Africa, Headlines

POLITICS-GUINEA: Captain Named President, Promises Elections in 2010

Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Dec 24 2008 (IPS) - Just under 48 hours after the death of Guinean president, Lansana Conté on Dec. 22, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara has been named Guinea's new head of state by the National Council for Democracy and Development, known by its French acronym, CNDD.

The CNDD, created on Dec. 23 by the leaders of a military coup launched shortly after Conté's death, has promised to lead a to hold democratic elections in December 2010. It has also decreed a country-wide curfew from 8 pm to 6 am, to be observed after the funeral for the deceased president is held on Dec. 26.

By the morning after President Conté's death, soldiers had forcibly occupied the premises of Guinea's national broadcaster to announce the suspension of the constitution, the dissolving of the government and the institutions of the republic.

Captain Camara read a declaration on national radio and television in his capacity as spokesperson for the coup plotters. "The Armed Forces of Guinea have decided to put an end to disorder, restore the authority of the state, fight against corruption to reinforce democracy and fight against poverty."

Calm reigns in the country for the moment, even if not everyone appears to support the takeover. While both the head of the national assembly, Aboubacar Somparé – constitutionally-designated successor to Conté – and Prime Minister Souaré, have rejected the coup, the putschists have occupied all strategic points in the capital Conakry.

Captain Camara has announced the names of 26 soldiers – all young officers trained in major military academies in the West – and six civilians who now make up the National Council for Democracy and Development, the self-designated body to lead the transition in the country.

The opposition has maintained a principled position of condemning the coup attempt.

"I am against all attempts to overturn legal power by force, and I will fight whoever tries to devalue the democratic gains of the Republic of Guinea," said Mouctar Diallo, a young political leader, president of the New Democratic Forces party.

The most important opposition leader, Alpha Condé, president of the Rally of the Guinean People, who returned to the country the day after Conté's death, is yet make a public statement.

However, the Party for Unity and Progress (PUP), on whose platform Conté stood for president in 1993, 1998 and 2003 has not been particularly outspoken.

"People are waiting to see what happens because the situation is confused and one doesn't know exactly where it will end now that the army is now involved in the succession of the president," PUP member of parliament Cheikh Tidiane Traoré told IPS.

Conté himmself came to power in a bloodless coup following the death of the president-dictator Sékou Touré in 1984 and ruled the country with an iron hand for 24 years. But he will also be remembered as the leader who introduced freedom of expression, a greater openness to the outside world and multiparty elections as part of a new constitution in 1990.

Camara and the CNDD have taken control of a country rich in natural resources (including bauxite, gold, diamonds and iron), but with a fragile state weakened by corruption and a culture of violence instilled in certain elements of the army. In January and February 2007, soldiers fired live ammunition at a crowd of demonstrators in Conakry, causing at least 186 deaths.

More than 53 percent of the Guinean population lives below the poverty line of less than a dollar a day, according to official figures.

*The French version of this article contains additional information.

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