Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guinea News Bulletin: Army Seizes Power After Lansana Conte's Death; Full Text of Military Statement

Full text: Guinea military statement

Hours after the death of Guinean President Lansana Conte, the army has announced the dissolution of the government and suspension of the constitution.

Here is the military's statement in full.

Dear fellow countrymen,

At the time of celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence on 2 October, Guinea was ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world despite its abundant natural resources.

Guinea could have been more prosperous. Unfortunately, history and men have decided otherwise.

Embezzlement of public funds, general corruption, impunity established as a method of government and anarchy in the management of state affairs have eventually plunged our country into a catastrophic economic situation which is particularly tragic for the overwhelming majority of Guineans. All these woes have been worrying the population for a long time and have caused deep despair for the future.

The members of the current cabinet are mainly responsible for such unprecedented social and economic crises.

Similarly, the republican institutions' failure to commit themselves to the search for solutions to the crisis and implement the provisions of the constitution confirms the dysfunction of the government.

Indeed, we have noted a lack of political will from the so-called broad-based government to initiate the necessary reforms to solve such a serious and permanent crisis that affects all sectors of the country, namely:

The government's obvious failure to provide basic social services such as water and electricity
The marginalisation of youths and women in the decision-making process
Theworsening insecurity in the entire country and the general corruption in the administration
A fresh upsurge of drug trafficking throughout the country
The government's flat refusal to further review mining agreements for fear of harming the personal and selfish interests of some government officials, lobby groups and Mafia-like clans
The failure to prosecute people involved in embezzlement of public funds
Arbitrary appointments to key government positions
The government's lack of political will to hold free and transparent elections for a year now
The fact that some lobby groups have taken the government to ransom, preventing the government from initiating the necessary customs, fiscal, and monetary reforms that are necessary for an economic recovery of the country.

All these woes have been worrying the population for a long time and have caused deep despair for the future of the entire Guinea people in general and especially for the Guinean youth.

'Peaceful transition'

For all these reasons, a National Council for Democracy and Development, (CNDD), has decided to end the agony of the Guinea people.

In order to preserve national unity, ensure the economic development of our country, and lay the foundations of a true democracy based on the rule of law in which all the citizens are prosperous, equal and enjoy free movement in all security and at all times, as from today, the constitution is suspended.

All political and trade union activities are also suspended.

Similarly, the government and the republican institutions are dissolved. We are all in a competition to attain the same goal: to achieve the well-being of the Guinean people.

In the coming days, a National Transitional Consultative Council made up of soldiers and civilians will be set up, taking into account the ethnic balance.

It will be chaired by a president.

The council will be in charge of leading and supervising the transition to enable the restoration of state authority, the fight against corruption, and the holding of transparent elections.

A prime minister - head of government - vested with all the constitutional powers will be appointed.

His mission will be, among others:

To fight corruption
To restore state authority and public administration
To ensure the actual liberalisation of airwaves throughout the national territory
To initiate a constitutional amendment
To provide basic services of water, electricity, and health care to the people.

These measures will guarantee a peaceful transition in the highest interest of the Guinean nation.

Dear compatriots, to reach our objectives and set our country on the path of a rebirth, we will need courage, patriotism, and a lot of sacrifice.

Let us be proud as on 2 Oct 1958 [Guinea's Independence day] and let us show the rest of the world that, once more, Guinea can set an example of a successful democracy and an enviable country on the path of development.

We are all in a competition to attain the same goal: to achieve the well-being of the Guinean people.

We call on all the military and paramilitary forces to ensure the security of citizens and their property.

We also call on the people to back its army that has always heeded its calls.

Long live the people of Guinea!
Long live national unity!
Long live the republic!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
18:01 Mecca time, 15:01 GMT

Coup follows Guinea leader's death

Lansana Conte, who ruled Guinea for 24 years, was one of Africa's longest-serving leaders

Guinea's army has staged a coup after the death of Lansana Conte, the president for 24 years.

