Saturday, December 05, 2009

Guinea News Update: Vice-President Sekouba Konate Takes Charge in the Absence of Wounded Coup Leader

Guinea vice-president takes helm

Guinea's vice-president has returned from business abroad to take charge of the country after an attempted assassination on the president.

President Moussa Dadis Camara was flown to Morocco, where a spokesman said he underwent a "minor operation" after being shot on Thursday.

Vice-President Sekouba Konate returned from Lebanon to take charge.

The aide who allegedly shot Capt Camara remains on the run. The capital city Conakry was calm after the violence.

The airport was heavily guarded as Mr Konate, who is also the defence minister, returned on Saturday to fill the gap left by Capt Camara.
Born 1964 in far south-east
Seized power in December 2008 as a little-known army captain
Promised democracy but then showed signs of holding onto power
Increasingly erratic behaviour and public humiliation of officials
Has pledged to tackle drugs traffickers
Initially blamed "uncontrollable" military elements for September 28 killings
The military were patrolling the streets, but people were going about their business.

The president's spokesman said his life was not in danger.

It was believed to be the first time Capt Camara had left the country since seizing power last December.

Details of his injuries were unclear, with some reports saying it was a minor graze on his head, while others saying it was multiple gunshot wounds.

The president of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, told state television that Capt Camara was in a "difficult but not desperate" condition after the attack.

Minister of Communications Idrissa Cherif said Capt Camara's driver and bodyguard were killed in the attack when they were attacked with machetes, Associated Press news agency reported.

The senior aide allegedly responsible, Major Aboubacar Diakite, has gone into hiding.

Road-blocks set up on the two main roads into Conakry by security forces after the attack have since been lifted.

Analysts say the shooting highlights deep rifts within the junta after the killing of an estimated 157 opposition supporters in September.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/12/05 14:28:32 GMT

Saturday, December 05, 2009
13:54 Mecca time, 10:54 GMT

Guinea dismisses power vacuum fears

Witnesses say tensions had been mounting for weeks between Camara and Toumba

Guinean officials have played down fears of a power vacuum in the country in the wake of the departure of the de facto president to Morocco for emergency medical treatment following an assassination attempt.

Moussa "Dadis" Camara was taken to a military hospital outside Rabat, for treatment on what the Moroccan foreign ministry said were "strictly humanitarian grounds".

Meanwhile, Sekouba Konate, Camara's vice-president, returned to the country in the wake of the attack, a government spokesman said.

Idrissa Cherif, Guinea's communications minister, said: "Power is in the hands of the CNDD [the ruling National Council for Democracy and Development] and the government."

Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso, said on Friday that Camara's health was in a "difficult" but not hopeless state following the assassination bid.

"The information we received from his personal doctor an hour ago is that Dadis is in a situation which is difficult but not desperate," Compaore, who has been leading mediation on the political crisis in Guinea, said in a statement.

Morocco has long been a destination for West Africa's elite to seek medical care.

Security fears

Conakry, the Guinean capital, was on high alert in the wake of the attack.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said it was "following with grave concern the evolving security situation in Guinea in the aftermath of the shooting incident".

The attempt on Camra's life was allegedly carried out by Aboubacar Sidiki Diakite, an aide to Camara, who went into hiding soon afterwards.

A United Nations source said one of Camara's bodyguards and a chauffeur were killed trying to protect him.

The attack happened as UN investigators in Conakry wound up their inquiry into an opposition protest crackdown on September 28, which witnesses said killed more than 150 people.

The inquiry could lead to international prosecutions of those responsible.

Protest investigated

About 50,000 people were demonstrating against the possibility of Camara running in a January 2010 election, after post-coup pledges that he would not.

Camara said the troops responsible for the shooting were out of his control while Diakite has been accused of being a leading figure in the massacre.

Witnesses say tensions have been mounting for weeks between Camara and Diakite, who suspected that he would be made to shoulder the blame for the killings.

"This was the only way out for [Camara]," one diplomat said of the theory that Camara would try to implicate Toumba in the September 28 killings and so remove any blame from himself.

Camara took power at the head of the junta after a bloodless coup in December 2008 following the death of Lansana Conte, the former leader.

Source: Agencies

Saturday, December 05, 2009
00:21 Mecca time, 21:21 GMT

Guinea boosts security after attack

Officials said Camara was "slightly wounded" after being shot by the presidential guard chief

Guinea has raised security levels in the capital, Conakry, after the country's de facto president survived an assassination attempt by the head of his own presidential guard.

Residents reported that soldiers were deployed to guard strategic points across the capital on Friday.

Moussa Dadis Camara, who took power in a bloodless coup last year, was only "slightly wounded" in the attack, the government said.

"The government can offer the assurance that the situation is under control," an official said on state television, following the attack on Thursday.

But Youssouf Bah, a Guinean journalist, told Al Jazeera that Camara had been shot in the head. Guinea's communication minister denied that the de facto president had received any head injuries.

Camara arrived at a Moroccan military airport on Friday and is expected to receive medical treatment, government officials told Reuters.

Officials identified Aboubacar Toumba Diakite, the head of the presidential guard and a close aide to Camara, as having opened fire on the president during a visit to a military camp in Conakry.

'In hiding'

Those who "orchestrated this insurrection will be punished", Idrissa Cherif, Guinea's communications minister said on Thursday, adding that Diakite "has been found".

But later reports said Diakite had gone into hiding.

"He is in a safe house," a source in Diakite's entourage said, and a military official confirmed the report.

The attack came as UN investigators in Conakry wound up an inquiry into a bloody crackdown by security forces on pro-democracy protesters gathered inside the capital's national stadium.

Diakite is accused of being the leading figure in the September 28 incident in which more than 150 people were killed and scores of women raped, according to witnesses.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Nairobi, said some sort of dispute had apparently broken out between Camara and Diakite over whether Diakite would be arrested in connection with the massacre.

One diplomat in the city said: "What we are hearing is that they either arrested [Diakite] or were going to arrest him and he shot at [Camara]. There is no doubt that this is linked to the investigation."

Political rift

Diakite, as well as Camara and several others, may face charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

The assassination attempt underscores the deep rifts within the military which took control of the nation of 10 million on Africa's western coast 11 months ago.

Camara had initially promised to quickly organise elections, but later said he planned to run for office himself in presidential elections scheduled for January 10, prompting the peaceful rally in September.

The government has denied all wrongdoing and blamed opposition leaders for going ahead with the banned protest.

The September massacre led the European Union and the African Union to impose sanctions on Guinea including weapons embargoes, visa bans and freezes on foreign bank assets.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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