GUINEA-BISSAU: Young technocrats prominent in new elected government

Bissau, 13 May 2004 (IRIN) - A new government led by the PAIGC took power in Guinea-Bissau this week following elections to choose a new parliament at the end of March.

Carlos Gomes Junior, a banker and businessmen who is reputed to be the richest man in this small West African country, was officially appointed as prime minister on Monday.

Gomes Junior is 55 and his family have extensive property interests in the capital Bissau. The new prime minister previously worked in the central bank and ran a fuel import company. He has been active in politics since his election to parliament in Guinea-Bissau's first multi-party elections in 1994.

Gomes Junior's 15-member cabinet, which is dominated by young technocrats, was sworn in on Wednesday.

Notable new faces include Soares Sambu as Foreign Minister. He was director of the PAIGC's election campaign and served as first vice president of Guinea-Bissau's previous parliament, which was disolved in November 2002.

Aladje Fadia, a former senior official of the Central Bank of West Africa in Dakar, makes his debut in government as Finance Minister.

And Defence Minister Daniel Gomes, the former spokesman of the PAIGC, enters the cabinet for the first time as Defence Minister.

The new government also includes five veteran PAIGC ministers who served under former president Joao Bernardo Vieira.

Vieira came to power in a 1980 coup and ruled this former Portuguese colony of 1.3 million people until he was forced to step down in 1999 after a brief but bitter civil war. He now lives in exile in Portugal.

The most prominent of the Vieira associates in the new government is Aristides Gomes, the vice-president of the PAIGC, who was appointed Minister of Labour and Administrative Reform.

Odete Semedo, the new Health Minister, Eugenia Saldanha, the new Social Welfare Minister, Raimundo Pereira, who takes over the Justice portfolio, and Trade and Industry Minister Issufo Sanha are also well-known faces from Vieira's regime.

The PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde) took power at independence from Portugal in 1974 and ruled the country until Vieira was forced to quit power five years ago.

Kumba Yala and his Social Renovation Party (PRS) were elected to government at the end of 1999, but Yala's rule became increasingly chaotic and he was deposed as president by a bloodless coup in September last year.

The PAIGC made a comeback in the 28 March parliamentary elections, which marked the first milestone in Guinea-Bissau's phased return to constitutional rule.

However it fell short of an absolute majority, winning 45 of the 102 seats in parliament. Earlier this month the PAIGC negotiated a deal with the PRS, the second largest party in parliament with 35 seats, to support its legislative programme.

The return to constitutional rule is due to be completed with the election of a new president in March 2005.

The main challenges facing Gomes Junior and his new team are to restore foreign aid flows to Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in Africa, and to reactivate schools, hospitals and health clinics, whose staff were unpaid during Kumba Yala's final year in power.

Theme (s): Governance,


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