A statement read out on state radio on Tuesday, just hours after Conte's death was announced, said that the government had been dissolved and the constitution suspended.

But Tidiane Souare, the Guinean prime minister, said the government had not been dissolved.

An Associated Press reporter in Conakry, the capital, said he had seen dozens of armed soldiers heading towards the presidential compound shortly after army officers were said to have summoned ministers and other senior government officials to a military base.

'Constitution suspended'

"The institutions of the republic have shown themselves to be incapable of resolving the crises which have been confronting the country," Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said in an address on Radio Conakry.

"As of today, the constitution is suspended as well as as political and union activity."

Camara said that civilian and military representatives would make up a "consultative council" in place of the deposed government and state institutions.

Aboubacar Sompare, the national assembly president, later said to France 24, a French television station, that the move was an attempted coup by a group within the military.

Witnesses in Conakry told Al Jazeera that a young captain from the presidental guard announced on state radio that "people should stay at home and that the military will take control of the political and econonic situation in the country".

Police and army personnel were said to be seen everywhere.

A senior official at the African Union said that they were "preoccupied and keenly monitoring" the situation.

Long illness

Conte, 74, was said to have died late on Monday at age 74 in Conakry after a long illness.

He was one of Africa's longest serving leaders.

After the country gained independence from French rule in 1958, Conte climbed through the army's ranks to deputy head, before being chosen to lead a military recovery committee that overthrew the government, promising civilian rule and democracy.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Richard Cornwell, the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said: "We've been expecting for some years that Lansana Conte's health would eventually give in ... and there had been no preparation for any sort of succession.

"This was to be anticipated. It was a last resort, but really it was an only resort.

"What we were really worried about, more than even a coup was the fact that the army might split and this would result in civil war.

"And of course with Guinea, being where it is ... with Sierra Leone and Liberia as its near neighbours, this would be very dangerous in that region."

Cornwell said he thought the population would be willing to see what came of the new ruling faction, whose members and stance were still unknown.

"But obviously [the group] are also aware that the African Union is not likely to recognise the sort of government that emerges from a coup, hence the incorporation of civilian politicians."

Before the coup, Souare, the prime minister, had called for "calm and restraint" and for the army to help keep the peace.

Reclusive autocrat

The supreme court was asked to find a replacement to Conte, who was a reclusive diabetic and chain smoker, and 40 days of national morning were declared.

The former colonial soldier led the world's number one bauxite exporter with strong-arm tactics since taking power in a coup in 1984, after Ahmed Sekou Toure, the West African country's first president, died in a US hospital.

He had won three sets of elections in the country post-1993. However, the polls were mostly boycotted by opposition groups who said that they were undemocratic.

Conte had failing health since the 2002, occasionally slipping into a coma, generating rumours of his death.

This led to campaigning on a reduced scale in presidential elections in 2003, but he neverthless won with over 95 per cent of the vote.

Opposition parties increasingly called for Conte - who was frequently abroad in Morocco, Switzerland and Cuba for medical treatment later on during his presidency - to step down, raising fears of political instability should he die while in power.

Demonstrations against Conte's rule in 2007 and last month were suppressed in deadly fashion, with 186 and 4 people being killed respectively.

However, he was defiant concerning his position towards the end of his reign.

"I am the boss, others are my subordinates," he said in 2007.

"There is no question of transition," he said, after being questioned about who might take over from him.

Source: Al jazeera and agencies

Coup in Guinea after president's death

CONAKRY, Dec 23, 2008 (AFP) - - Army officers seized power in Guinea on Tuesday hours after the death of president Lansana Conte, suspending the west African nation's constitution and summoning ministers to a military base.

Conte , who ruled the impoverished but mineral-rich country with an iron fist for 24 years after also taking power in a coup, died late Monday after "a long illness" aged 74, state television announced.

Soon after his death was announced, army officers summoned government ministers and senior officials to a base near Guinea's international airport "to guarantee their security," according to a statement read on state radio.

