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Guinea junta’s new democracy pledge

January 7, 2010

Guinea’s acting ruler has promised to restore civilian rule and made clear that military leader Moussa Dadis Camara will be out of action for some time after an assassination bid – raising questions over whether Camara will return from hospital in Morocco.

Although Sekouba Konate did not explicitly declare that he had taken over from Camara, his pledge to create a national unity government with opposition figures has effectively sidelined Camara and made him the key player in the junta for now.

The timing of the move is significant, coming little more than a day after Konate visited Camara in a Moroccan hospital and then went on to hold talks with U.S. and French diplomats in Rabat who encouraged him to begin a transition to civilian rule.GUINEA-KONATE/

But a healthy slice of caution is required.

Although Konate is a professional soldier who has not shown any personal political ambition, he is a junta stalwart who has enjoyed the trappings of power and whose democratic credentials have yet to be tested.

He promised to retire from the scene if no longer needed – a pledge reminiscent of Camara’s early vows that his rule was only temporary.

The threat of a counter-coup from within Guinea’s unruly army can never be ruled out. The prospect of a return to civilian rule will in particular alarm those soldiers who took part in mass killings and rapes on September 28 last year and might face justice over the atrocities which brought down global condemnation on the junta.

What chances are there now of Guinea bringing in civilian rule and averting what some fear could be a descent into chaos?

Guinea’s acting ruler Sekouba Konate addresses soldiers, Dec. 11, 2009. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun

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