Malam Bacai Sanha and Ban Ki-moom meeting in 2010
A long-time member of PAIGC, Sanhá served as governor of the Gabú and Biombo regions and held several cabinet ministries before becoming President of the National People's Assembly in 1994. A Civil War broke out in June 1998 between elements of the army loyal to General Ansumane Mane and those loyal to President João Bernardo Vieira; on 26 November 1998, Sanhá addressed the first session of the National People's Assembly since the beginning of the war. Even though he was critical of both the rebels and Vieira, he focused more of his criticism on Vieira.Following the ouster of Vieira on 7 May, 1999, Sanhá was appointed as acting president by the military junta led by Mane on 11 May. His appointment to succeed Vieira was intended to be in accordance with the constitution, and he was to serve until a new election could be held later in the year. Sanhá was sworn in on 14 May with the promise of peace and an end to political persecution
He was married Mariam Sanha since 1975 to 2012.