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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.
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.
Only this month, Britain’s Simon Mann won a pardon for his part in a foiled 2004 coup attempt on Equatorial Guinea, an old-style adventure whose glittering prize was the central African state’s multi-billion-dollar oil riches.
In Guinea this week, at least 157 people were killed when security forces opened fire on a demonstration against military junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, according to a local rights group.
Much has changed since I visited the country in April and May this year. Then, the young Camara — or “Dadis” as most Guineans refer to him – did not look particularly dangerous despite his images staring out from walls, buildings and roundabouts all over Conakry, and cassettes of his speeches on sale in the markets.
Last year Mauritania’s first democratically elected president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, was ousted in a coup led by General Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz.
Next week, the country goes to the polls to elect a president but opposition parties say the elections won’t be fair and are asking people to stay away.
Though a few opposition candidates are still in the race, analysts say there is no real threat to Abdel Aziz and expect him and his Union for the Republic party to win. Meanwhile the opposition coalition holds regular protests.