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Camara's Possible Return Splits Guinea's Ruling Council


Guinea's injured military leader appears determined to return to Conakry more than one month after being shot by the former head of the presidential guard. His return could disrupt plans for a transitional government and split the ruling military council.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and senior members of his ruling council continue to meet in Burkina Faso with regional mediator President Blaise Compaore.

But Guinea's ruling council itself appears in need of mediation with divisions over Captain Camara returning to Conakry, more than one month after being shot in the head.

Permanent Secretary Colonel Moussa Keita, Foreign Minister Alexandre Cece Loua, and the influential military commander Lieutenant Claude Pivi all favor Captain Camara's return, with Keita asking reporters in Ouagadougou how the return of a head of state could possibly escalate the situation.

The United Nations says there are sufficient grounds for presuming direct criminal responsibility by Captain Camara for the killing of at least 157 protesters in September.

Among those concerned that his return could derail plans for a transitional government and lead to further violence are the country's acting leader, Defense Minister Sekouba Konate.

Burkinabe officials say General Konate threatened to resign Thursday during an argument with supporters of Captain Camara's return.

Both the United States and France believe a transitional government leading to new elections is more likely if Captain Camara does not return to Conakry. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said it could lead to civil war - an assertion denounced by Foreign Minister Loua.

Loua asks if Kouchner's statement is evidence that France is calling for a civil war, saying his declaration is meant to deprive Captain Camara and the Guinean people of their dignity.

Said Djinnit, the head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, says he is not aware of any possibility of Captain Camara returning to Guinea shortly.

With Konate inviting politicians to name a new civilian prime minister, Djinnit says the general's leadership offers an opportunity to restore constitutional order in Guinea.

"The general has made it very clear that he is not interested in staying in power. He made it very clear that he is there to restore discipline within the army and create conditions for a transition," he said.

But many people in Conakry worry what will happen to that transition if Captain Camara returns.

Businessman Mamadou Cellou Camara says it will be good for Guinea if General Konate follows through with plans for the opposition to name a new prime minister.

But Camara says the people of Guinea do not know if Captain Camara approves of the decisions that General Konate is taking. If he does not approve, there will be one group for Captain Camara, one group for General Konate, and one group for civil society. And that, Camara says, will bring a confrontation. To avoid such a confrontation, he says it is a good idea for Captain Camara to meet with President Compaore before returning to Conakry.

Civil servant Ibrahima Kalil Kourouma says it is only logical that Captain Camara would meet with President Compaore because the Burkinabe leader helped him when he was in danger by providing a plane to fly him to a Moroccan military hospital after he was shot.

Kourouma says it is normal that Captain Camara would go to thank President Compaore before coming back to Conakry and re-taking power.

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