Tuesday, December 30, 2008

[Guinean news] Junta names new PM

As of 12:27 EST -- 5:27 PM Guinean time

The new CNDD junta has named the banker Kabiné Komara as the country's new prime minister. He has been an executive at the African Export-Import Bank in Cairo. Komara appears to enjoy a good reputation in the country. His name was on a list of potential prime ministers submitted by trade unions to then-head of state Lansana Conté during the general strike of early 2007.

Monday, December 29, 2008

[Guinean news] Top generals sacked; mining activity suspended

As of: 8:54 AM EST -- 1:54 PM Guinean time

Rumors of a generational split within the Guinean army appear to have been validated yesterday as the new CNDD junta forced 22 senior army officers into retirement. Most notable among them was army chief of staff Gen. Diarra Camara, who was a strong opponent of the coup when it was launched, even taking to the international airwaves to denounce the action. Self-declared president and junta leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, who is 44, said that all the senior officers in question had reached the mandatory retirement age and would 'be appointed to other senior positions at a later date.'

Additionally, Capt. Camara announced the suspension of activities in Guinea's lucrative mining sector and demanded the renegotiation of contracts between mining companies and the government. "In the mineral zones, there will be no more extraction until further noticed," declared the head of state.

The junta leader also announced a hard line stance against state corruption.

In a widely expected move, the African Union has suspended Guinea's membership in the organization 'until the return of constitutional order in that country.'

Friday, December 26, 2008

[PC Guinea news] Guinea PCVs safe and accounted for

From: Peace Corps headquarters

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 23, 2008 - Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter announced today that all Volunteers serving in Guinea are accounted for and safe.

There are 87 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Guinea. All of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Guinea are on stand-fast mode, requiring that they remain in their communities and remain in regular contact with the Peace Corps/Guinea staff.

This action follows the announcement that Guinean President Lansana Conte has passed away, and that a "Consultative Council" made up of "military and civilian people" has come into power. The Guinean constitution has temporarily been suspended, and those now in power have asked people in Guinea to remain calm.

Peace Corps staff in Guinea are working closely with the U.S. Embassy and are constantly and carefully monitoring this situation. They will, if necessary, take appropriate actions under the Peace Corps/Guinea Emergency Action Plan. The safety and security of Volunteers and Volunteer-trainees is the number one priority of the Peace Corps.

Over 1,241 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Guinea since the program was established in 1962. The program was briefly closed from 1966 to 1969, and again from 1971 to 1985. Upon re-opening in 1985, Volunteers in this West African nation have worked in the areas of education, environment, small enterprise development, and public health and HIV/AIDS awareness.

Each Peace Corps program has an Emergency Action Plan specific to that country and developed in cooperation with Peace Corps Washington and the local U.S. Embassy. The plans are evaluated and tested frequently and information is updated constantly. Volunteers are thoroughly trained in their roles and responsibilities, and posts are prepared for all emergencies.

Families may contact the Peace Corps/Guinea Desk with any questions or concerns that may have at 202-692-2328 during business hours, and the Office of Special Services after hours. The Office of Special Services maintains a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week duty system. The telephone number during standard office hours is 1-800-424-8580, Extension 1470; the after hours number is 202-638-2574.

The Office of Special Services can also be contacted via e-mail at ossdutyofficer@peacecorps.gov

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries, including Liberia. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

[Guinean news] Coup leader absent from Conté state funeral

As of: 10:25 AM EST -- 3:25 PM Guinean time

It was a national holiday today in Guinea on the occasion of the services for Lansana Conté. Religious services for the general were held at the Grande Mosquée in Conakry following a eulogy in the parliament and a public showing at the 28 September Stadium in the capital. Conté was interred in Dubréka, his hometown. The state funeral was attended by the leaders of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as the African Union chief and 30,000 Guineans.

Notably, the new military head of state Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara was absent from the ceremonies, though his deputy attended.

The Associated Press added: Parliament leader Aboubacar Sompare, who had been next in line to be president under Guinea's constitution, remained at large following the expiration of a deadline that coup leaders set for government members to present themselves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

[Guinean news] Military seizure of power complete

As of 10:40 PM EST -- 3:40 AM Friday Guinean time

The military coup d'Etat following the death of Gen. Lansana Conté appears to have succeeded.

