Guinea chooses opposition leader as prime minister as country prepares for elections

By Brahima Ouedraogo, AP
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Guinea chooses opposition leader as prime minister

CONAKRY, Guinea — Guinea’s military junta appointed a veteran opposition leader Tuesday as the country’s new prime minister, a crucial step that sets the stage for the West African nation’s long-awaited transition to civilian rule and elections by June.

Jean-Marie Dore had openly questioned coup leader Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara’s ability to lead after Camara survived an assassination attempt last month. Dore once was brutally beaten by junta loyalists.

The appointment came as the man who persuaded Camara to accept the transition, interim leader Gen. Sekouba Konate, headed back from Burkina Faso, where Camara will remain in exile.

More than 1,000 soldiers deployed around Guinea’s international airport in the capital, Conakry, to await Konate’s return, blocking roads, beating back cars, and forcing shopkeepers to close. Junta spokesman Cmdr. Mandjou Dioubate issued a statement over state radio saying only government members and other dignitaries were invited. Not on the list: opposition supporters, who had hoped to turn out en masse in a show of support for Konate.

The heavy military presence comes amid concerns that a clique of army officers who had benefited handsomely from the country’s military rule may not accept the return to civilian government. A retired diplomat close to the junta, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the soldiers deployed around the airport overwhelmingly back Konate.

Camara and Konate both agreed on Dore’s appointment, Idrissa Cherif, the information minister for the junta that seized power just over a year ago, said earlier in Burkina Faso.

“Dore was selected in close collaboration between the two and in the presence of (Burkina Faso President Blaise) Compaore,” Cherif said.

The two also decided on 30 cabinet members, with representation split evenly between Camara’s ruling party, the opposition and intellectuals from around Guinea, Cherif said. He said each group was given 10 seats to ensure that every part of the country was represented.

Camara was flown to Burkina Faso after being ejected from Morocco, where he had been undergoing medical treatment following the December assassination attempt. Camara has agreed to stay in voluntary exile there and Konate has been chosen as interim leader to oversee elections within six months.

Dore was among the tens of thousands of people who thronged the main soccer stadium in the capital in September to protest against Camara. Members of Camara’s presidential guard shot into the crowd, killing at least 156 people and raping dozens of women.

Dore was beaten at the stadium by Camara’s soldiers. He keeps at his house a bag with the bloody clothes he was wearing that day.

But like Camara and the soldiers who beat him, Dore is a member of Guinea’s small Forestier ethnic group. While he is widely respected, his appointment is likely to anger opposition members who argued that the prime minister should come from the largest ethnic group, the Peul, to show a clear break with the past.

The small, mineral-rich country has had a tumultuous year since Camara seized power in a coup in December 2008, hours after the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte.

Although Camara promised to hold elections within one year of taking power in which neither he nor any member of the ruling junta would be allowed to run, he soon began to hint that he planned to be a candidate.

Tensions peaked during the Sept. 28 massacre and later, when a top aide shot Camara in the head on Dec. 3. The leader sought medical treatment in Morocco, and last week moved to Burkina Faso, where he signed the agreement.

Associated Press Writers Brahima Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS byline.)

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