Guinea President Alpha Conde has replaced his security minister following deadly protests against suspected efforts by Conde to extend his mandate.
Conde (81) is due to step down next year when his second and final five-year term expires, but refuses to rule out running again and asked government to investigate drafting a new constitution.
Conde opponents fear a new constitution could be a reset button on his presidency, allowing him to run again like other African leaders who amended or changed constitutions to stay in power.
Protests in Conakry, the capital, and the bauxite mining north against the move resulted in 13 deaths over the past month.
The presidential statement read on national television did not provide a reason for the sacking of Security Minister Alpha Ibrahima Keira, but a senior government official told Reuters it was related to Keira’s “difficulty managing the socio-political crisis.”
Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara will replace Keira as security minister. Conde also announced he was replacing health and justice ministers.
Government would investigate the deaths during protests, which opposition leaders and residents said were caused by security forces’ shooting at demonstrators.
Conde’s first election victory in 2010 raised hopes for democratic progress in Guinea after decades of authoritarian rule. Critics accuse him of cracking down on dissent and violently repressing protests – charges he denies.
A dozen opposition and civil society leaders were sentenced to prison last month for their role in the protests.