Guinea Foul: Challenging Camara's Coup

Article excerpt

On September 26, 2009 over 20,000 people crowded the streets in Labe, Guinea to protest the visit of Moussa Dadis Camara, screaming "No to Khaki Power!" For Camara, who currently heads the West African nation's junta government, it was the first trip outside the capital of Conakry since he gained power. Many speculated that this venture was a ploy for him to consolidate his authority in preparation for the January 2010 presidential elections. But with instability rising, it is beginning to look as though Guinea's democratic future depends on Camara's willingness to relinquish his position of power and allow a democratically elected civilian leader to replace him.

For 24 years, strongman Lansana Conte ruled Guinea. When Conte died on December 22, 2008, Camara's junta rapidly took over the country in a bloodless coup-d'etat and suspended the constitution. During radio broadcasts immediately following his ascension to power, Camara promised that he would lead the country for a two year transitional period, after which he planned to hold elections in December 2010. He further stated that neither he nor any members of the junta would run in those elections.

Initially, the Guinean people welcomed Camara and his plan enthusiastically. In this desperately poor and corrupt nation, he was seen as the symbol of a new era of opportunity. But the people are impatiently awaiting democracy, and Camara is now getting in the way.

Upon pressure from political parties and unions, Camara agreed to move the elections to early 2010. But in a reversal of order, presidential voting will take place in January, while legislative voting will not occur until March. In another about-face, Camara announced in August 2009 that members of his junta government would no longer be barred from running in the elections, sparking widespread speculation that he was envisioning a presidential bid for himself. Though he had not yet officially announced his candidacy, the new Rally for Defense of the Republic (RDR) party formed in mid-September specifically to support him in the election.

But opposition to Camara's continued rule is quickly coalescing. Youth especially are joining together and protesting. Several opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Cellou Diallo, have already announced their own candidacy in the elections and have heavily criticized Camara for his reluctance to step down.

Camara is cracking down hard on this opposition. In August he suspended text messaging services for several days. One month later, he banned all phone-in shows on radio and television because too many people were calling and protesting his alleged candidacy. The day before a large opposition rally in September, Interior Minister Frederick Kolie announced that all public protests would be illegal until early October. …