/ 7 January 2009

Guinea military arrests point to post-coup tensions

Guinea’s military rulers have detained at least two former senior commanders in a purge of the armed forces that reveals tensions following last month’s coup in the West African bauxite exporter, officers said.

Those detained by soldiers under orders from the ruling junta, which seized power on December 23, include the former armed forces chief of staff General Diarra Camara and a former navy chief, Admiral Aly Daffe, the officers added.

The sources, who asked not to be named, said the former commanders and other officers were held on suspicion of plotting to organise opposition, including possible sabotage, against the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) junta.

They gave no more details of the motives.

General Camara, who had initially opposed the coup, was arrested two or three days ago, while Admiral Daffe was taken to the Alpha Yaya Diallo camp in Conakry, the junta’s base.

The junta, which appointed a little-known army captain, Moussa Dadis Camara, as de facto president, has promised to hold elections this year and to stamp out graft.

It has also pledged to improve conditions for the majority of Guineans who live in poverty despite the country’s position as the world’s leading exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite.

Many Guineans, including union and opposition leaders, have welcomed the military takeover as a chance to break with nearly a quarter century of corrupt, autocratic rule under President Lansana Conte, whose death on December 22 triggered the coup.

But while some neighbours have signalled their readiness to work with the new rulers, the African Union has suspended Guinea. The United States, a major donor, halted most aid on Monday. Washington demanded elections as soon as possible.

The junta of mostly younger middle-ranking officers has appointed a civilian technocrat, Kabine Komara, as prime minister. But it has named its members to the key defence and security portfolios after retiring more than 20 older generals.


Guinea’s military was a pillar of support for Conte but has staged a series of bloody mutinies over pay and is accused of human rights abuses. Rights groups say soldiers killed dozens of civilians in early 2007 to crush anti-government protests.

”The president (Camara) is following the logic of cleaning out the army … but this doesn’t tackle the basic problems of indiscipline and corruption which will be more difficult to set right,” said one military officer.

Guinea’s new rulers include young officers who took part in a violent mutiny over pay in May, in which at least 10 civilians were killed by indiscriminate shooting.

One of the leaders, Second Lieutenant Claude Pivi, was named minister in charge of presidential security on Monday.

The CNDD also appointed as the armed forces chief of staff Lieutenant-Colonel Oumar Sanoh, the former head of the N’Zerekore military region in Guinea’s southwest Forest Region, from where junta chief Captain Camara also comes.

In recent years, United Nations anti-narcotics experts say Guinea and its neighbours have faced a serious threat to their stability from Colombian drug-trafficking cartels using the West African coast as a transit hub to smuggle cocaine to Europe.

”There were reports that drug-traffickers had infiltrated all structures, including law enforcement and the military apparatus,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the representative in West Africa of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The junta leader has promised a crackdown on drugs. But some of the soldiers who support him were among those who ransacked the offices of the counter-narcotics unit in June, destroying all records, when they put down a police mutiny.

”The UNODC and the international community will monitor developments in Guinea hoping that the rebuilding of the country will include an elimination of all suspected involvement by senior officials and military officers in illicit activities, including drug-trafficking,” Mazzitelli told Reuters. – Reuters