On June 19th, at Caracol market in Bissau, the “bideras” (vendors) and their children, hundreds of them, organized a farewell party for me.
I offered two cows and bought all the necessary produce for them to cook lunch for a many hundreds of humble people. I wanted to say goodbye to the simple of Guinea-Bissau.
Alberto Carlos, head of the Timor-Leste Cooperation Agency, paid for the sound system and a stage.
The two Prime Ministers, Rui Duarte Barros, the out-going, and Domigos Simões Pereira, the newly-elected one, were also there and they brought the drinks. General António Injai, the Armed Forces General Chief of Staff, also came. Injai, perceived as the “big bad wolf”, a big man, his demeanor like a true chefe de tabanca, was there also, welcomed by the people.
I invited the three “Homi Garandi” to join their humble people and me. But previously I had called the main promoter of the celebration, Adile, to know if the people would welcome the general. He assured me they would.
Few music bands, rappers and rockers as well as traditional groups provided the entertainment. A group of young rappers composed a song for me and issued a certificate confirming that José Ramos-Horta accomplished his mission. They said I could give this certificate to the UN Secretary General ”so that he knows that Guinea-Bissau rappers think I accomplished the mission I was given by the Security Council”. I bring the certificate with me to show it to my boss Ban Ki-moon in case he needs an informed opinion on my mission.
I met the “bideras” when I first arrived in Bissau in February 2013. And now I leave saying farewell to them, humble women of Guinea-Bissau, who are the true economic driver of this land.
They clear the fields, they plant and then harvest, fetch fire wood for cooking, fetch water for the house. And they look after their children.
Many of the men (there are always exceptions) sit in theshade under the tabanca’s trees, quietly discussing the small and large issues of today or yesterday, playing cards, drinking cashew wine.
And they wait for the women to return from the fields to prepare the staple meal of boiled rice. Men can’t put water in a pan, start a fire and cook rice.
The last 18 months were dedicated to an intense political and diplomatic mission in Guinea-Bissau and also to many trips in the region, Europe, USA.
Timor-Leste, with Taur Matan Ruak, Xanana and Alkatiri’s support, took the moral lead, in an act of courage and generosity that surprised and enthralled all in Guinea-Bissau and the whole of West Africa. Nicolau Lobato, our Hero and Martyr, would expect nothing less from his successors.
The peoples and leaders of the Portuguese Speaking Countries Community (CPLP) who contributed so much to the independence of Timor-Leste should be happy to see Timor-Leste assume its moral and historical responsibilities by supporting our sister nation in CPLP through a crisis.
I believe the military will respect the new Constitutional Order. There will be no more armed coups. Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira’s government will rule smoothly for five years.
Portuguese constitutionalists force-fed a semi-presidential Constitutional model in Guinea-Bissau; in the rest of Africa, the whole of Latin America and almost all of Asia, presidential systems are the norm. Guinea-Bissau’s semi-presidential system, which created a duality in the political power, explains a good part of the political instability, aggravated by the lack of humility and sense of duty of those in the Presidential and Government Palaces.
I hope that my brother José Mário Vaz (Jomav) will know how to make his presidency one of reconciliation and stability, creating favorable political conditions for the Government to lead with tranquility; that both Jomav and Domingos Simões Pereira can listen to and dialogue with the military, reassuring and dignifying them; and that they will, gradually and prudently but also firmly, initiate the modernization of the Armed Forces process.
The entire military leadership has repeatedly stated: “we want the Timorese model”. But we Timorese must be conscious of our own limitations in financial and human resources.
CPLP, absent during the transitional period and hiding in the castle of principles, should join the frontline with regional and sub-regional partners in the mobilization of financial resources to help rescue the Bissau-Guinean economy.
I believe Guinea-Bissau has entered a more promising era. And the international community cannot betray the suffering, patient and humble people who lay all their hopes on us.
As I leave, a part of my heart stays behind, on the Bijagós islands and in the Tabancas, with the Homis and Midjeres of Guinea-Bissau.
Bissau, June 20, 2014.