The officers ordered the population to "stay at home and refrain from all acts of vandalism and looting" and said a military-civilian council had "taken effective power" following Conte's death.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said on state radio that the constitution has been suspended and all state institutions dissolved to be replaced by a "consultative council".

"The institutions of the republic have shown themselves to be incapable of resolving the crises which have been confronting the country," Camara said on Radio Conakry.

Hours earlier Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare had appealed for "calm and restraint" and for the army to help keep the peace.

Camara said the country was in a state of "deep despair" and it was vital that there was an upturn in the economy and more was done to combat corruption.

"Guinea celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence on October 2 classified as one of the poorest countries on the planet," he said.

"With our vast natural resources, Guinea should be much more prosperous."

Camara said rampant corruption, a culture of impunity and "unparalleled anarchy in the state apparatus" had triggered an "economic catastrophe which has been particularly harsh for the vast majority of Guineans."

It was not immediately clear whether Camara was speaking on behalf of the army's high command or as the head of some kind of splinter faction.

The African Union said it would hold an emergency meeting of its Peace and Security Council on Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss the situation in Guinea.

"If the army coup is confirmed, it is a flagrant violation of the constitution and of African legality which absolutely forbids unconstitutional changes of government," said Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra.

In power since 1984, Conte was a chain smoker who suffered from chronic diabetes and was at one time diagnosed with leukemia.

A career soldier, he had relied on the army along with his clan to bolster his political and economic authority since he took power in a coup in April 1984 a week after the death of Guinea's first president, Ahmed Sekou Toure.

In recent years social tension and criticism of his regime had become increasingly open but the self-styled man of the people was more than willing to use the army to put down discontent.

"I am the boss, others are my subordinates," he told AFP in an interview last year. Asked who might one day replace him, Conte replied: "There is no question of transition."

In early 2007 big demonstrations hostile to the regime and the "predators of the national economy" were brutally suppressed: at least 186 people were killed.

This November at least four people died when demonstrations shook the suburbs of Conakry, with security forces firing live ammunition, according to Human Rights Watch.

Non-governmental organisations have frequently hit out at the "calamitous" management of Guinea, a country of nine million people which is riddled with corruption and rated as one of the world's poorest countries despite potential riches including bauxite, iron, gold and diamonds.

Guinea: Coup Bid After Death of Lansana Conté

23 December 2008

There is confusion in Conakry Tuesday, where the death of President Lansana Conté has led to an attempted military coup.

An army officer, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, announced on Radio Conakry "the dissolution" of the government and its institutions, and the suspension of Guinea's constitution, just hours after Conté died. He has been in power since 1984.

The officer declared that "the institutions of the Republic have illustrated their incapacity to resolve the crisis" across the country. Citing reasons for the action, he pointed to the "profound disappointment of the population," the necessity for "economic redress" and the "fight against corruption."

"The [performance of the] government and the institutions of the Republic are disappointing," he added, while announcing that a "consultative council" would soon be created
"comprising civilians and military officials."

On Monday night, the president of the National Assembly, Aboubacar Somparé, accompanied by the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Army, announced on state television the death of Lansana Conté, aged 74, "after a long illness." The current whereabouts of the above three leaders is unknown.

The constitution provides that Somparé should act as president for 60 days pending a new presidential election. Parliamentary elections have already been announced for May 2009.

Among reactions to today's news, the African Union expressed its deep concern at the situation. In the region, Guinea's neighbours are following events closely.

(Report translated from the original French by Michael Tantoh.)

Guinea soldiers attempt coup after president dies

Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:21am EST
By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Mutinous Guinean soldiers launched a coup attempt on Tuesday hours after the death was announced of the West African nation's long-serving President Lansana Conte.

But the head of the army said he believed the plotters were in the minority.

The mutineers broadcast a communique on state radio suspending the constitution and the government. It was not clear how much support they had for their bid to take over the bauxite exporting country.

"I think they are in the minority ... they are not the majority in the army," Guinea's armed forces chief, General Diarra Camara, told French TV station France 24.

