Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guinea News Update: Military Names New President; Army Warns Mercenaries, etc.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
23:37 Mecca time, 20:37 GMT

Guinea military names new president

Ahmed Tidiane Souare, Guinea's prime minister, says the old government is still in power

The military faction which has carried out a coup in Guinea says it intends to install Captain Moussa Dadis Camara as president.

Some civilian leaders, however, insist that the old government is still running the West African country.

A statement on national radio also announced a curfew effective from Wednesday evening.

A later announcement said curfew imposition had been delayed until Friday "to allow Christians to celebrate a peaceful Christmas holiday".

The Associated Press reported that Camara had declared himself interim leader.

Hundreds of soldiers were seen in the streets a day after army officers said they seized power following the death of Lansana Conte, the president who ruled Guinea for 24 years.

In an apparent show of strength, several hundreds of soldiers backing Camara left the main military base near the international airport and began parading through Conakry, an AFP correspondent said.

They stopped at another military base, Camp Kundara, which houses the presidential guard, then headed for the state broadcasting headquarters, some chanting: "Long live the new leader."

Camara joined them in different areas of Conakry.

Coup's justification

Camara plans to lead a 32-member National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), made up of 26 military officers and six civilians, and has promised to hold new elections at the end of two years.

He said the reason for the military to seize power was "worry about securing territorial integrity".

"This is why without a deep reflection, the council commits itself to organise free, credible and transparent elections at the end of December of 2010," he said.

"At the same time, we are asking the population to abstain from taking part in all street demonstrations."

Speaking in a radio broadcast on Tuesday, Camara had said: "The institutions of the republic have shown themselves to be incapable of resolving the crises which have been confronting the country.

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

The coup leaders insist the military did not "wish to cling on to power" and would only rule for a two-year period.

Coup dismissed

For their part, both Ahmed Tidiane Souare, the prime minister, and Aboubacar Sompare, speaker of Guinea's parliament, deny that the government has been dissolved.

Sompare, who under the constitution should be taking over as interim head of state, appealed to the world to prevent the coup from succeeding.

He dismissed the coup attempt as involving only a "minority of soldiers and officers".

The African Union warned on Wednesday of "stern measures" if the military ignored calls to allow a democratic transition of power in Guinea.

Mouctar Diallo, an opposition party leader, said: "I denounce all attempted military coups aimed at overriding the legal institutions and trying to derail the democratic route of the Republic of Guinea."

Conte's legacy

Conte died late on Monday in Conakry after a long illness. He was one of Africa's longest serving leaders.

Guinea will hold a state funeral on Friday for Conte in his home village of Lansanya, which lies around 100km north of Conakry.

Muzong Kodi, an expert on governance in Africa, told Al Jazeera: "There is a succession plan in the constitution, which clearly sets out the transition period.

"It's actually the national head of the assembly who is supposed to step in and organise the presidential elections within two months.

"What one can hope for is a transition period led by civilians. The last thing the country needs is a military coup."

Al Hassan Sillah, a journalist in Conakry, told Al Jazeera there are widespread fears that the power struggle could spill over into violence, splitting the armed forces and possibly even pushing the country into civil war.

Sillah said any deterioration in the country could destabilise neighbouring countries.

"Sierra Leone is just a stone's throw from here and if things degenerate here it would be very easy for it to spill over to there," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
13:03 Mecca time, 10:03 GMT

Background: Tensions in Guinea

Security forces carried out a bloody crackdown on opposition protesters in 2007

The death of Lasana Conte, Guinea's president for 24 years, has seen the army apparently move in to fill the political vacuum in the West African, which was once a rare bastion of stability in the region.

Some analysts had suggested prior to Conte's death that the country could slip into chaos after his death as there was no obvious successor to the long-term ruler, who had acted repressively to put down challenges to his control.

A crippling nationwide labour strike in 2007 threw the country into two months of turmoil before it was stopped by a crackdown by security forces.

More than 130 Guineans were killed in clashes between police and anti-government protesters led by union bosses who said Conte was unfit to rule.

Guinea's security forces shot, beat and robbed civilians during the ensuing two weeks of martial law, according to Human Rights Watch.

The International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based think tank, warned then that the crackdown could lead to a bloody military take-over, which in turn could escalate into a full-scale civil war.

Factbox: Guinea

Capital: Conakry
Population: 9.2 million (2006)
Languages: French and local dialects
Religions: Muslim (90 per cent), Christian and other local beliefs
Geography: Shares borders with Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ivory Coast

In May 2008, soldiers revolted over pay concerns after Conte dismissed Lansana Kouyate, the prime minister, who had been installed as part of a deal to defuse the impact of the strikes.

The dispute quickly escalated to include demands for senior generals to be removed.

Conte himself took power at the head of a military coup in 1984 when Ahmed Sekou Toure, the country's first post-independence president, died after 25 years of heavily centralised rule.

He brought in a new constitution in 1990, and instituted a multi-party system two years later. But despite this, he has kept tight control of the country.

