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Guinea's New Prime Minister Needs Help From Inside and Outside Country as He Begins Work

As tensions in Guinea subside following weeks of deadly anti-government protests, the nation's newly appointed prime minister faces the arduous task of forming a new government, improving basic services, working with an authoritarian president and placating angry protesters. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar.

"Healing the wounds will be gradual, and time will be needed to cement national and social unity in Guinea."

Those were the words of new prime minister Lansana Kouyate this week as he was sworn in.

Analyst Alex Vines, with the British-based Royal Institute of International Affairs, says balancing different interests will be the first order of the day as a national unity government is formed.

"I think [there will be] much more negotiations and discussions and positioning," he said. "It is inevitable that there will need to be some compromise at some point. This is going to be still a slow and drawn out process."

Vines says union leaders who led the recent protests as well as negotiations with the previous government, while opposition political leaders remained discreet, will probably keep an important role.

"They are certainly in a powerful position. They are reflective of a swell of support in the country. They have become lightning rods for discontent," he said. "So I think it is inevitable that their position will be stronger and they will try and get themselves involved in government."

Analysts say President Lansana Conte's allies will also have to be given roles.

But J. Peter Pham from the U.S-based Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs says it is also important Mr. Conte does not undermine the prime minister as he has done in the past.

"Otherwise all we have done is push off, moved the goal posts a little bit and within a few weeks or months, we will back to where we were just a few days ago," he said.

Before the strike-ending agreement, Guinea was under martial law, while most Guineans wanted the erratic and often sick Mr. Conte, in power since 1984, to step down.

Pham says the international community actually has a lot of leverage on Guinea's president.

"The United States and China, for example, have been involved in training his military forces," he said. "The international community is his biggest supporter as far as handing foreign aid. It is also the international community that maintains Guinea's economy going, especially its governmental sector."

"Without foreign assistance from the European Union, for example, [which] several months ago released funds that had been held up for a number of years, without that, the Guinean state would not be able to pay its functionaries and more importantly its military, which is the structure that maintains Lansana Conte in power," he continued.

Vines says African partners have played a key role in making sure change in Guinea happens through negotiations.

"There has been a consistent background of diplomacy through the African Union, the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States and others trying to encourage transition and also trying to dissuade elements within the military to stage a military coup," he said.

During several waves of rioting and weeks of work stoppage that started in early January, more than 100 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces.

After a day of mourning Monday, the strike action ended, but union leaders said it was just a suspension. They warned the mass protest could resume if Mr. Conte fails to uphold a series of agreements, including giving the new prime minister expanded powers.