Most major news outlets, including Radio France Internationale and the BBC, have reported that the civilian government have conceded control of the country to the new military junta, CNDD.

A widely circulated photo shored a smiling handshake between the prime minister Ahmed Tidiane Souaré and the CNDD leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara. Ministers presented themselves to the military Camp Alpha Yaya Diallo after being ordered to by the junta, under threat of punishment.

Camara, the de facto new head of state, reiterated his claim that the junta had 'no ambitions to power' and would only run the country until Dec. 2010, what would have been the end of Lansana Conté's present term.

Ibrahima Fofana, secretary general of the increasingly influential USTG trade union collective, called for a national unity government.

Today, the CNDD issued a series of communiqués calling for meetings with political parties and with representatives of international institutions as well as declaring Dec. 26 a national paid holiday, on the occasion of the funeral for Gen. Conté.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

[Guinean news] New junta announced; coup leader parades through Conakry

As of: 11:43 PM EST -- 4:33 AM Thursday Guinean time

Events in Guinea continue to move quickly with uncertainty remaining the one constant.

The military published a list of the 31 members to comprise the junta, which is being called the National Council for Democracy and Development (known by its French acronym CNDD).

The CNDD originally ordered a curfew on Wednesday but then lifted it for 'religious reasons.'

The junta named Captain Moussa Dadis Camara as its leader and as Guinea's new head of state. The coup appears to be led by junior members of the military as Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported that they asked senior officers to join them in consolidating martial rule.

The self-declared president Capt. Camara was paraded through the streets of Conakry as cheering crowds screamed "long live the president!", according to the Associated Press (AP).

The AP added: Initially the coup leaders promised elections within 60 days, but Camara said in a broadcast Wednesday that the 32-member junta would hold power for about two years... what would have been the end of Lansana Conté's present term in office.

According to the Guinean constitution, National Assembly president Aboubacar Somparé should become acting president of the Republic until presidential elections can be held (within 60 days). However, coup leaders have rejected the legality of this, citing the fact that the constitutional mandate of this parliament expired two years ago and new legislative elections have yet to be organized.

"This unknown captain doesn't control the army. The majority of the troops are still loyal — but one little group can cause a lot of disorder," civilian prime minister Ahmed Tidiane Souaré told the wire service.

Guinéenews reported that civil society was mobilizing to protest the 'hold up' of power by the CNDD. The main civil society organization collective issued a statement to 'condemn this attempted seizure of power by force and calls for a peaceful, constitution transition negotiated with all actors."

Longtime opposition leader Bâ Mamadou told RFI's Afrique Midi that he believes that some members of the political class have collaborated with the military, even participating in the drafting of the inital coup statement, in order to ease their way into power. But he said their efforts would fail because once the military consolidated power, they were never going to give it up.

[Guinean news] Situation in Guinea still confused

As of 12:13 PM EST - 5:13 PM Guinean time

The situation in Guinea remains confused a day after an attempted military coup and two days after the death of head of state Gen. Lansana Conté.

Yesterday, the purported new junta issued a statement dissolving the government, suspending the constitution and airing the usual list of grievances typically cited in military coups. This was followed shortly thereafter by a second as well as third and fourth communiqués.

The coup attempt appears to be led by junior members of the military. On the BBC World Service yesterday, the army chief denounced the action and told the soldiers to not meddle in politics. Mohammad ibn Chambas, head of the West African regional group ECOWAS, said yesterday that talks were under way between rival army factions.

Guinéenews reported yesterday that putschistes seized control of the office of the prime minister Ahmed Tidjiane Souré and that National Assembly president and constitutional acting president of the Republic Aboubacar Somparé had disappeared from public eye.

Both had told the international media that the civilian government remained the legal authority. Prime Minister Souaré told Radio France Internationale that the situation was a mere 'misunderstanding' between Guineans and that the country should focus on preparing services for the late head of state.

Nevertheless, the African Union condemned the coup attempt as did the European Union.

The International Herald Tribune reported that, this afternoon, junta spokesman Captain Moussa Dadis Camara had been named by the coup makers as Guinea's new head of state.

