6 Apr 2006
A presidential decree by Lansana Conte appointing a new government led by Prime Minister Cellou Diallo was annulled by another presidential decree sacking the same government the following day. It was reported that close aides to Conte and elements within the army exerted pressure on the ailing president to reverse his April 4th decision.
The West African state of Guinea (pop 9.4 million) is a former French colony that attained independence in 1958 under the leadership of Sekou Toure. Upon Toure’s death in 1984, Lansana (then army colonel) staged a bloodless coup against the interim government that succeeded him.
Conte suspended the constitution, freed political prisoners and attempted to reform the political landscape. A new constitution was adopted in 1990 paving the way for Lansana Conte to transform himself from a military to a civilian leader through elections. After manipulating the removal of a two-term limit in the constitution, Conte won a third term in 2003 in an election which was boycotted by the opposition.
Conte has survived many coup bids and at least one military mutiny. The most recent high profile attempt occurred in January 2005 when shots were fired at his convoy. The president’s state of health has been the major source of concern during the last few years. There is no clear successor to the ailing septuagenarian president and the current crisis has brought to light the ethnic rivalry between the president’s men and those of the sacked prime minister. This scenario is dangerous especially in a volatile region that has known instability in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.
Guinea is rich in mineral wealth but her people are among the poorest in West Africa. A fluid transition arrangement may only serve as a catalyst to start another armed conflict in this small country.
Njei Moses Timah