Thursday, March 19, 2009

Untried Soldier Carries the Weight of Guinea’s Desperate Hopes

Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, Guinea’s new leader, waving to students on March 5 in Conakry, the capital. He and other junior officers seized power in December.

The captain likes to sleep late. Most days he rises well into the afternoon. Sometimes it is not until after sunset. He governs in darkness, his aides whisper, because that is when coups happen, like the one he staged early one December morning.


Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power along with a group of junior officers after the death of Guinea’s longtime president, is only the third man to rule this abysmally poor, perpetually broken nation.

According to the CIA's World Factbook, its Natural resources are bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, uranium, hydropower, fish, salt.

Guinea has suffered through years of tyranny. The country chose to be independent from a reluctant France in 1958, but a nation that seemed like a beacon of hope for Africa quickly slipped under the shroud of socialist dictatorship, ruled by the charismatic but brutal Sékou Touré. Isolated and impoverished, Guinea became a redoubt of misery.

The warmth with which this young, untested soldier has been welcomed by many of the people is a testament to just how low Guinea, a onetime pioneer in African independence, has sunk, and how desperate for change its people have become.

South American drug traffickers, who ship cocaine to Europe via West Africa, infiltrated the government at the highest levels. Mr. Conté’s son Ousmane confessed on television last month to aiding the cocaine traffickers who had turned Guinea into a virtual narco-state. Senior police officials and some of the country’s top drug enforcers were involved, according to investigators.

Amazing how far narcos reach.

Captain Camara, sensing the public outrage at corruption and the drug trade, vowed to clean up the country. In a bizarre but riveting set of televised interrogations, the compact, square-jawed captain extracted confessions from some of the most feared and powerful figures of the ancien régime.

Under pressure from Western countries and the African Union, the junta has pledged to hold elections by the end of the year, but there is little evidence of preparations for a transition to civilian rule.

What is the hurry? Let the country stabilize first.

The United States has cut off some aid, and has refused to recognize the junta. “By remaining in power through repeated refusals to set a timely election date, the military regime in Guinea is fast becoming the poster boy for misrule in West Africa,” said a statement from Phillip Carter III, the acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

Why cut off aid? And what does this diplomat mean?

But some European governments take a softer line, contending that a fragile country like Guinea needs stability as much as democracy, according to diplomats and analysts in the region.


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