President Malam Bacai Sanha died in Paris where he was receiving medical treatment for an unspecified illness since November. Raimundo Pereira, the speaker of Parliament, is serving as interim president and he has 60 days to organize a new election.
In late December, the top navy commander in Guinea-Bissau, Rear Adm. Bubo Na Tchuto, was detained following what some authorities said was a coup attempt. The U.N. mission there said military officers attacked an army headquarters to steal weapons.
A Western diplomat in Dakar told the United Nations' humanitarian news agency IRIN on condition of anonymity that the country has an opportunity to act responsibly during the transition period. A political adviser, speaking on background, told the news service, however, that opposition leaders could make like difficult for new political leaders "if disgruntled."
In 2010, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund forgave the country's $1.2 billion debt but IRIN notes drug trafficking and a "bloated military" could spell trouble for Guinea-Bissau.
"It is up to us to be mature and sensible and to follow what we have put in the constitution," said Fonsecka Rodriguez, the head of the country's national assembly.