IHT added: Bands of roving soldiers ransacked the homes of several ministers and gunshots rang out, residents reported. The junior officers were apparently tightening their grip on strategic buildings, with their supporters firmly ensconced in the national broadcasting headquarters across the street from the American Embassy. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

-A Lansana Conté obituary (BBC)
-Worries for the future in Conakry and from elsewhere (BBC)
-Fears of a wider regional war (BBC)
-More uncertainty (IRIN)
-A YouTube report on the situation (al-Jazeera).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[Guinean news] How to follow developing events in Guinea

2:10 PM EST -- 7:10 PM Guinean time

Dear Friends of Guinea,
I'm sure many of you are following with interest events in Guinea in the wake of the death of Gen. Lansana Conté and the apparent military takeover of power. I will try to update this Friends of Guinea blog on a daily basis to cover developing events. Perhaps more often if events require and time (it being the holidays) permits.

Those of you who want to follow the events more closely and can read French are encouraged to check out Guinéenews (www.guineenews.org). The site is a bit slow in loading today, presumably due to heavy traffic, however it is, as always, the most comprehensive and regularly updated site on Guinean news.

For those of you who don't speak French, your best bet is the BBC's Africa page (news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/default.stm).

You can also check out AllAfrica.com's Guinea page (allafrica.com/guinea). Or you can go to Yahoo News (news.yahoo.com) or Google News (news.google.com) and search the keyword 'Conakry'. (This works better than using 'Guinea' as a keyword because nearly all stories about Guinea are filed from Conakry or mention the capital in the story and it excludes stories related to Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Papua New Guinea)

Brian Farenell
RPCV Beindou '95-97
FOG blogmeister - friendsofguinea.blogspot.com

[Guinean news] Reported coup in Guinea following Conté's death

9:12 AM EST -- 2:12 PM Guinean time

The BBC is reporting that there has been an army coup in Guinea following the death yesterday of the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté. An army officer told state radio that the constitution had been suspended, the government dissolved and ministers rounded up 'to guarantee their security.'

The prime minister rejected the coup and insisted that the government 'continues to function as it should.' The National Assembly president, who constitutionally, would become acting president of the Republic, said he did not think the military was behind the attempted rebellion.

Shortly after the prime minister's remarks, the Associated Press reported a phalanx of tanks and armed soldiers heading toward the head of government's office.

The BBC notes that residents of Conakry are nervous about the transition of power, especially in the face of longstanding reports of ethnic divisions within the army.

Monday, December 22, 2008

[Guinean news] Lansana Conté dead at 74

The BBC and Guinéenews are reporting that the Guinean head of state Gen. Lansana Conté has died at the age of 74. He had been long ill with diabetes. The announcement was made by Aboubacar Somparé, president of the National Assembly. As such, Somparé would become acting president under the constitution until elections could be organized within 60 days. The government has declared 45 days of national mourning.

Monday, December 01, 2008

[Guinean news] World AIDS Day

In the run up to International AIDS day, the UN's IRIN news service had several articles related to AIDS in Guinea and West Africa.

IRIN reports that Guinea's mining sector is stepping up its anti-AIDS efforts. With an HIV infection rate of 5.2 per cent, the lucrative mining sector in Guinea is particularly at risk from the epidemic. Some mining companies have begun setting up their own programmes to make up for the lack of HIV/AIDS services on offer. But they say a public-private partnership is essential if local residents are not to be excluded. This is important as HIV services now tend to be concentrated in the capital Conakry, some distance away from the main mining regions.

Another piece points out that antiretroviral treatments are now free in Guinean hospitals. This is an important step in Guinea, such treatments cost patients $100 a month or sufferers were forced to travel to Dakar, Senegal. However, the article warns that bureaucratic difficulties may hamper the campaign's efficiency.

IRIN also had a fascinating piece on how national legislation designed to slow the spread of AIDS in West Africa is a double-edged sword.

In places like Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Niger, a woman can be criminally charged with not taking the steps necessary to prevent HIV transmission to her unborn baby, such as taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs during pregnancy. Sierra Leone recently changed a legal provision that explicitly referred to a mother passing on the virus to her baby as a crime.

In Togo, people who do not use male or female condoms in "all risky sexual relations" are considered to be breaking the law; HIV-positive people are prohibited from having unprotected sex, regardless of whether they have disclosed their status to their partner.

Guinean law requires mandatory HIV testing before marriage, while Togolese law provides for periodic mandatory testing of sex workers for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.