Tens of thousands of loyalists mourn Guinea's longtime dictator
Leader of coup avoids memorial
MOUSSAYAH, Guinea - Tens of thousands of loyalists yesterday mourned the dictator who ruled Guinea for nearly a quarter-century, lining the roads to the lavish palace grounds where he was interred and crowding around his grave site.
Lansana Conte, who took power in 1984, was the only leader who many Guineans had ever known. Though he was widely seen as corrupt and authoritarian, many Guineans saw stability under him as preferable to the bloody civil wars elsewhere in West Africa. His death Monday at the age of 74 has left the country, one of the world's poorest, in political turmoil.
The leader of a military coup that was declared hours after Conte's death did not attend the public memorial, surprising mourners and causing speculation about the reason. Captain Moussa Camara had promised a "grandiose funeral" for Conte.
Later yesterday, residents in the capital reported hearing volleys of gunfire near the military barracks that are home to the coup leaders. People in the area reported shooting near the Alpha Yaya Diallo barracks, and at another military camp nearby.
The gunfire rang out as hundreds of troops were returning to Conakry after Conte's funeral. It was not immediately clear whether it may have been celebratory gunfire.
Conte ruled Guinea since he seized power in a coup after the death of his predecessor. They had been the only two leaders since the country's 1958 independence from France.
Men in uniform wept and collapsed and women wailed at Conte's funeral in Moussayah, the town where Conte was born and maintained a hotel-sized residence. Shouting security forces joined hands and formed a massive human cordon around Conte's grave as thousands of people tried to push forward.
The body had been transferred to Moussayah by helicopter after an earlier public memorial in the capital, Conakry, about 40 miles to the southeast.
The service in Guinea's parliament yesterday was attended by members of Conte's former government, including deposed Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare, who surrendered to coup leaders and stepped down along with dozens of other officials Thursday.