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Africa

Slain president Vieira laid to rest

©

Video by François PICARD , Hélène FRADE

Text by François PICARD

Latest update : 2009-03-11

Guinea-Bissau laid to rest its long-time president, Nino Vieira, who was tortured to death on March 2. FRANCE 24’s François Picard found the funeral to be an understated affair for someone so long in the limelight.

Many in Guinea-Bissau can’t believe they are actually bidding farewell to Nino Vieira, the country's one-time strongman, who dominated this west African state’s fortunes on and off since 1980.

Vieira was brutally beaten before being shot to death by soldiers on March 2, just one day after his long-time rival, army chief of staff Tagmé Na Wai, was killed in a bomb blast. Many believe Vieira's assassination came in retaliation for the military leader's death.

Inside the National Assembly, a fellow comrade of the armed struggle against colonial rule recalls how Vieira was a leader in winning the fight against the Portuguese. Guinea-Bissau won its independence in 1974.

“Let’s remember the great deeds of our glorious armed struggle and pay tribute to one of the most charismatic, the most mythical commanders of the guerrilla movement,” said Carmen Pereira, a former speaker of the National Assembly.

It was certainly not a glorious end to his 23-year reign.  

“Even if they (the politicians) did nothing for us, we didn’t want them to die like this,” said one observer.

But Vieira’s daughter is not seeking revenge. Speaking at her father’s funeral, she issued a plea for the country to break with its long cycle of score-settling.

“We have to stop killing each other,” Elisa Vieira said. “We have to stop killing each other once and for all.”

Thousands of mourners lined the funerary route, but no acting head of state was in attendance. Nor did many of the military’s top brass come to pay their respects.  

The country’s interim president, Raimundo Pereira, has been tasked with organising elections within the next two months. But for now, few here seem to take a positive view of what lies ahead.

“When will Guineans finally have something to hope for?” asked one man. “We don’t know. It just gets worse every day.”
 

Date created : 2009-03-10

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