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Habibie, B. J.

Habibie, B. J. (Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie), 1936–2019, Indonesian aeronautical engineer and political leader. Educated in Germany, he worked as an aerospace engineer for Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm in Germany, becoming a vice president in 1973. In 1974 he returned to Indonesia at President Suharto's request to help develop the country's technology sector, becoming minister of research and technology in 1978. A member of the Golkar party, he was appointed vice president in Mar., 1998, and became president after Suharto's resignation that May. During his 17-month tenure, popular protests led Habibie to oversee a gradual return to democracy. In 1999 he granted the inhabitants of East Timor a referendum on its status, but after they voted for independence, pro-Indonesian militias and the army engaged in a campaign of terror until Habibie consented to a UN peacekeeping force there. In 1999 the first free elections since Suharto took power were held; changes also reduced the influence of the military in the government and increased local autonomy. Habibie was succeeded by Abdurrahman Wahid.

See his memoir, Decisive Moments (2006).

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