Ansumane Mane, the rebel leader in Guinea Bissau, was reported to have been shot dead last afternoon by the forces loyal to the President of Guinea Bissau, Kumba Yala (source: Portuguese State Television Channel, RTP). After having aided the ex-President (Nino Vieira) of this ex-Portuguese colony to the leadership of the country, Mane started trafficking arms to the Casamansa population, which lives in the north of Guinea Bissau and the south of its northern neighbour, Senegal. Ansumane Mane was from the Gambia, a former British enclave set into Senegal (formerly French). Yet another example of western European powers drawing lines on maps, the Casamansa question was one which has been waiting to explode for many years, much more now because the region has been discovered to be rich in oil reserves and because its frontiers (once again) do not respect the ethnic composition of the region. Mane toppled Vieira in a power struggle last year, then retired into obscurity when Kumba Yala was elected President. This year, he presented a list of military promotions to the government of Guinea Bissau, covering his circle of friends, and the government made amendments to the list, provoking the arrogant reaction by general Mane – an attempt to storm the capital for the second time in two years. The year 2000, it seems, is different from 1999. President Yala seems to have consolidated the support of his army, and the international community, behind him and Guinea Bissau can now start to establish the much-needed contacts to widen its influence in an economic community in west Africa, whose borders will range from Senegal to Nigeria.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon

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