Guinea coup leader solidifies his hold
CONAKRY, Guinea - Guinea's coup leader solidified his hold over this impoverished West African nation yesterday as the prime minister who served under its late dictator surrendered and stepped down along with dozens of other government leaders.
While some welcomed the new military leader, Captain Moussa Camara, as a break with the past, others worried that he will try to cling to power like the strongman whose death this week touched off the crisis.
Camara had ordered Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and other leaders of Guinea's government and armed forces to come out of hiding and turn themselves in at a military barracks within 24 hours. If they did not, he threatened to organize a nationwide search for them.
Souare's mother, Aissatou, said in a telephone interview that her son was no longer prime minister and that he and the other ministers went to the barracks to avoid being hunted down.
Private radio station Liberte FM carried a live broadcast of Souare telling the coup leader, "We are at your disposal." The radio station reported that Camara said the government leaders were then free to leave, but it was not immediately clear where they were.
Later in the day, the head of all armed branches of Guinea's military, General Camara Diarra, also turned himself in at the barracks, as did the head of police and the head of customs.
Souare had not been seen in public since Camara's group of junior officers declared a coup Tuesday, though he had claimed a day later to be still in control. Souare served under longtime dictator Lansana Conte, who died Monday after nearly a quarter-century in power.
Camara has declared himself Guinea's interim leader and pledged to hold a presidential election in two years. But many in the international community say that is too long to wait. The European Union urged Guinea to hold "democratic and transparent" elections within the first three months of 2009.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said Paris is "extremely worried" about the situation in Guinea. The statement said free, fair elections "should be organized in a short time and under international observation."
In radio broadcasts yesterday, Camara said that he had no intention of being a candidate in the December 2010 vote, but that his group wants to reestablish order and crack down on corruption.
"I want to warn anyone who thinks they can try to corrupt me or my agents. Money is of no interest to us," Camara said. "There are already people who are starting to show up with bags of money. . . . I will personally go after anyone who tries to corrupt us."
Under Guinea's constitution, parliament leader Aboubacar Sompare was next in line to be president. His whereabouts yesterday were not known.
Some in Conakry said they were ready for a change from the previous regime. On Wednesday, throngs lined Conakry's streets to cheer Camara on as he led a military convoy parade to the presidential palace. But in northern Guinea, about 500 miles from the capital, others expressed concerns about Camara's group, which initially had said it would hold elections within 60 days.