Malam Bacai Sanhá, Guinea-Bissauan politician, President (1999–2000; since 2009), died he was 64
Malam Bacai Sanhá (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈmalɐ̃ bɐˈkaj sɐˈɲa]) was a Guinea-Bissau politician who was President of Guinea-Bissau from 8 September, 2009 to 9 January, 2012 died he was 64. . A member of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Sanhá was President of the National People’s Assembly
from 1994 to 1999 and then served as acting President of Guinea-Bissau
from 14 May, 1999, to 17 February, 2000, following the ouster of
President João Bernardo Vieira. Standing as the PAIGC candidate, he placed second in the 1999–2000 presidential election as well as the 2005 presidential election before winning the June–July 2009 presidential election.
(5 May 1947 – 9 January 2012)
Early political career
A long-time member of PAIGC, Sanhá served as governor of the Gabú and Biombo regions and held several cabinet ministries before becoming President of the National People’s Assembly in 1994. A Civil War broke out in June 1998 between elements of the army loyal to General Ansumane Mane and those loyal to President João Bernardo Vieira;
on 26 November 1998, Sanhá addressed the first session of the National
People’s Assembly since the beginning of the war. Even though he was
critical of both the rebels and Vieira, he focused more of his criticism
Following the ouster of Vieira on 7 May, 1999, Sanhá was appointed as
acting president by the military junta led by Mane on 11 May. His appointment to succeed Vieira was intended to be in accordance with the constitution, and he was to serve until a new election could be held later in the year. Sanhá was sworn in on 14 May with the promise of peace and an end to political persecution.
In the first round of the subsequent presidential election, held on
28 November 1999, Sanhá finished second with 23.37% of the vote. In the
run-off, held on 16 January 2000, he won only 28.0% of the vote against Kumba Ialá‘s 72.0%. The military junta led by Mane supported his candidacy.
Following a 2003 military coup that ousted Ialá and a period of transitional rule, a new presidential election
was held on 19 June 2005, in which the three former presidents (Sanhá,
Vieira and Ialá) were the main candidates. Sanhá, running again as the
PAIGC candidate, finished first with 35.45% of the vote. Former head of
state João Bernardo Vieira finished second with 28.87% of the vote.
Despite the lead in the first round, Sanhá lost to Vieira in the run-off that took place on 24 July 2005, 47.65% to 52.35%. However, he refused to accept the result, vowing to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
Sanhá challenged PAIGC President Carlos Gomes Junior
for the party leadership at PAIGC’s Seventh Ordinary Congress in
June–July 2008. Gomes was, however, re-elected at the end of the
congress on 1–2 July, receiving 578 votes against 355 for Sanhá.
In the 2009 presidential election,
Sanhá placed first in the first round of voting, then defeated Kumba
Ialá in the second round. He was sworn in as president on 8 September.
On that occasion he promised to investigate the March 2009 killings of Army Chief of Staff Batista Tagme Na Waie and President Vieira, and he also vowed to fight crime, drug trafficking, and corruption.
Illness and death
Sanhá was a diabetic.
In early December 2009, Sanhá was due to visit Portugal but delayed the
visit due to health problems. After fainting, he was taken to Dakar, Senegal and then Paris, France for medical treatment where he said that he was a diabetic and that he had suffered a drop in hemoglobin;
even though he insisted that his diabetes was “not as serious as people
want to make out;” he added that he intended to be more attentive about
his health. Sanhá spent ten days in Paris and subsequently stayed in
the Canary Islands
for a time before returning to Bissau on 30 December 2009. His chief of
protocol stated that he had recovered and was in good condition. Since that time he spent regular intervals in hospitals in Dakar and Paris. During his stay in Paris, a coup as a result of infighting within the armed forces was put down less than two weeks before his death.
Sanhá died on the morning of 9 January 2012, in Paris. His office issued a statement that read:
The presidency informs Guinea-Bissau and the international community,
with pain and dismay, of the death of his excellency Malam Bacai Sanhá
this morning at the Val de Grace in Paris where he was undergoing
The government issued a decree that it would observe seven days national mourning during which the flag
will be flown at half-mast and all concerts and festivities would not
occur. It also sought to repatriate Sanhá’s body for burial.
Under the constitution an election is scheduled to be held within 90 days. In the interim the President of the National People’s Assembly Raimundo Pereira, from the same party, was sworn in as the acting president.
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