Guinea junta tries to establish warm ties with neighbours
A junta delegation visited Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone this week to explain the military takeover in Guinea.
Guinea's military junta reached out to neighbouring governments for support this week in one of Africa's most conflict-prone regions.
The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) junta, which seized power in the West African bauxite exporter last week in a bloodless coup, has moved quickly to reassure its nervous neighbours that it poses no threat.
A delegation led by the junta's No. 2, General Mamadouba Toto Camara, visited Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone this week to explain the military takeover in Guinea, which followed the death last week of long-ruling President Lansana Conte.
"We were very well received, by the heads of state themselves, and they all told us they supported us," delegation member Demba Fadiga told Reuters in Guinea's capital, Conakry.
The president of northern neighbour Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, has also given his initial blessing to the Guinean junta, although he cancelled a planned visit to Conakry on Wednesday.
The putsch in Guinea by the group of mostly young middle-ranking officers, headed by little-known army supply corps Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, has encountered early criticism from the international community.
Western donors see it as another black eye for democracy in Africa following a coup just four months earlier in Mauritania, which overthrew the democratically elected president.
The European Union and the United States, major donors who have spent tens of millions of dollars on aid projects to help Guinea's mostly impoverished population, have demanded the restoration of constitutional order and civilian rule.
But at home the Guinean junta has been welcomed by ordinary citizens as a break from Conte's corrupt and nepotistic rule.
After retiring more than 20 generals this week, it announced on Wednesday across-the-board promotions for all ranks, from corporal upwards, in all branches of the armed forces.
The junta leaders have promised elections, provisionally in end-2010 but possibly earlier. They have also pledged to stamp out corruption and review mining contracts, and on Tuesday, they appointed a banker to head a civilian transition government.
"We took power without the shedding of blood. The European Union should really be thanking us," Camara told foreign ambassadors when he received them on Tuesday. U.N. and World Bank representatives were also present.
Leaders of the six countries which border Guinea appear to be taking a pragmatic approach towards the country's new rulers, mindful no doubt of a spate of wars in West Africa in recent decades which sometimes sucked in neighbouring states.
Following last week's coup, the presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau all attended Conte's state funeral on Friday which was hosted by the coup junta.
Sierra Leone and Liberia, ravaged by intertwined civil wars in the 1990s, form with Guinea the Mano River Union, which has sought in recent years to increase economic cooperation.
"This bloc makes a priority of seeking stability among its neighbours to avoid destabilising one or the other," Guinean political analyst Madani Dia told Reuters.
He said the same pragmatic rationale was also likely to sway the government of Ivory Coast, which suffered its own 2002/2003 civil war, and Mali, which faces a Tuareg insurgency.
Last week, Senegal's Wade praised the Guinean junta president -- who was chosen by drawing lots -- as "a young man who seemed sincere". Wade urged neighbours not to interfere.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told Maghreb foreign ministers meeting in Tripoli on Tuesday he would travel to West Africa on Wednesday "to solve problems there and prevent a war in Guinea".
Reuters Last Mod: 31 Aralık 2008, 17:24