Guinea coup, Guinea takeover, Moussa Camera
Bebeto Matthews/AP
Conte in 1999

Coup Attempt Leaves Fate of Guinea in Question

December 23, 2008 11:52 AM
by Josh Katz
A military-led group announced the takeover of Guinea’s government following the death of its dictator, but the prime minister denies that the government is dissolved.
Guinea army captain Moussa Camara announced at around 7:30 a.m. local time on state radio and television that he and the National Council for Democracy and Development group were dissolving Guinea’s government. Dictator Lansana Conte, who had ruled the West African nation since 1984, died on Monday night following a “long illness,” according to National Assembly president Aboubacar Sompare, the Associated Press reports.

“From this moment on, the council is taking charge of the destiny of the Guinean people,” Camara said. He also declared that elections would be arranged quickly, but he did not give a date.

However, Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare later contradicted Camara’s claims, saying the government “continues to function as it should,” according to The New York Times.

In a telephone interview with Agence France-Presse, Souare did say that, “There is indeed an attempted coup d’etat,” and the said that he encouraged soldiers to resist the mutiny.

Souare had said the Supreme Court should hand the presidency over to him, because the constitution says the position should go to the head of the National Assembly in the loss of the president.

Conte, 74, had been ill in recent years, and it was long expected that a coup would follow his death.

Guinea is rich in resources but an extremely poor nation of 10 million people, thanks in large part to government corruption and an economy that relies heavily on food imports. Ahmed Sekou Toure took power after the country gained independence from France in 1958, and Conte grabbed control a week after Toure’s death in 1984.

Conte was considered one of the final “African Big Men,” who used military might to gain control and subsequently battled democratic tendencies, according to AP. He created a political party and was victorious in the 1993, 1998 and 2003 elections, but they were all marred by allegations of fraud.

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