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Former Indonesian president Habibie died at 83


During his seventeen-month tenure between 1998 and 1999, he had allowed the country to transition to democracy after the fall of dictator Suharto.

Former Indonesian President BJ Habibie, in March 2007 in Jakarta. Achmad Ibrahim / AP

Former Indonesian President BJ Habibie died on Wednesday, September 11, at the age of 83, his family and authorities announced. Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie died in a military hospital in Jakarta after heart problems.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo paid tribute to his predecessor, a trained aeronautical engineer, by hailing "a high-level scientist" and the "father of technologies in Indonesia" .

Born in 1936 in a small town south of the Celebes archipelago, BJ Habibie studied aeronautics construction in Germany and the Netherlands before returning to Indonesia in the 1970s. Suharto had asked him to help him promote industrialization of the largest country in Southeast Asia. He has long chaired the public company Aeronautical Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara, then was for twenty years Minister of Research and Technology.

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Surprising referendum on East Timor

Two months after being appointed vice president by Suharto, he succeeded him as president in 1998 when the dictator left power after an uprising. B. J. Habibie allowed the transition to democracy of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world by holding elections the following year. It has also helped to stabilize the economy hit hard by the Asian financial crisis and weakened by corruption.

His surprise decision to authorize a referendum on the independence of East Timor, the former Portuguese colony led by Indonesia, paved the way for the separation of territory with Indonesia. Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence, triggering a bloody crackdown on the Indonesian military and forces.

After 17 months as President, B. J. Habibie handed over power to Abdurrahman Wahid elected President of Indonesia in October 1999.

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Source: lemonde

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