Attempted coup d'etat in Guinea following president's death

Guinea's President Lansana Conte has died after an illness, the government said on Tuesday.

Attempted coup d'etat in Guinea following president's death

An attempted military coup was underway in Guinea following death of President Lansana Conte, the country's national assembly president said on Tuesday.

Conte has died after an illness, the government said on Tuesday, leaving a potential power vacuum in the West African bauxite exporter he had ruled for nearly a quarter of a century.

National Assembly President Aboubacar Sompare, accompanied during the broadcast by Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare, Camara and other officials, said Conte died on Monday night. Conte was believed to be 74.

Power vacuum

Earlier, Guinea's state radio broadcast a statement on Tuesday saying the country's constitution and government had been suspended, just hours after government leaders announced the death of Conte.

Journalists at state radio headquarters said a group of soldiers had ordered the statement to be read, but their identity, or intentions, were not immediately clear.

When government leaders gathered to announce Conte's death on state television in the early hours of Tuesday, military commander Diarra Camara ordered troops to protect strategic locations and the borders of the former French colony.

Sompare asked the country's Supreme Court to name him president in line with the constitution. He was expected to subsequently organise elections to choose a new president.

"I have the heavy and difficult task to inform you with great sadness of the death of General Lansana Conte, President of the Republic of Guinea," he said in the television broadcast.

As the television played Guinean music, Sompare declared 40 days of national mourning in the country.

Although rumours that Conte was seriously ill had circulated in the dilapidated seaside capital Conakry for days, the government chose the early hours of Tuesday, when most people were sleeping, to announce his death. The streets were calm.

No military move

National assembly president said that an attempted military coup was underway but he did not believe it had the support of all the armed forces.

"There is an attempted coup d'etat," Aboubacar Sompare told French TV station France 24.

"I don't think all of the military are behind it ... It's a group," he added, speaking from the capital Conakry.

Conte, who said he was born around 1934, had governed Guinea since 1984 when he seized power after the country's first president, Sekou Toure, died in a U.S. hospital.

But he never groomed a clear successor. "I arrived as a soldier, and I will finish as a soldier ... God gives and takes life -- end of story," Conte once said.

Concerns about economy

Guinean economist Mohamed Sadou Diallo said the television appearance of all the national leaders offered some reassurance. "But there's still uncertainty about the future of the country," he said.

Conte, who became reclusive in his later years of rule, had suffered health problems for years, including sometimes collapsing in public. He often travelled abroad for medical treatment in Morocco, Cuba and Switzerland.

Veteran opposition leader Jean Marie Dore of the Union for the Progress of Guinea party, a fierce critic of Conte, said he was saddened by the death of a man he called a "compatriot".

"The most important is what is to come: It is essential that the institutions function correctly and that the provisions of the constitution be respected," said Dore.

Last year, a general strike triggered anti-government riots in which more than 180 people were killed, most of them shot by Conte's forces, according to witnesses and human rights groups.

Units of the army and police staged violent mutinies this year to demand payment of back pay and other benefits.

Foreign companies with operations in Guinea include Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan and Russia's RUSAL.

Reuters

Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2008, 16:02
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