Officials said negotiations were held at the main Alpha Yaya Diallo military base in Conakry's suburbs, between soldiers and officers who supported the coup and those who wanted to stay loyal to constitutional procedure.

National Assembly President Aboubacar Sompare, who under the constitution should take over as interim head of state following Conte's death on Monday, told French TV an "attempted coup d'etat" was underway.

Shots were heard from the neighborhood of the Alpha Yaya Diallo camp, residents said. But despite the presence of heavily-armed military patrols, and at least one tank in the streets, the dilapidated seaside capital Conakry was calm.

"I don't think all of the army are behind the mutineers ... It's a group," Sompare told France 24, speaking from his home in the capital Conakry.

The attempted coup was launched just hours after government leaders said Conte, believed to be 74, had died from illness following nearly a quarter century of rule over the country, the world's leading exporter of bauxite aluminum ore.

In radio broadcasts, the soldiers attempting the coup told government leaders to go to the Alpha Yaya Diallo camp "for their protection," but Sompare said he and Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare were still at liberty.

Former colonial power France, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said it would oppose any coup in Guinea, a position echoed by the African Union and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

Heavily-armed soldiers guarded the strategic road bridge giving access to downtown Conakry, the presidency and the central bank, and also patrolled the streets in pick-up trucks.

As the military vehicles passed, some civilians applauded, chanting "president, president."

In an earlier broadcast on state radio announcing the suspension of the constitution, one of the coup-plotters, Captain Moussa Davis Camara, said a National Council for Democracy and Development was taking over.


The broadcast cited what it called widespread corruption and a "catastrophic economic situation" to justify the dissolving of the government, which it said was largely responsible for this.

The death of Conte, a diabetic, chain-smoking general, left a power vacuum in the bauxite exporter, where companies like Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan and Russia's RUSAL have major operations.

"Guinea hangs on the precipice. There is no democratic transition to now speak of," Kissy Agyeman, Africa analyst with IHS Global Insight, said in a briefing note.

Guinea, most of whose people are poor, has experienced anti-government riots and strikes and bloody military mutinies in recent years, aggravated by rising prices of food and fuel.

Appearing on TV in the early hours of Tuesday with other government and military leaders, Sompare had announced Conte had died on Monday evening. He asked the country's Supreme Court to name him president in line with the constitution, in order to organize presidential elections within 60 days.

Legislative elections were already planned for 2009.

Sompare declared 40 days of national mourning.

Rumors that Conte was seriously ill had circulated for days. Conte, who said he was born around 1934, had governed Guinea since 1984 when he seized power after the country's first president, Sekou Toure, died in a U.S. hospital.

But the president, for whom the military was a key pillar of support, never groomed a clear successor.

"The military obeyed Conte ... and now he's not there," one veteran local journalist told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Disgruntled younger soldiers from the Alpha Yaya Diallo base had staged a previous mutiny over pay earlier this year.

Conte became reclusive in his later years of rule and often traveled abroad for medical treatment.

Veteran opposition leader Jean Marie Dore of the Union for the Progress of Guinea party said: "It is essential that the institutions function correctly and that the provisions of the constitution be respected."

Last year, a general strike triggered anti-government riots in which more than 180 people were killed, most of them shot by Conte's forces, according to witnesses and human rights groups.

Analysts saw little impact on mining operations. "If you look at the history of Guinea and Guinea mining ... they have continued to mine, so the base assumption would be nothing really changes in the short term," said Julian Kettle, aluminum research manager at U.K.-based industry consultants Brook Hunt.

Military 'seizes power' in Guinea

Many analysts had predicted the army would take over after Mr Conte died

A Guinea army statement has announced the dissolution of the government, after President Lansana Conte's death.

An army officer said on state radio a "consultative council" of civilian and military chiefs would be set up. The EU and African Union condemned the move.

A BBC correspondent in the capital Conakry says tanks have been seen on the streets.

But Guinea Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare said the government had not been dissolved and "continues to function".

