Guinea stares at mayhem as junta members wrangle

Thursday October 8 2009

Blaise Compaore (left), Burkina Faso's president and long-time regional crisis mediator, talks to Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, chief of the ruling junta in Guinea, as he arrives at the international airport in Conakry October 5, 2009.  REUTERS

Blaise Compaore (left), Burkina Faso's president and long-time regional crisis mediator, talks to Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, chief of the ruling junta in Guinea, as he arrives at the international airport in Conakry October 5, 2009. REUTERS 

By SAMB SALIOU in Conakry and TAMBA JEAN-MATHEW in Dakar

A dispute broke out at the head of Guinea’s military government late on Wednesday after a junta leader sought to arrest a military officer for his part in the mass killings of anti-government protesters last month.

The incident at junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara’s headquarters in the capital Conakry is the latest sign of rifts within the leadership and came just hours after France for the first time suggested Camara could be implicated in the deaths.

Deputy junta leader General Sekouba Konate summoned police to arrest Camara’s aide-de-camp Aboubacar Sidiki “Toumba” Diakite but the arrest was aborted as a dispute flared within the camp, senior police and military sources told Reuters.

“It was General Konate who ordered the arrest of Toumba,” a senior police officer said. “There were heated discussions. At that moment I left.”

There is tension

An army officer at the scene denied a media report that shots had been fired but added: “We don’t know what is going to happen next, but there is tension and we are just waiting.”

Over 150 people were killed and many women raped on September 28 when security forces fired live rounds on protesters calling on Capt Camara to step down, a local rights group and witnesses said.

Camara came to power in a bloodless December 2008 coup but his leadership of the world’s largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite has looked increasingly tenuous as he faces a wave of international condemnation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged junta leaders to quit, and warned the United States would take unspecified “appropriate action” against them.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Wednesday: “The least one can say is that the interim president (Camara) is suspected of having at least participated in the decision.”

Analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group doubted Camara would last out the year, let alone cling on to power until a presidential poll due on January 31.

“Growing diplomatic pressure on the Guinean military regime will likely trigger a ‘palace coup’ from within the regime,” Spio-Garbrah said in a research note.

Capt Camara, an obscure army officer before he seized power on the death last year of former president Lasana Conte, has denied responsibility for the violence and variously blamed it on unruly army elements, foreign mercenaries or a crowd stampede.

Despite the mounting pressure on him to step down, Capt Camara has steadfastly refused to rule himself out of the running for the January 31 poll.

Meanwhile, the military junta has approved the setting up of a local and independent investigation commission to identify and judge, those responsible for human rights abuses and offences throughout the country.

A statement by the junta, which was re-broadcast on national television by its director, Mr Ibrahima Ahmed Barry, said the commission would investigate crimes, offences and other human rights abuses committed in the country since the advent of the military junta on December 23 2008.

Reporting by Reuters and Nation Correspondent