Page last updated at 01:45 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Guinea leader Camara breaks exile silence

By Caspar Leighton
BBC West Africa correspondent

TV grab of Capt Moussa Dadis Camara
Capt Camara said he backed the return to civilian rule

The sidelined military leader of Guinea has spoken in public for the first time since he was seriously wounded by an assassination attempt in December.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara is in the Burkina Faso capital, Ougadougou, where he backed a plan to let his deputy manage the transfer to civilian rule.

He said that his hand was not forced in signing the transition agreement.

He also urged Guineans to put aside ethnic differences and support the transfer to democracy.

The address to the nation given from voluntary exile by Capt Camara is a vital step on Guinea's path to civilian, democratic rule.

He has a near-mythical status among his followers, and the public support given to Guinea's transition from military rule by the man once in charge of it should lay many fears to rest.

Hurdles ahead

Visibly weakened, Capt Camara ruled himself out of running in future presidential elections.

With this speech, the key figures in Guinea's military hierarchy have all publicly vowed their support for the end of army rule.

23, 24 December 2008
Strongman President Lansana Conte dies, Capt Camara takes over, promises 2010 election
15 August 2009
Says he may stand for president
28 September
Soldiers kill protesters in Conakry, reports of atrocities and rapes
US, EU, African Union and Ecowas impose sanctions on junta
3 December
Capt Camara shot in the head in apparent assassination attempt
4 December
Flown to Morocco for surgery
12 January 2010
Capt Camara leaves hospital in Rabat and is flown to Burkina Faso

The agreement reached on Friday bars any member of the military government from contesting the planned presidential election.

There are hurdles ahead, though. The civilian opposition has proposed two possible candidates to be prime minister in the transition government.

Made up of political parties and trade unions, they were unable to agree a single candidate and want the current military head, Gen Sekouba Konate to make the final choice.

The event that ignited Guinea's political crisis was the army's killing of more than 150 opposition supporters at the end of September. The call for justice has been strong and the United Nations blames Capt Camara and others for the killings.

The International Criminal Court is examining the case and if arrest warrants are eventually issued, they are bound to cause shock waves in Guinea's fragile society.

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