Guinea coup leaders pledge 'genuine democracy' for poor but mineral-rich nation
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Guinea's new military rulers, who seized power early Tuesday morning, have freed political prisoners and promised the introduction of ''genuine democracy'' in the West African country.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The military's bloodless coup was launched one week after the death of President Ahmed Sekou Toure and shortly before Guinea's civilian political leaders were due to meet to discuss the selection of a successor.
In a statement broadcast on Radio Conakry, Guinea's new military rulers said they had acted to prevent the installation of another ''personal dictatorship.''
They also said they acted to forestall a potentially bitter succession struggle between rival factions within the ruling Democratic Party of Guinea.
The statement condemned the ''bloody and pitiless dictatorship'' of Sekou Toure, who ruled the country for 26 years after gaining independence from France in 1958.
The statement said that Sekou Toure's international success could not make up for his failures at home. (The President was one of the leaders of the struggle for African independence as well as a founder of the Organization of African Unity.) The fate of interim President and Prime Minister Lansana Beavogui, as well as other political leaders including members of the Toure family, is uncertain. Frequent political purges created a climate of terror and disrupted economic activity. Despite immense mineral wealth, Guinea is one of the world's poorest countries.
Basic services, such as electricity and water, are inadequate in the capital, Conakry, and almost nonexistent elsewhere.
The military condemned the ''feudal power exercised by Sekou Toure's family, the dishonesty of his advisers, and the widespread corruption in government.''
The military coup surprised many observers who believed Sekou Toure had purged the armed forces of any pretenders to power. These observers are also surprised at the apparent lack of resistance to the coup, but they await further signs that the military is firmly in control. Citizens apparently are calm, although the radio has reported scenes of popular rejoicing.
The coup leaders have not been identified, but observers say they are likely to be junior officers. Senior officers are political appointees and closely controlled.
The Guinean Army is Soviet-equipped and -trained and numbers some 10,000 men, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. But it was distrusted and neglected by Sekou Toure, who had more confidence in a 9, 000-man paramilitary force.
Apart from a promise to respect existing international commitments, military rulers have revealed little about their political leanings. But diplomatic observers believe they are nationalist- rather than Marxist-oriented. Guinea's Constitution has been suspended, and the ruling party dissolved. Its borders and airports, as well as telecommunication links, have been closed and a night curfew imposed.