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Analysis: Guinea army loses its swagger

Soldiers in Guinea

By Caspar Leighton
BBC West Africa correspondent

Guinea's military junta has named a civilian prime minister to steer the country towards elections but the troubled country's future remains shrouded in uncertainty.

Under intense international and domestic pressure the army has agreed to leave power in six months but there are reports of division within the military.

We don't yet know how capable the politicians are
Richard Moncrieff
International Crisis Group

"The army has to be persuaded to back the road map and to return to barracks," says Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group.

If any part of Guinea's fractious armed forces does not accept the transition, things could go badly wrong. But already there are signs of change, according to residents of the capital, Conakry.

"The soldiers are still around, but they're not patrolling like they were before; they've lost their swagger," said one man in the capital.

Soldiers abused

In the end, the brutality of the military junta was its undoing. Despite being the world's largest exporter of bauxite, Guinea was not high on the international agenda.

All that changed on 28 September when soldiers killed more than 150 opposition demonstrators.

Jean-Marie Dore, file image
Jean-Marie Dore has a huge job on his hands

The world was outraged and called for the army to step down. Sanctions followed.

Among those injured on 28 September was Jean-Marie Dore, a veteran opposition leader and the man named as the new prime minister.

Far from being cowed by the violence, Mr Dore and other members of the civilian opposition where hardened in their resolve.

In the weeks after the September killings, there was fear of the army's brutality, but also contempt. Families of soldiers were openly abused in the streets of Conakry.

The army was under pressure from all sides, with the international community calling for the junta to step down and for those with blood on their hands to face justice.

Pragmatist

On 3 December, Capt Moussa Dadis Camara was seriously wounded when shot by an aide who feared he would be forced to take the blame for the September killings.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara
Capt Camara is recovering after being shot in the head

Capt Camara was flown to hospital in Morocco and nothing was heard from him for weeks.

Defence Minister Gen Sebouka Konate assumed leadership of the junta.

Though a central power in the military government and a key figure in the coup that brought it to power in December 2008, Gen Konate has turned out to be a pragmatist.

During the negotiations between the powers of the military government in Burkina Faso - where Capt Camara is convalescing - it is reported that Gen Konate was imploring his fellow soldiers to realise that the military government had virtually no support in Guinea.

Criminal charges

Even before the Burkina Faso negotiations that saw the army sign its way out of power, Gen Konate had offered the opposition the post of prime minister.

But the choice of prime minister has brought to the fore the divisions within Guinean society, with politicians and trade unions at loggerheads.

CAMARA'S 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
October
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
15 January
He agrees to let Gen Konate remain in charge
21 JanuaryJean-Marie Dore officially appointed prime minister

Jean Marie Dore has been categoric that what happened in Burkina Faso was an agreement between members of the military government.

"No agreement between us and the military was concluded in Ougadougou, but there are some starting points for a rapprochement between the Forces Vives (opposition) and the CNDD (the junta)."

It is not yet known much power the new prime minister and the other civilian members of the transition government will have. But Jean Marie Dore has a reputation for toughness and will not want to be taken for a ride.

"We don't yet know how capable the politicians are," says Mr Moncrieff.

"They have shown resilience and a willingness to stick to a coherent line - we'll have to wait to see if they can provide a road-map to get Guinea out of this crisis."

So far there is not much more in place than an optimistic plan: elections are to be held in six months.

No member of the military or of the transition government will be allowed to stand.

"We're really hoping that the agreement holds - we are waiting for it to become real and to see it working in concrete ways," says Akoumba Diallo, a Guinean journalist.

Before long, the heat of international justice for the September killings will be added to Guinea's combustible mix of military rivalries and ethnic tensions.

The UN says the exiled Capt Camara and two aides bear direct responsibility and others bear secondary responsibility.

The International Criminal Court is to send a team to Guinea in February.

The military might swallow losing power, but the threat of criminal charges is another matter.



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