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Q&A: Guinea's power struggle

Military leaders have taken control of Guinea following the death of the late president, 74-year-old Lansana Conte. A little-known army captain, Moussa Dadis Camara, has named himself president and appears to have popular support.

The West African nation is a leading exporter of bauxite, but most of its people live on less than $1 a day.

What is happening in Guinea?

Army officers seized power once Mr Conte, who had ruled Guinea for 24 years after taking over in a coup, died after a long illness.

Lansana Conte in June 2007
Analysts had predicted a coup attempt would follow Mr Conte's death

Within hours of his death, an announcement on state radio said the army had dissolved the government.

Troops and tanks were sent on to the streets, manning roadblocks. There was no violence and the country remained calm.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara named himself president and the junta pledged to hold free and transparent elections after a two-year transitional period, at the end of 2010.

The prime minister had initially insisted that the government was still in control, but by Friday Ahmed Tidiane Souare appeared to be pledging allegiance to Capt Camara, offering to work with him and the other coup leaders.

So who is really in charge?

Correspondents say supporters of the coup have now cemented their hold on power in the country and seem to have significant popular backing from citizens disgruntled by almost a quarter of a century of corrupt rule.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara has pledged to rid the country of graft and nepotism and improve living standards for the country's population of 10 million, among the world's poorest.

Soldiers parade in Conakry (24 Dec)
Crowds waved and chanted as coup supporters paraded in Conakry
He has announced that a 32-member national council will run the country until elections are held in December 2010, when Mr Conte's term would have ended.

There initially appeared to have been a split in the military, with the Army Chief of Staff Gen Diarra Camara and loyalist soldiers backing the government but senior military members now seem to be backing the coup organisers.

The coup leaders launched their move from the Alpha Yaya Diallo military barracks in Conakry, which is very near the national radio and TV stations, giving the putschists control of the media.

Is the move a surprise?

No.

Few doubted that the army would play a key role following the death of Mr Conte, who was propped up by the military for most of his rule.

The army has increasingly shown signs of being in charge in the last few years as Mr Conte was ill and rarely seen in public.

map

Nearly two years ago the military put down huge nationwide demonstrations against Mr Conte's rule. One hundred and fifty protesters were shot dead.

The BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross says that whenever there was unrest in the army, often over pay, the president simply promoted those who were disgruntled and dished out more money that the country could ill afford.

Widespread nepotism and corruption has meant that few of Guinea's nine million people have benefitted from the country's rich mineral wealth.

The worry now is that any power struggle could take on an ethnic dimension, possibly plunging Guinea into a dangerous war similar to those that have scarred neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The minority Soussou benefited under Conte, and now the two largest ethnic groups in Guinea - the Peul and the Malinke - may battle it out for control.

Correspondents say the groups usually live peacefully together, but the danger is that politics is split along ethnic lines.

Who are the coup leaders?

The 32 members of the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) who were named on state media on Tuesday comprise 26 senior and middle-ranking officers, and six civilians.

Capt Camara is a mid-ranking officer who is head of the military's fuel supplies unit and who many believed was merely the military group's chief spokesman.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara (24 December 2008)
The CNDD declared that Capt Moussa Dadis Camara was its "president"

Pro-coup army officers said he was appointed during a meeting held at the country's main military base, Camp Alpha Yaya Diallo. The private, Toronto-based website, guineenews.org, reported that the leadership was chosen by drawing lots.

Capt Camara topped the list of CNDD members, though reports say some coup supporters are demanding that any government be led by a more senior officer.

Perhaps significantly, the second name on the list of council members is Gen Mamadou "Toto" Camara, the chief of staff of the land army, who is said to be a well-respected figure within the military.

Despite his standing and recent promotion, Capt Camara has been arrested on two separate occasions in recent years on suspicion of being involved in assassination attempts against President Conte.

In April 2004, Capt Camara and the leader of the opposition Union of Republican Forces (UFR) party, Sidya Toure, were charged with plotting a coup. Charges against the two were later dismissed.

Then, in February 2005, the general was placed under house arrest, a month after shots were reportedly fired at the president's motorcade in Conakry, but released without charge six months later.

A third, prominent figure within the CNDD is said to be Col Sekouba Konate, alias Parousky, who is the chief of the Autonomous Air Transport Battalion (BATA).

Unconfirmed reports say the CNDD also includes at least one officer from the elite "red berets" presidential guard and Commandant Amadou Doumbouya, who is in charge of the Foremoriyah military zone between Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Also listed as a member of the CNDD is 2nd Lt Claude Pivi, who was a spokesman for rebel soldiers during a mutiny over pay this May at the Alpha Yaya Diallo base. Several people were killed during the unrest.

How has the international community responded?

The African Union, European Union, United States and former colonial power France have all condemned of the attempted coup.

Regional body Ecowas has also called for a democratic transition of power.

Ecowas has been instrumental over the last 18 years in ending regional conflicts, sending in troops or peacekeepers to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau.

The AU is holding an emergency meeting about the situation.

But like nearby Mauritania - which saw a coup in August 2008 - condemnation is unlikely to stop it in its tracks.

In an attempt to win over his critics, Capt Camara has invited representatives from the international community to meet with him in the Guinean capital on Saturday.

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