ECOWAS leaders speak up for return to civilian rule in Guinea; says go away to military junta
West African leaders have called on the military junta in Guinea to hand back power to civilians amid fears that a power struggle between rival commanders threatens to drag the country into civil war and destabilise the region.
The urgent demand from Ecowas, a regional grouping, came as General Sekouba Konate, the vice-president of the junta, assumed command after an assassination attempt on the country’s military leader, Captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara, on Friday. He was airlifted for emergency surgery to Morocco, where doctors says his condition “does not inspire concern”.
Ecowas called on the junta to set up a transitional authority and to organise elections that would exclude any junta members. The junta seized power in a coup last December. Initially the coup leaders promised elections within 60 days, but Camara later said the 32-member junta would hold power for about two years.
The assassination attempt followed an argument between Camara and Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite, the head of the presidential guard, over who should take the blame for a massacre of demonstrators, according to government officials. Camara suffered a bullet wound to the head when Toumba opened fire during the argument inside one of the capital’s barracks.
In September, the presidential guard opened fire on unarmed protesters who were demanding that the junta return to barracks. Human rights groups say at least 157 were killed and dozens of female protesters were raped, some of whom were abducted in military trucks and abused over several days in private villas.
At least 100 families whose relatives were killed have still not recovered the bodies of their relatives. An investigation by Human Rights Watch, the US group, alleged that the massacre was premeditated and said that the military commandeered the capital’s morgues and seized bodies, transporting them to military bases and hiding them, presumably in mass graves. Ecowas and the EU have imposed an arms embargo on the military junta since the killings.
The attempted assassination threw into stark relief the precarious nature of the army, which is split into factions loyal to individual army strongmen. Regional leaders fear that army rivalries could erupt into open conflict. Civil war in Guinea could destabilise neighbours through refugee flows into Mali, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, arms shipments into Ivory Coast and cross-border movements of ex-combatants and refugees along the frontiers of Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are still emerging from years of conflict.
Guinea has been under military rule for the past 25 years, but only in the last year has the army shown signs of near-anarchy, with armed men in military pickup trucks speeding through the capital acting as thugs.
Numerous businessmen and at least two diplomats have had their SUVs stolen by the military. The Ghanaian ambassador, Dominic Ezoa Aboagye, had his car stolen by soldiers, who also took his money and his clothes, leaving him in his underwear on the side of the road.
The army is rarely paid, so troops attach themselves to different commanders for their livelihood. “The main bulk of the army is hanging around in barracks and not getting paid,” Richard Moncrieff, of the International Crisis Group thinktank, told the Associated Press. “The junta is heavily divided and factionalised principally on personal lines. There are five to six strongmen, surrounded by their ‘boys’, who follow them around and carry their weapons in return for a little money.”
Since seizing power, the junta has laid waste to the economy of the country, already one of the poorest in Africa. In September, Guinea defaulted on its repayment of a loan to the World Bank, causing the bank to freeze the country’s account, according to a bank official.
The former French colony is the world’s largest exporter of bauxite, the ore used in aluminium production. However, decades of corruption and economic mismanagement have seen little of this wealth reach the 10-million-strong population, which exists on an average annual wage of about £270. ref: theguardian of London/Dec 6, 2009