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Guinea PM Surrenders to Coup Leaders

Guinea's prime minister has surrendered to coup leaders, recognizing an army captain as the nation's new head of state. Mutinous soldiers took power this week following the death of long-time President Lansana Conte.

Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare surrendered to coup leaders at Guinea's main military base along with more than two dozen officials toppled in Tuesday's military take-over.

Addressing Army Captain Moussa Camara as the president of the newly-formed National Council for Democracy and Development, Souare said all members of the former government are at the military's disposal for the good of the nation. Souare said civilian leaders will offer any assistance requested by the army.

Camara had given former government officials until Thursday evening to turn themselves in or risk being caught-up in a nationwide sweep of those still loyal to the Conte government. The chiefs of police and customs as well as the former head of all Guinea's armed forces also surrendered Thursday. After Souare's resignation, Camara said the former officials were free to go.

Souare and other government officials tried to hang on to power following President Conte's death, appealing for popular support and international pressure to put down the military take-over.

But a reporter for VOA in Conakry says there was no resistance to the mutinous soldiers. They paraded Camara through the streets of the capital Wednesday evening, carrying him to the presidential palace and proclaiming him the nation's new leader.

The African Union has condemned the coup, warning of what it calls "stern measures" if the military does not allow a democratic transition of power. The United States is threatening to suspend $15 million worth of aid if coup leaders do not take steps to return to civilian rule.

Camara says his ruling council of six civilians and 26 soldiers will organize "free, credible, and transparent" elections in December 2010. He said soldiers have no wish to cling to power and he will not be a candidate in that election.

Speaking to reporters at the Alpha Yaya Diallo barracks, Camara called for an end to injustice, corruption, impunity, and tribalism in Guinea. He said the Conte government was responsible for economic collapse and had failed Guinea's ten million people. The world's largest producer of aluminum ore is one of the world's poorest nations.

Much of life in the capital returned to normal Thursday. Banks and petrol stations re-opened. Markets were busy. A curfew announced Wednesday was postponed until Friday because military leaders said they wanted "to allow Christians to celebrate a peaceful Christmas holiday."

President Conte will be buried Friday in ceremonies organized by Camara' new ruling council. An announcement on state radio said there will be a military ceremony in the morning and a public viewing in the main stadium in the afternoon before services at Conakry's Grand Mosque and a burial in the former president's home village outside the capital.

The nation's second leader had been ill for some time. He was thought to be in his 70's and was a heavy smoker who suffered from diabetes. Mr. Conte took power in a 1984 coup that followed the death of post-independence leader Ahmed Sekou Toure.

He first won election as president in 1993 in a vote protested by political opponents because some results were canceled. He survived a February 1996 army mutiny over pay in which at least 40 people were killed. The president was captured by mutineers who later freed him when he promised to raise salaries for troops.

President Conte was re-elected in 1998 after his main challenger was jailed for sedition. A referendum changing the constitution to remove term limits allowed President Conte to run again in 2003. Most opposition parties boycotted that ballot, and he was re-elected with more than 95 percent of the vote.

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