Umaro Sissoco Embaló, President of Guinea-Bissau (elected on Dec 29, 2020 with 53.5% of the vote)
Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embaló (born 23 September 1972) is the president of Guinea-Bissau. He is a political scientist and military officer who previously served as prime minister between 18 November 2016 and 16 January 2018.
Born in Bissau, Embaló holds a degree in International Relations from the Higher Institute of Social and Political Sciences at the Technical University of Lisbon, as well as both a master’s degree in Political Science and a Doctorate in International Relations from the Complutense University of Madrid. He is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, and competent in English, French, Arabic and Swahili.
He served in the military, undertaking National Defense Studies at the National Defense Center of Spain, and underwent further studies on National Security in Brussels, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Japan and Paris. He rose to the rank of Brigadier-General.
José Mário Vaz, Former President of Guinea-Bissau (since Jun 6, 2014)
Mário Vaz was named by President Malam Bacai Sanhá as the country’s Finance Minister in 2009, though he and the other ministers were ousted in the 2012 Guinea-Bissau coup d’etat. He is a member of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and won the right to represent the party in the 2014 presidential election by besting eleven hopefuls during a two-day primary in March 2014. In the first round of the election on 13 April 2014, he won 40.9% of the votes, and entered a runoff with the second leading vote-getter, Nuno Gomes Nabiam, who was backed by the country’s military. In the second round, on 18 May 2014, he received 61.9% of the vote. Though Gomes Nabiam initially contested the result, he conceded the election on 22 May 2014.
During the election, Mário Vaz promised to focus on reducing poverty and increasing investment in agriculture, as well forgiveness for participation in the sorts of criminal actives that have turned Guinea-Bissau into a haven for drug traffickers. After the 2012 coup, he fled to Portugal, but returned in February 2013 and spent three days under arrest. He was accused of being involved in the disappearance of €9.1 million in aid donated to the country by Angola, a charge he denies, and it remains unclear if the donation was ever sent.
Popularly known by the nickname “Jomav,” he was born in 1957 to Mário Vaz and Amelia Gomes in Calequisse, outside the city of Cacheu in northern Guinea-Bissau, and is married with three children. He was trained as an economist in Lisbon at the Office of Economic Studies of the Banco de Portugal in 1982. In 2004, he was elected as mayor of the city of Bissau, a position he held until his appointment as Financial Minister.
Raimundo Pereira, Former President of Guinea-Bissau (since Jan 9, 2012)
Raimundo Pereira (born 9 February 1955) is a Guinea-Bissauan lawyer and politician who is serving as Interim President of Guinea-Bissau since 2011 following the departure of President Malam Bacai Sanhá for medical treatment abroad and carried on in this capacity after Sanha’s death. Pereira has been the President of the National People’s Assembly since 22 December 2008. He also served as president in an interim capacity from 3 March 2009 to 8 September 2009. Pereira is a member of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).
In the November 2008 legislative election, in which PAIGC won a parliamentary majority, Pereira was elected to the National People’s Assembly as a PAIGC candidate in the 28th constituency, located in Bissau, the capital. He was chosen by PAIGC to replace Francisco Benante (also a PAIGC member) as President of the National People’s Assembly after the election, and accordingly, on 22 December 2008 he was elected as President of the National People’s Assembly. He received 60 votes, while a rival PAIGC candidate, Helder Proença, received 37.
Following the assassination of President João Bernardo Vieira by the army on 2 March 2009, the army stated that Pereira, as President of the National People’s Assembly, would succeed Vieira as President of Guinea-Bissau on an interim basis, in accordance with the constitution.
Pereira was sworn in on 3 March 2009; according to the constitution, he had 60 days to organize a presidential election. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and an ECOWAS delegation were present for his swearing in. On that occasion, Pereira urged the international community to help Guinea-Bissau “regain the reflexes of a stable state”. The opposition Social Renovation Party (PRS) criticized Pereira’s succession, arguing that “a debate open to all active forces in the country in an appropriate forum like parliament to reflect on the kind of state to set up” would have been preferable. At Vieira’s funeral on 10 March, Pereira said that meeting the 60-day deadline for holding a new election was “one of our greatest challenges.”
