Guinea army dismisses scores of protesting soldiers


Guinea has dismissed around 40 soldiers for protesting over pay and “various acts of indiscipline” as it struggles to reform its fractious military, a permanent source of insecurity in the West African nation.

Army officers led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in the world’s biggest bauxite exporter in a bloodless coup last December, but their authority has been challenged by some soldiers and they are battling to maintain stability.

Colonel Oumar Sanoh, the head of the armed forces, said the dismissed soldiers had protested over pay. State television showed images of the young men, some dressed in shorts and T-shirts, sat on the ground being addressed by Sanoh.

“You ask for money and you forget all the sacrifices that have been made for you up to now. You don’t go into the army to make money,” Sanoh said.

Camara said in May he would reform the armed forces, which he described as “abandoned”, and called for financial assistance from donors to do so. He blamed neglected, discontented soldiers for a thwarted attempt in April to overthrow him.

International bodies have condemned Camara’s military takeover, which filled the power vacuum left when veteran President Lansana Conte died.

But diplomats have said they will support him on condition he sticks to his timetable to hold elections in December, and to his pledge not to stand in the vote.

Sanoh brought that commitment into question last week when he urged Camara’s National Council for Democracy (CNDD) junta to delay the presidential and parliamentary polls, saying the country was not ready to organise them this year.

Military sources said 35 soldiers had been dismissed from the Kankan army base, where the problems were most acute, along with five soldiers from the Kindia base.

“There was gunfire in protest at the military camps of Kankan and Kindia. They’re young soldiers from the 2008 intake who are demanding better living conditions and fuller integration into the army,” one military official told Reuters.

Guinea‘s army has long been divided, partly along ethnic lines and partly by rivalry between generations. Some of its younger officers have been educated in civilian Western schools while its older officers were trained in the French army.