February 3, 2010 / 1:54 PM / 9 years ago

Government wrangling delays Guinea power transition

CONAKRY/DAKAR (Reuters) - Squabbling over top jobs in Guinea’s caretaker government is delaying a transition to civilian rule and raising fears the West African state may miss its chance to shake off decades of military dictatorship.

Leader of the UPG (Union for Progress of Guinea) Jean Marie Dore points to a wall at his home which was damaged by gunfire during the September 28 crackdown on opposition protesters, in Conakry October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Opposition veteran Jean-Marie Dore was last month given the task of preparing polls by mid-year after the wounding of junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara in a December 3 assassination bid raised hopes that the top metals exporter could find stability.

But Dore has so far failed to present a government list and has shown signs that he sees his role as being more long-term than the purely caretaker function assigned to him in a January 15 road map under which junta leaders agreed to hand over power.

“The military need to be pushed back into the barracks — and that is not happening quickly enough,” said Richard Moncrieff, director of the Dakar-based West Africa project for the International Crisis Group think tank.

Camara secured power in a December 2008 bloodless coup after the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte and quickly seized the political initiative as Guinea’s opposition appeared bewildered by events.

Defence Minister Sekouba Konate, who assumed power from Camara after the gun attack by an ex-aide, has so far prevented further abuses by the military, parts of which stand accused of a September 28 massacre of over 150 pro-democracy marchers.

But Guinea’s civilian politicians, many of whom have only glimpsed power in the past thanks to compromises with the succession of strongmen rulers who have ruled the country since independence, are struggling to play their part.

DESIGN FAULT

The task is hardest for Dore, who as caretaker premier is obliged under the January 15 accord to create a national unity government from a politically diverse “Forces Vives” grouping of politicians, trade unionists and civil society activists that form Guinea’s opposition.

“If a party wins elections, the make-up of the government depends on the party. Me, I’ve got to satisfy those in the Forces Vives, those outside the Forces Vives and the rest. This is going to take some time,” he warned this week.

Trade union leader Rabiatou Serah Diallo, earmarked as one of two vice-premiers, is concerned she will end up with a lesser post after a decree on the government by Dore did not explicitly mention such a role, a source close to discussions said.

The same source said Diallo could secure the territorial administration ministry and thus have a key role in ensuring the elections were fair, but added no final decision had been taken.

Officials in any interim government will face the same ban as junta leaders on standing for election. While that has prompted some senior politicians to stand back for now, others hope that stipulation in the January 15 accord will be relaxed.

Dore, a French-educated lawyer in his 70s who has never served in government, has failed to categorically confirm that he will not stand in elections in what to some is a worrying reminder of Camara’s own evasiveness on that point last year.

Neighbours are waiting to see if Guinea can avoid further chaos that could unsettle the region. Investors such as metals giant RUSAL — whose Hong Kong bourse flotation last month suffered from nerves over Guinea — also crave certainty.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Corinne Dufka urged Guinea’s political class to end the power wrangling, saying that key stepping stones towards stability such as genuine army reform depended on elections returning a viable government.

“The transition bodies should do all in their power to keep focused on elections,” she said.

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