And National Assembly Speaker Aboubacar Sompare, the constitutional successor, told French TV there had been an attempted rebellion but he did not think the entire military was behind it.

'Long illness'

He announced earlier that President Conte, who ruled the West African country with an iron fist for 24 years, had died on Monday night after a "long illness". Forty days of national mourning have been declared.

The cause of his death is unknown, but Mr Conte, 74, was a chain-smoker and diabetic who is also believed to have suffered from leukaemia.

BBC West Africa correspondent Will Ross says it is important to see whether the army is united, as a power struggle could be extremely dangerous given the country's ethnic divisions.

Guinea's neighbours - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast - are enjoying relative stability after years of conflict and there are fears any unrest there could spread and embroil the sub-region in fighting once more.

'Stay at home'

Only hours after the announcement of the president's death, a junior army officer went on state radio to say the army had taken over, and a body called the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) set up.

"As of today, the constitution is suspended as well as political and union activity," said Capt Moussa Dadis Camara. "The government and the institutions of the republic have been dissolved."

Capt Camara, who is head of the army's fuel supplies unit, said an interim council would be set up to root out corruption and organise fair elections.

"Public assemblies are formally forbidden," he said.

Announcers said the officer was speaking on behalf of the entire military, although this has not been independently confirmed.

Ministers were later ordered to present themselves at the Alpha Yaya Diallo military base "to guarantee their security", while civilians were told to stay indoors and refrain from looting.

African Union peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told the BBC: "This is a blatant violation of the Guinean constitution and a violation of African legality."

Former colonial power France - in its capacity as the current holder of the European Union's rotating six-month presidency-said it would oppose any attempted putsch in Guinea and called for free and transparent elections.

Relying on military

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, said soldiers have set up check-points along the main roads into the city centre, but so far there have been no reports of them being heavy-handed.

Vehicles are checked briefly and waved through, he says.

Earlier, the leader of the Union for the Progress of Guinea and the secretary of the opposition alliance, Frad, Jean-Marie Dore, called for a peaceful transition of power.

Veteran opposition leader Alpha Konde returned to Guinea on Sunday after 15 months of self-imposed exile in France. He left Guinea after being released from jail.

According to the constitution the National Assembly speaker should be in charge until a presidential election is held within 60 days.

The BBC's Will Ross says many analysts had predicted the army would try to take over following Mr Conte's death because he had been increasingly relying on it to shore up his oppressive rule.

General Conte came to power in 1984 at the head of a military coup to fill the vacuum left by the sudden death of his predecessor, Sekou Toure, who had been president since independence from France in 1958.

He eventually oversaw a return to civilian rule and was elected three times, although critics said the votes were never free or fair.

As his health declined over the last five years, it was often unclear who was in charge and the government barely functioned, our correspondent says.

Although Guinea's mineral wealth makes it potentially one of Africa's richest countries, its population of about 10 million is among the poorest in the region.

Guineans face uncertain future

By Will Ross
BBC West Africa Correspondent

President Lansana Conte's death spells the end of years of misrule in Guinea.

Many Guineans are poor despite the country's abundant natural resources

When he was alive, few Guineans had any hope of their lives improving in what is a mineral rich country.

But as the military tries to take over, Guinea faces an uncertain future.

The president had relied increasingly on the military for support as the population grew angrier with the fact that his government was barely functioning and the economy was in tatters.

The clearest indication of this was the military response to the nationwide strike and demonstrations in early 2007.

More than 150 demonstrators were shot dead and martial law was declared.

Many analysts had predicted that the military would take over come the end of Mr Conte's rule - the army was increasingly showing signs that it was in charge.

Whenever there were military uprisings, often over pay, the president simply promoted those who were disgruntled and dished out more money that the country could ill afford.

A corrupt and chaotic system of governance suited some individuals within the presidential circle who stood to derive political and financial benefits.

But for ordinary Guineans life grew ever harder and it was became impossible to know who was in charge.

It was not uncommon for state television to announce a cabinet reshuffle which was then annulled the following evening.