Conte was elected head of state in the first presidential election in 1993, winning a second term at the polls in 1998, when the opposition vehemently contested the outcome.

Alpha Conde, the leader of the main opposition Movement of the People of Guinea (RPG), was arrested at the end of 1998 and sentenced in September 2000 to five years in prison for treason.

He was granted a presidential pardon in May 2001, about six months before a referendum under which Conte oversaw constitutional reforms which would allow him to serve a third term.

The opposition called for a boycott of the vote, saying Conte was determined to become a "president for life", but in December 2003 Conte won his third term with 95 per cent of the vote.

Just days before Conte died, Ahmed Tidiane Soare, the prime minister, announced that parliamentary elections would be held in May 2009.

The polls were originally scheduled for late 2007 as part of the measures to end the strikes, but they were delayed until December 2008 before being postponed again.

Open and fair elections are seen as an essential element for restoring political stability in Guinea.

Source: Agencies

Thousands greet Guinea coup chief

Capt Camara says he will lead an interim administration for two years

Thousands of Guineans have gone on to the streets of the capital to welcome the leader of a coup that followed the death of the country's president.

The junior army officer who led the coup, Capt Moussa Dadis Camara, told journalists he was now "president of the republic", AFP news agency reports.

He has declared an overnight curfew throughout the country.

A regional delegation is due in Guinea on Thursday to encourage a return to constitutional rule.

The group, Ecowas, has condemned the coup, as has the African Union.

"Ecowas cannot accept military imposition on the people of Guinea," said Mohammed Ibn Chambers, one of the delegation's members.

Earlier, government leaders insisted they were still in power and called for help from the international community.

But BBC West Africa correspondent Will Ross says the coup leaders now appear to be in control and to enjoy considerable public support.

President Lansana Conte, 74, died on Monday night and renegade soldiers moved to seize power in the hours afterwards, taking control of state radio and television.

The funeral of Mr Conte is to take place on Friday in his home village.


The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, said that shortly after Capt Camara was named as president of the new junta, a large convoy of soldiers, policemen and firemen took to the streets in a large motorcade. We have no intention of bringing in mercenaries

He said tens of thousands of people had come out to cheer and applaud them, shouting: "Welcome to this change; welcome to this change!"

The convoy moved through the streets unopposed.

"I came to see if the terrain is favourable to us," Capt Camara was quoted as saying. "I see that it is."

In his first press conference, the army captain said there was a big movement of support for the coup, AFP reported.

"I am convinced, reassured that I am the president of the republic, the head of the (junta's) National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD)," he said.

Earlier, the CNDD announced a curfew from 2000 to 0600.

The coup leaders also warned forces loyal to the government against using mercenaries to restore themselves to power.

A man believed to be Capt Camara makes a television address
"I would like to inform the people of Guinea that there are generals who for unknown reasons are trying to recruit mercenaries - some of whom are already inside our borders - for the purpose of destabilising our attempts to establish peace and democracy," Capt Camara said.

His statement followed a call by the parliament speaker, Aboubacar Sompare, for the international community to intervene.

According to Guinea's constitution, Mr Sompare should be in charge of the government until elections are held in 60 days.


The country's prime minister, Ahmed Tidiane Souare, has insisted the government, protected by loyal troops, is still the legitimate authority.

He rejected the coup leaders' claims that mercenaries could be used.

Send us your comments"It's idiotic - no, it's not true at all," Mr Souare told the Associated Press news agency.

"We are still in control and we are trying to normalise the situation. We have no intention of bringing in mercenaries. In fact, we haven't even asked our own armed forces to intervene."

Capt Camara said the new ruling council replacing the government and other institutions would hold "free, credible and transparent elections" in December 2010, when President Conte's term would have ended.

"The council has no ambitions to hold on to power. The only reason is the need to safeguard territorial integrity. That is the only reason. There is no ulterior motive," he said.

Mr Conte died on Monday night after a "long illness".

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

The European Union and United States have joined the African Union in condemning of the coup.

Coup leaders warn off mercenaries

Analysts had predicted an attempted military coup after Mr Conte's death

Coup leaders in Guinea have warned army generals backing the government not to use mercenaries to oppose the coup.

Junior officers leading the coup effort said intervention by outside forces, who they say are already in Guinea, would lead to consequences.

The country's prime minister insists the government is still in control, but the situation remains unclear.

Observers fear unrest in Guinea could spread in a region enjoying relative stability after years of conflict.

The national assembly head has urged the international community to prevent the coup attempt succeeding.

"The international community must... prevent the military from interrupting the democratic process," Aboubacar Sompare told Reuters news agency.

African Union leaders are holding emergency talks on the crisis.

According to Guinea's constitution, Mr Sompare should be in charge of the government until elections are held in 60 days.

In a telephone interview with Reuters, Mr Sompare said the army was split between loyalists and coup-plotters.

"The situation hasn't been resolved yet. Loyalists and coup-mongers have met... but they haven't been able to reach an agreement," Mr Sompare said.


Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare has said the government, protected by loyal troops, was still the legitimate authority.

And he rejected the coup leaders' claims that mercenaries could be used.

"It's idiotic - no, it's not true at all," Mr Souare told the Associated Press news agency.

"We are still in control and we are trying to normalise the situation. We have no intention of bringing in mercenaries. In fact, we haven't even asked our own armed forces to intervene."

Mr Souare has been unable to communicate directly with the population since the dissident troops seized the state's TV and radio stations, AP said.

There are tanks on the streets of the capital, Conakry, but for the moment the city is calm.

Elections pledge

The crisis began hours after the death of President Lansana Conte, when coup spokesman Capt Camara went on state radio to say that the government and other institutions had been dissolved in favour of a National Council for Democracy.

He said he would head a 32-member national council that would run the country.

A man believed to be Capt Camara makes a television address
Later, he said the council would hold "free, credible and transparent elections" in December 2010, when President Conte's term would have ended.

"The council has no ambitions to hold on to power. The only reason is the need to safeguard territorial integrity. That is the only reason. There is no ulterior motive," he said.

However, there also appears to be disagreement among the plotters as to whether Capt Camara should head the new national council.

Many analysts had predicted the army would try to take over following President Conte's death because he had been increasingly relying on it to shore up his oppressive rule, our correspondent says.

In recent years he was in such poor health it was often difficult to know who was in charge.

President Conte died on Monday night after a "long illness".

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.

The African Union, European Union and United States led condemnation of the coup.

President 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.

A power struggle in the army could be extremely dangerous given the country's ethnic divisions, says the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross.

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

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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
14:40 Mecca time, 11:40 GMT

Guinea coup. Your views.

Coup leaders in Guinea say they have seized power, but the prime minister insists the old government is still running the country. The conflicting claims came after a military group said it had formed a 32-member "national council for democracy and development" following the death of Lansana Conte, the president. Are you in Guinea? What is the situation at the moment?

Number of comments: 4

Added: Wednesday, 24 December 2008, 12:21 PM Mecca time, 09:21 AM GMT
Chernor Jalloh: Do you remember the days when Seko Toure ruled? He is hailed as a great African leader
alongside the likes of Nkrumah and Lumumba. His socialist policies put focus on development of public sector
and indigenous development.

However, I think, being a tiny country, they could not be self-sufficient and they had no trading partners in Africa, as one after another they were deposed in the West-backed coups. So they fell back on exporting bauxite, mainly to the West. It was in the West's interest not to aid the development of the processing industry in Guinea.

But my sense is that Guinea still did far better when Seko Toure was around. It was only after the SAP in 1980s which dismantled the whole public sector and reduced Guinea to the state it is in. Of course, the West-backed dictator ensured Western corporation kept exploiting the bauxite resources with Guinea getting none of these gains, even as it sank deeper into a debt trap. I would be thankful to hear your views.
SKS, Bangalore, India

Added: Tuesday, 23 December 2008, 07:37 PM Mecca time, 04:37 PM GMT
Chernor, Sierre Leone Why do you think the Western media has been so focused on Zimbabwe while ignoring the plight of Guinea, and other African nations. Many in the West think that only Zimbabwe, Darfur, and eastern Congo are troubled areas in Africa. The only thing they know about Africa comes through the misinformation of Western media, do you think that the West cares about Africans as a whole?
tALLAHhassee Florida, Detroit, United States

Added: Tuesday, 23 December 2008, 06:56 PM Mecca time, 03:56 PM GMT
Guinea Conakry after getting the independence from one of the worst colonizer France Monsieur Ahmed Sékou Touré came in power until the other military man replaced him until he died yesterday. Two dictators ruled that poor country for five decades and of course former colonial power partly responsible for aiding the junta of Conte.

Sekou Toure was one of the most frequent travelers of non-aligned countries and Eastern Europe did not do any progress to his countries being friend of Russia. The countries surrounding Guinea-C are all typical murderer regimes like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau and Cote d’Ivoire. If France put pressure, there is a chance that country may see democracy at last, otherwise bleak future for that poor country.
baz, Vancouver, Canada

Added: Tuesday, 23 December 2008, 03:59 PM Mecca time, 12:59 PM GMT
As someone who is originally from Guinea, the life there is very much hard for ordinary Guineas as the country was ruled by the military, and Lansana Conté once said he was a militry man and poor, then anything that people happen to see in their hands were stolen. This man never allowed real democracy to take place in a country full of resources.

But as the Western powers were benifiting from the country's minerals even the Western media did not dare to report the situation in the country; instead, they were focusing their attention on Zimbabwe. The militry is known to be one of the most oppressive institutions in that country.

So, as long as the Western powers are reluctant to put pressure on the junta, the country is going to slip into another chaos and anarchy just like the incidents that took place in January and february of 2007 which left 200 dead and many more injured, with a lot of looting while women were raped on a daily basis. God help Guinea from another crisis that is yet to occur very soon.
Chernor Jalloh, Makeni, Sierra Leone

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