- Guinean President Lansana Conté last night surprisingly announced the removal of consensus Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté, who had been essential to end last year's riots. Today, angry youths have taken to the street in Conakry, raising fear that riots may return.
The sacking of PM Kouyaté was announced in a presidential decree read on state television late last night. President Conté at the same time named Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, a former Minister of Mines and of Education, the new PM of Guinea. Mr Souaré is said to be a close ally to President Conté.
The naming of a new PM was seen as a clear signal that President Conté intends to retake a firmer grip on day-to-day politics in Guinea. The end of the Conté era has often been predicted by observers, given the President's ailing health and his very few public appearances. But Mr Conté only on Monday made a public appearance, receiving the UN's Africa chief, Haïlé Menkerios, giving a vital impression and even allowing for photographs to be taken.
Media reports from Guinea during the last months have indicated a growing distance between President Conté and now sacked PM Kouyaté. Especially the near circle around the President had been frustrated by the unheard-of powers handed to Mr Kouyaté.
Unlike his predecessors, PM Kouyaté was in full control of government functions. He also was allowed to appoint his own ministers; a privilege otherwise held by President Conté. These wide powers - in a Guinean perspective - were the result of last year's negotiations to share powers between the pro-Conté camp and opposition groups such as trade unions. Mr Kouyaté was picked as a consensus PM.
Last year, a general strike slowly turned into bloody riots in Conakry and other Guinean cities. Trade unions and other opposition groups demanded better governance and action against rampant corruption in this country rich on natural resources but with extremely high poverty rates. Soon, demands were heard for President Conté's resignation.
Mr Kouayaté's consensus government turned out the compromise solution between President Conté and the opposition. Under PM Kouyaté, the situation has remained calm in Guinea, and economic and governance reforms had started to bear fruit. Also foreign investors started showing greater interest in the country.
Analysts now fear that the surprise move by President Conté now may jeopardise the fragile peace and the newfound investors' confidence in Guinea. Reports from Conakry this afternoon indicate that the sacking of PM Kouyaté is causing popular protest.
Angry youths today have taken to the streets in both Conakry and the town of Tantan. However, trade unions have yet to announce their reaction to this move. The unions are believed to be the single force in Guinea able to lead the masses in protest against the regime. Further stability in Guinea thus is set to depend on the union's reaction.
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