While Guineans are desperate for a break from the chaotic rule there are concerns over possible in-fighting to fill the power vacuum.


When Guinea celebrated the 50th anniversary of independence last October, several heads of state flew in from around the region.

They were treated to brass bands and military displays but one man was missing - Mr Conte.

The evening before, I had seen his modest motorcade speeding through the streets of the capital, Conakry - the president's trembling hand was holding a cigarette to his mouth.

There were rumours that the man who came to power through a coup in 1984 would be present at the anniversary celebrations - there were even claims that his arm chair had been seen.

But Mr Conte's absence was a clear indication of a rudderless nation which for five years had become ever more chaotic as he refused to leave power while his health declined.

He was diabetic and although it was never officially revealed, he was believed to be suffering from leukaemia.

The army's decision to dissolve parliament and the constitution would be welcomed by Guineans if the country were to remain peaceful and if elections were held soon.

The key now is whether the army and the politicians can agree on a way forward.

Ethnic mix

Any power struggle would be extremely dangerous given the ethnic divisions that exist.

Mr Conte was from the Soussou ethnic group which makes up 10% of the population.

While the Soussou have benefited during the past 25 years of his rule, some fear a possible struggle for supremacy between two of the major ethnic groups, the Peul and the Malinke.

Rival cliques within the presidential circle have been fighting to preserve their political and financial interests for some years by maintaining the corrupt system of governance.

Those competing for power include businessmen, senior army figures and the president's wives.

The future of Guinea is also of great concern in the region.

After conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, West Africa badly needs a dose of peace.

Guinea provided an oasis of tranquillity for thousands of refugees who fled the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the 1990s and the early years of this century.

But in recent years, the now peaceful neighbours have been watching events in Guinea with growing apprehension, and not surprisingly Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma called an emergency cabinet meeting following the news of events across the border.

The fact that ethnic groups live across the national borders of these countries means any conflict can all too easily become regional.

Many Guineans had been longing for an end to the oppressive and chaotic rule of Mr Conte.

Now they hope the change at the top is peaceful.

Fear in Guinea at army takeover

By Alhassan Sillah
BBC News, Conakry

The sunshine in Conakry does not reflect the mood of anxiety hanging over Guinea's capital city. People are worried.

The death of a president, especially one who has brought the country to its knees, might be a reason to celebrate.

"I cannot be a 100% happy over the death of someone," one woman told me.

But she said she could not mourn President Lansana Conte, "given what he did to his people - his own people".

She added that she wanted to see a new civilian president, not soldiers, in charge.

It is the intervention by the army that residents in the capital really fear.

They want to know if the army is united behind its decision to suspend the constitution and take power within hours of the announcement of Gen Conte's passing.

If the army command is not "as one" then there could be chaos, people in the townships have been telling me.

"The military should try to find a solution for the average Guinean who is in a permanent state of crisis," one man said.

The suburbs were where a deadly strike against Mr Conte's rule started nearly two years ago.

The army had to be brought in to restore order to the streets.

Military music

Today, those streets are quiet. They are free of their usual hustle and bustle.

I am parked outside Ratoma Communal Hospital, where the normal crowds are absent.

The shops are also closed, although a few market women have started to come out to sell vegetables at the markets.

Traffic is also picking up.

After residents awoke to news of the death, a few ventured outside.

Those taxi drivers who had reported to their ranks returned home apprehensively.

Now more taxis are out and about and a few minibuses have started to plough their routes.

Soldiers have set up check-points along the main roads into the city centre, but so far there have been no reports of them being heavy-handed or harassing people.

Vehicles are checked briefly and waved through.

Music on the state radio has changed from music mourning the late president to more military tunes.

Private radio stations are continuing with their usual broadcasts - mainly music programmes - although mention has been made of the military intervention.

Guinea is a mainly Muslim country, so Christmas is not widely celebrated here.

The biggest party of the year is on 31 December, when everyone takes to the streets.

But in a country where there is a tradition of respecting leaders, it is not clear whether people will be dancing into the new year.

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