Pereira sought the PAIGC nomination for the presidential election, but on 25 April, 2009, the PAIGC Central Committee chose Malam Bacai Sanhá, who was interim President of Guinea-Bissau from 1999 to 2000, as the party’s presidential candidate. He received 144 votes, while Pereira received 118. Sanhá went on to win the election and succeeded Pereira on 8 September 2009.
Malam Bacai Sanhá, Former President of Guinea-Bissau (died on Jan 9, 2012)
Malam Bacai Sanhá (born 5 May 1947) is a Guinea-Bissau politician who has been President of Guinea-Bissau since 8 September 2009. 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.
Sanhá was born in Dar Salam (Darsalame) in the Quinara region. 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 November 26, 1998, Sanhá addressed the first session of the National People’s Assembly since the beginning of the war. Although he was critical of both the rebels and Vieira, he focused more of his criticism on Vieira. Following the ouster of Vieira on May 7, 1999, Sanhá was appointed as acting President by the military junta led by Mane on May 11. His appointment to succeed Vieira was intended to be in accordance with the constitution, and he was to serve until new elections could be held later in the year. Sanhá was sworn in on May 14, promising 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 July 24, 2005, 47.65% to 52.35%. He refused to accept the results, however, 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 July 1–2, 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 2009. 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.
Sanhá is a diabetic. In early December 2009, he was due to visit Portugal but delayed the visit due to health problems. After fainting, he was taken to Dakar and then Paris for medical treatment. While in Paris, he said that he had suffered a drop in haemoglobin; although he insisted that his diabetes was “not as serious as people want to make out”, he also said 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.
João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira, Former President of Guinea-Bissau (until Sept 2009)
João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira (born 27 April 1939 in Bissau) has been President of Guinea-Bissau since 1 October 2005. Vieira made a political comeback in mid-2005 by winning presidential elections only six years after being ousted during a civil war that ended a previous nineteen years in power.
Originally trained as an electrician, Vieira joined the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) of Amilcar Cabral in 1960 and soon became a key player in the country’s guerrilla war against Portuguese colonial rule.
As the war intensified, he demonstrated a great deal of skill as a military leader and rapidly rose through its ranks. Vieira was known to his comrades as “Nino” and this remained his nom de guerre for the duration of the struggle.
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. On 28 September 1978, he was appointed Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau.
By 1980, economic conditions had deteriorated significantly leading to general dissatisfaction with the government. On 14 November 1980, Vieira toppled the government of Luís Cabral in a bloodless military coup, which led to the PAIGC in Cape Verde splitting 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.
Guinea-Bissau, like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa moved toward multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. The ban on political parties was lifted in 1991 and elections were held in 1994. In the first round of presidential elections, held on 3 July, 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, a former philosophy lecturer and candidate of the Social Renewal Party (PRS). International election observers considered both rounds generally free and fair. Vieira was sworn in as the first democratically elected President of Guinea-Bissau on 29 September 1994.
Following a failed coup attempt against the government in June 1998, the country descended into a brief but violent civil war between forces loyal to Vieira and those loyal to rebel leader Ansumane Mané. Rebels finally deposed the government of João Vieira in a renewed outbreak of fighting on 7 May 1999. He sought refuge in the Portuguese embassy and went into exile in Portugal in June.
On April 7, 2005, nearly two years after another military coup toppled the government of President Kumba Yalá, Vieira returned to Bissau from Portugal. Later in the month, he announced that he would run for president in the election in June. Although many considered Vieira to be ineligible because of legal charges against him and because he had been living in exile, he was cleared to stand in the election by the Supreme Court in May 2005, along with Yalá. His old party, the PAIGC, backed former interim president Malam Bacai Sanhá as its candidate.
According to official results, Vieira came in 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 52.35% of the vote and was sworn in as president on 1 October.
On October 28, 2005, Vieira announced the dissolution of the government headed by his rival Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, citing the need to maintain stability; on November 2 he appointed his political ally Aristides Gomes to the position.