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New Strongman Takes Reins in Guinea

Captain Moussa Camara was unknown to most Guineans before this week, when he led a successful military coup and declared himself the country's new president.

Camara, a career soldier in his late 40's, heads a group of officers calling themselves the National Council for Democracy and Development. The group seized power after longtime President Lansana Conte died on Tuesday.

In radio broadcasts this week, Camara has portrayed himself as a modest man, more concerned with the country's good than with personal ambition.  He insists that he has no plans to stay in power and that he will work to promote free and fair elections - although those are not planned until 2010.

Guinea has little experience of democratic transitions of power.  The country has been ruled by strong-man presidents since its independence from France in 1958.  Former president Conte governed the country for 24 years, but his government was often accused of human rights violations and vote-rigging.

Guinea sits on rich mineral deposits, including the world's largest supply of bauxite, an ore used in making aluminum.  But the country's population is among the poorest in Africa -- a legacy, in part, of the country's turbulent political history.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.

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