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Guinean President Fires Key Ministers

  • Gabi Menezes

Guinean President Lansana Conte has fired three key ministers in another cabinet reorganization. They include hard-line Security Minister Moussa Sampil and Minister of Mines Alpha Mady Soumah.

No official reason was given for the dismissal of the ministers of mines, security, and foreign affairs late Tuesday. But security analyst Richard Reeve says the move points to instability in the country.

"President Conte's health is very poor, obviously has been for the last few years, so clearly it is in his interests particularly in the people around him, not to have anyone within his circle who is seen to be too powerful and a potential successor to him," he said.

Human rights and opposition groups have long called for the ouster of the now former minister of security Moussa Sampil. The ex-minister ordered thousands of detentions after an alleged attempt to kill the president. He has been given a post in the justice ministry. This is the second time he has been sacked from the post of security minister.

A political expert on Guinea, Chris Melville, believes the move is an attempt to bolster the reformist prime minister and to improve Guinea's image in the eyes of donor countries.

"The dismissal of Sampil and the promotion of Ahmed Tidiane Souare as the new mines minister who is a key confidant of the prime minister is all part of a broader strategy to warn some of the hard liners within the regime that they do not have a free reign within the administration and also to act as a symbol - a sign to the European Union that President Conte is serious about reform," he said.

The former minister of mines, Alpha Mady Soumah, was in the process of negotiating a project for foreign companies to build an aluminum processing plant. Although Guinea holds the world's third-largest bauxite reserves, it does not have the means to process the raw material to make aluminum.

An analyst for the International Crisis Group, Mike McGovern, believes that the removal of Mr. Soumah who was expected to retire soon, will not effect any deal on a aluminum plant.

"It is a huge commitment of billions of dollars, in fact, to build this plant and a lot is going to depend on the political situation in Guinea over the next year or two as to whether the whole project goes forward," he said.

The foreign affairs minister Mamady Conde was replaced by Kaba Mahawa Sidibe who had been serving as Guinea's ambassador to Nigeria.

Mr. Conte, a former army colonel, has ruled the country for 21 years after taking power in a coup.

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