 March 2009
  4. ^ "President Joao Bernardo Vieira of Guinea-Bissau assassinated by army", Times Online, 2 March 2009
  5. ^ a b c Howden, Daniel (3 March 2009). "President shot dead in palace as rebel troops take revenge". The Independent. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2009.
  6. ^ "Bloodless Coup in Guinea-Bissau". The Sunday People [Monrovia] 1980-11-16: 1/8.
  7. ^ "1986: Vice-President Paulo Correia and five others". 21 July 2010.
  8. ^ a b Elections in Guinea-Bissau, African Elections Database.
  9. ^ "Guinea-Bissau: President Vieira cleared to run for re-election", AFP (, 14 May 1998.
  10. ^ a b c d e Embaló, Birgit (2012). "Civil–military relations and political order in Guinea-Bissau*". The Journal of Modern African Studies. 50 (2): 253–281. doi:10.1017/S0022278X12000079. ISSN 1469-7777.
  11. ^ a b "Loyalist troops capitulate" Archived 2008-03-19 at the Wayback Machine, IRIN, 7 May 1999.
  12. ^ "Guinea-Bissau: Deputies call for Vieira's resignation", AFP (, 27 November 1998.
  13. ^ a b "Guinea-Bissau palace ablaze", BBC News, 7 May 1999.
  14. ^ a b "Deposed Guinea-Bissau's president arrives in Portugal", BBC News, 11 June 1999.
  15. ^ "Guinea-Bissau ex-president replaced as party leader", RTP Internacional TV (, 12 May 1999.
  16. ^ "GUINEA-BISSAU: PAIGC chooses new chairman, expels Vieira", IRIN, 10 September 1999.
  17. ^ "Nino Vieira returns from exile to a hero's welcome", IRIN, 7 April 2005.
  18. ^ a b "Nino Vieira says he will contest presidential election", IRIN, 18 April 2005.
  19. ^ "Vieira and Yala cleared to contest June presidential election", IRIN, 11 May 2005.
  20. ^ Report of the Secretary-General on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau, United Nations Security Council, 2 December 2005.
  21. ^ "The global drugs trade shifts to west Africa - changing gear". The Economist. 23 November 2019.
  22. ^ "President appoints controversial new prime minister", IRIN, November 2, 2005.
  23. ^ "Vieira rejects calls to dissolve government", AFP (IOL), 14 March 2007.
  24. ^ "Guinea-Bissau appoints consensus premier", Reuters (IOL), 10 April 2007.
  25. ^ Alberto Dabo, "Guinea-Bissau's new government named", Reuters (IOL), 18 April 2007.
  26. ^ "GUINEA-BISSAU: Uncertain future as President dissolves government", IRIN, 6 August 2008.
  27. ^ "Guinea-Bissau leader survives post-election attack". Reuters. 23 November 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2023 – via
  28. ^ Nino vieira - Fala sobre situação politica da Guiné-Bissau 2009 (Homenagem) RIP, archived from the original on 21 December 2021, retrieved 22 September 2021
  29. ^ "Renegade soldiers kill Guinea-Bissau president", Associated Press, March 2, 2009.
  30. ^ "President of Guinea-Bissau assassinated". RTÉ.ie. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009., RTÉ News
  31. ^ ""Nino" Vieira foi baleado até à morte em casa", Jornal de Notícias, March 2, 2009.
  32. ^ a b Guinea-Bissau president shot dead BBC News, 2 March 2009
  33. ^ "GBissau president beaten before being shot: doctor", AFP, 4 March 2009.
  34. ^ "Author stumbles on G-Bissau drama", BBC News, 3 March 2009.
  36. ^ "Assassinato de Nino Vieira tem contornos de vingança". Jornal de Notícias. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  37. ^ "'Stop killing ourselves' plea at G Bissau leader's funeral", AFP, 10 March 2009.
  38. ^ "Ban condemns assassination of Guinea-Bissau's president". 2 March 2009.
  39. ^ "UN condemns assassinations of Guinea-Bissau's President".
  40. ^ "World leaders call for constitutional rule after assassinations". 3 March 2009.
  41. ^ "Guinea-Bissau president's murder condemned". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  42. ^ "Guiné-Bissau: Restos mortais de Nino Vieira trasladados para Amura | DW | 16.11.2020". Deutsche Welle.
  43. ^ "Restos mortais de João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira depositados na Fortaleza de Amura". VOA (in Portuguese). Retrieved 1 January 2021.

Media related to João Bernardo Vieira at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices Preceded byUmaru Djaló Vice President of Guinea-Bissau 1977–1980 Succeeded byVictor Saúde Maria Preceded byConstantino Teixeira Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau 1978–1980 Succeeded byVictor Saúde Maria Preceded byLuís Cabral President of Guinea-Bissau 1980–1984 Succeeded byCarmen PereiraActing Preceded byCarmen PereiraActing President of Guinea-Bissau 1984–1999 Succeeded byAnsumane Mané Preceded byHenrique RosaActing President of Guinea-Bissau 2005–2009 Succeeded byRaimundo PereiraActing

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João Bernardo Vieira
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