Guinea’s junta well, to address nation soon: spox


Guinea’s military junta chief, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, is well and will address the nation soon, a spokesman said yesterday, five days after he survived an assassination attempt.

Guinea, the world’s biggest bauxite producer, has been gripped by fears of further instability since Camara was shot and then evacuated to Morocco, where he was operated on for head wounds. He left behind a power vacuum and a deeply divided army.
“The president is well. I think that he will address the nation and its people either this evening or tomorrow,” Information Minister Idrissa Cherif told Reuters in Conakry.

Already under pressure over a Sept. 28 crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners that human rights groups say claimed more than 150 lives, Guinea’s junta, led for now by defence minister Sekouba Konate, is facing demands to step down.

However, gunfire rings out almost daily as loyalist forces focus instead on hunting down those linked to Camara’s former aide-de-camp and would-be assassin, Lieutenant Aboubacar “Toumba” Diakite, who is now on the run with a gang of soldiers.
“All those who were seen with (Toumba) soldiers, civilians and even charlatans are being systematically arrested and tortured. Some of them are being killed,” said a senior police officer, who asked not to be named but said he had gathered information from official reports and other sources.

The information was confirmed by a military source.
“The most worrying thing is that they are not bothering to seriously question those who are arrested. At this rate, this will turn into a settling of scores,” the policeman added.

Cherif later accused France of involvement in the failed assassination, echoing previous statements in which he said the former colonial power was trying to destabilise Guinea.
“Several people have been arrested and interrogated,” he told Reuters. “We have confessions which prove French (secret) services were behind the attempted assassination”.
“These are absurd rumours which we strenuously deny,” said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

The attack highlighted the deep divisions amongst the soldiers who seized Guinea in a bloodless coup last December. Initially welcomed by a population eager for change after years under strongman Lansana Conte, abuses, erratic behaviour and plans to stand for election stirred sentiment against the junta.

Tension grew last week as United Nations investigators probed the September killings. Findings are not due until mid-December but West Africa’s regional body, which has been mediating in the crisis, said that it saw no constructive role for Camara in the country’s future.

Daily gunfire

Like on most evenings since last week’s attack on Camara, gunfire rang out in Conakry’s Cosa neighbourhood earlier this week as soldiers hunted down people with links to Toumba.

The junta has offered an undisclosed amount of money to anyone who provides information that leads to Toumba’s arrest.

Military sources said at least six people were killed in the firefight that broke out between junta factions last Thursday.

An army officer, who also asked not to be named, said at least two members of the presidential guard that Toumba has been in charge of were subsequently arrested and had died in torture.

A video, seen by Reuters in Conakry, showed several other members of the presidential guard being tied up and questioned.

Camara’s future is not immediately clear, with Konate in command and regional officials increasingly suggesting exile is his only remaining option, but ordinary Guineans say they are simply desperate for an end to the instability.
“The hardest thing for me is not to have seen my husband’s body. For now, I am at a loss, I don’t even know where he is buried,” said Salimatou Bah, whose husband was killed on Sept. 28.
“Quite frankly, I don’t really care about the attack on the president,” she said.

Tensions in Guinea may spread through a region that has already seen three civil wars in a decade. Some mineworkers have left the country in response to the growing tension but production at major operations has not been hit.