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Military junta retires 22 army generals

Video by Catherine NORRIS TRENT , Franck BERRUYER

Latest update : 2008-12-30

Guinea's military junta sent 22 senior army officers into early retirement, including the army's chief of staff, General Diarra Camara, who remained loyal to the late president Lansana Conte and a leading critic of the coup.

AFP - Guinea's military junta moved to consolidate its grip on power Sunday by retiring 22 senior army officers, including the army chief who was a leading critic of the coup.
   
Junta leader and self-proclaimed president, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, said in a statement the generals had all reached the mandatory retirement age.
   
"They will be appointed to other senior positions at a later date," the statement added without further details.
   
General Diarra Camara, the army's chief of staff, was loyal to the late president Lansana Conte who died Monday and opposed the coup launched just a few hours after the leader's death was announced.
   
In nearby Ghana, the top US envoy to Africa warned that the Guinea coup could be repeated in Zimbabwe if Robert Mugabe is allowed to remain as president there.
   
"I think that (the coup in Guinea) should serve as a real warning to the region... of what might happen if Robert Mugabe is allowed to cling to power and in fact die in office as he seems to want to do," Jendayi Frazer, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs told reporters in Accra, where she was observing that country's presidential run-off election.
   
Guinea's strongman Conte died at age 74, after ruling the west African nation for 24 years, soon after which coup leaders from the military immediately announced the dissolution of the government.
   
Guinea's military junta also said Sunday that it would open negotiations with mining companies operating in the country "within the coming days" which would work towards "an advantageous collaboration for all parties."
   
Camara on Saturday said he had seized power to lead a crackdown on corruption and shut down all mining operations across the country.
   
The move risked threatening the country's economy, which relies heavily on mineral exports, especially in a time of financial crisis and falling raw material prices.
   
More than a third of the world's bauxite reserves are located in Guinea, making it the second-largest producer internationally after Australia and the world's biggest exporter.
   
It also has large reserves of gold, diamonds, iron and nickel, while uranium deposits were found at various sites in 2007.
   
Most of the international community including the African Union has condemned the coup as an unconstitutional transition of power in Guinea, one of the world's poorest countries despite its vast mineral wealth.
   
But opposition leaders say the junta enjoys support among ordinary people in Guinea because they lived in such abject poverty under Conte.
   
Cellou Dalein, who was a prime minister under president Conte between December 2004 and April 2006, told AFP "there was no resistance (to the coup) because of a crisis of legitimacy surrounding the country's institutions and because of the misery" of the Guinean people.
   
"In 1995, only 40 percent of the population lived on less than a dollar a day. Today it's 55 percent," said Dalein, who became head of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces in Guinea (UFDG) in November 2007.
   
With sentiment on the streets favouring the coup, any attempts at resistance melted and even the overturned government pledged loyalty to Camara. By Friday nearly all political parties and unions were on board.
   
The coup put an end to the career of parliament speaker Aboubacar Sompare, seen as a "Conte clan" member, who according to the constitution after the president's death should have become the interim head of state until elections could be held in 60 days.

Date created : 2008-12-28

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