Can Guinea avoid a violent power struggle?
While Guinea’s military ruler Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara recovers from an assassination attempt, other junta leaders rejected a regional proposal Monday to deploy troops to prevent violence.
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Whether his small West African country can make a speedy recovery from the diplomatic isolation and from the uncertainty of an erratic and often brutal year of military rule is a question that remains to be answered.
The assassination attempt comes at a time of diplomatic pressure on Guinea’s military to step aside and hold national elections, as promised, and also as United Nations investigators have just finished a probe into a military massacre of some 157 opposition supporters attending a political rally in the capital, Conakry, on Sept. 28. (How did Guinea erupt into violence? Read more here.)
Capt. Camara has denied directing the massacre, saying that it was instigated by “uncontrollable elements” in the military. But human rights advocates say that Camara’s one-year rule has coincided with a rapid decline in political rights, and an increase in detention, torture, and murder of opposition activists. Now concerns of a violent power struggle are growing after Guinea's military leadership rejected a proposal Monday from a regional group to bring in foreign troops to prevent further violence, saying it would consider such a move an act of war.
“The Guinean military has a history of factionalism, and the potential for infighting could bring a bloody fight for control,” Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, based in Dakar. Human Rights Watch will issue a report on Guinea this Thursday.
The good news, she says, is that the current head of the military in Camara’s absence – General Sekouba Konate – has made a strong appeal for the military to remain unified and disciplined until the leadership crisis is sorted out, and he has also indicated that the military must prepare for a transfer of power to a civilian government.
“This is a country that sat by and watched two of its neighbors, Liberia and Sierra Leone, disintegrate in civil wars, and Sierra Leonean refugee amputees walking the streets in Guinea,” says Ms. Dufka. “Guineans get how devastating war is, and I don’t think they want to go that way, even the military.”
Transition to civilian rule?
Guinea has been in political turmoil since last Christmas, when Captain Camara came to power in a largely bloodless coup, following the death of longtime Guinean President Lansana Conte, himself a general who took power following the death of a president. The global economic crisis hammered Guinea, which is the world’s largest supplier of aluminium ore, but has done little to diversify its economy.