- As Guinea's legitimate leader, PM Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, today surrendered to the army, the juvenile Captain Moussa Dadis Camara consolidates his claim to the presidency, spelling further disaster for the dictator-plagued country.
Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souaré today gave up his fight for a constitutional succession to the regime of diseased Dictator Lansana Conté. He presented himself at an army camp near the capital, Conakry, following army calls for his surrender. Several other government ministers followed PM Souaré to the Alpha Yaya Diallo barracks.
This ends the constitutional opposition to the Christmas coup launched by a group of the Guinean army immediately after President Conté was declared dead earlier this week.
According to the Guinean constitution, in the case of the death of the President, the parliament speaker, currently Aboubacar Somparé, should have been declared interim President for a period of 60 days. During that time, his government should have organised elections. But also the parliament was dissolved by the coup plotters and Mr Somparé was denied access to power.
The coup plotters on Tuesday announced the formation of a National Council for Democracy and Development, which was to lead the country for at least two years, making vague promises of "credible" elections to be held only in December 2010, when ex-President Conté's term would have ended.
The day after, the putschist army fraction announced that its spokesman, the young army captain Moussa Camara, had been "declared" the new President of Guinea by the Council. Meanwhile, PM Soaré claimed his government was still functioning. He and Mr Somparé urged for international assistance to maintain the constitutional order in Guinea, but the international community, led by the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and the US, limited their action to a mere condemnation of the coup.
Mr Camara therefore yesterday drove through the centre of Conakry in an open vehicle, protected by hundreds of soldiers parading to protect him and urging the crowd to hail him as the new "President" of Guinea. Soldiers loyal to Mr Camara took control of communications and the media, assuring his claim to the presidency was publicised, with no counterclaims getting through.
The self-declared Head of State is a young, junior officer of the Guinean army, unknown to Guinean's before this week's coup d'état. His age is unknown, but he is assumed to be in his 30s.
Also, Mr Camara is thought to have only a very limited education, as provided by the Guinean army, with no knowledge of political, economic and international affairs. Before the coup, he was the officer in charge of the army's fuel supplies unit.
This puts him in a similar position as Gambian putschist President Yaya Jammeh and several of the worst despots in African history. Several, such as Mr Jammeh, promised a return to democracy shortly after executing their coup, but quickly introduced totalitarian measures to secure their fragile power.
Also Mr Camara will have to apply tough methods to secure his power, and he has shown he is willing to do just that. He has already suspended the constitution and put civilian leaders in house arrest. Many senior military, civilian and traditional leaders will have strong grievances against the young Captain, including high ranking officers, party and union leaders and the clan around ex-President Conté, all of which had expected to rise to power after his death.
Analysts already fear there may soon be attempts to topple the self-declared President by one or several of these groups as Mr Camara makes his first appointments and political decisions. His response to these challenges from the old elite will show how far he is willing to go to remain in power, and whether he will be willing to handle over power to civilians in 2010. Experience from other coups by junior officers however indicates Guinea will either head for another coup, which includes a risk of armed conflict, or for totalitarism.
Meanwhile, however, the young and so far unknown leader is enjoying some popularity among Guineans, according to reports from the country. After decades of dictatorship, corruption and underdevelopment, the populace is tired of the old elite and pins its hope to a new face in the presidency. People hope he can give Guinea the new start the impoverished and poorly governed country desperately needs.
If Mr Camara plays his cards right, his leadership therefore may count on the support and protection he needs from the population to secure his power. However, a poorly educated junior army officer with no governing experience is not likely to play his cards well over the long run. And he can expect no aid from abroad to repair the Guinean economy, as main donors have announced the suspension of aid until democracy is reinstated.
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