December 28, 2010 / 1:37 PM / in 8 years

Conde takes Guinea defence brief as army reformed

* Conde appoints himself Defence Minister

* Job gives him direct involvement in army reforms

* No members of rival Diallo’s party appointed to posts yet

By Saliou Samb

CONAKRY, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Guinea’s new President Alpha Conde has appointed himself defence minister, a job that gives him direct involvement in planned reforms of the army following nearly two years of military rule.

Guinea has a long history of authoritarian rule and its security forces have a reputation for brutality against dissidents as well as indiscipline.

“To show how much I care about the military, I myself will take care of the defence ministry, with a deputy minister,” Conde said on state television late on Monday while announcing a batch of new cabinet ministers, including energy and environment, finance, and foreign affairs.

The head of the armed forces, General Nouhou Thiam, was sacked and replaced by General Kelefa Diallo, Conde said.

Conde won an election on Nov. 7 judged by international observers to have been free and fair, completing a transition from military leadership.

Security forces loyal to former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara killed more than 150 demonstrators in a Conakry stadium last year, and human rights groups have said excessive force was also used to put down demonstrations after the election.

Conde has placed military reform high on his agenda and has said he will form a truth and reconciliation commission modelled on South Africa’s post-apartheid body, aimed at healing the wounds of decades of political violence.

Former Defence Minister, General Sekouba Konate, has earned international praise for his efforts at army reform since last year, and for setting the country on a path to elections. He has since been named head of the African Union Standby Force.

Guinea is the world’s largest supplier of aluminium ore bauxite and has rich iron ore deposits, and players in the mining industry are eager to know Conde’s choice for mines minister — a post he has yet to announce.

Former Mines Minister Mahmoud Thiam had a tight grip on the portfolio and was involved in a variety of disputes with miners Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) and RUSAL over their operating contracts and ownership rights. Conde has promised to include supporters of his chief poll rival Cellou Dalein Diallo in a national unity government to ease ethnic tensions that resurfaced during the campaign. But no senior members of Diallo’s party have been included so far.

Among the appointments announced on Monday were Conde allies Papa Koly Kourouma as Energy Minister and Ousmane Bah in the Public Works portfolio.

Louceny Nabe, who preceded Thiam at the Mines Ministry and was pardoned after allegations of corruption under Camara, was named Central Bank Governor. Kerfalla Yansane was kept in his former post as Finance Minister, Conde said. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by David Stamp)

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