Mon, Dec 29, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Guinean coup chief promises to crack down on corruption

AP , CONAKRY

Guinea’s coup leader declared a zero tolerance policy on corruption on Saturday, vowing to renegotiate the country’s numerous mining contracts and warning that anyone who embezzles state funds will be executed.

Captain Moussa Camara also extended an apparent concession to Guinea’s opposition, telling them they could help choose a prime minister following international criticism that elections are not planned for two more years.

On a concrete stage inside the barracks from where he launched his rebellion on Tuesday, Camara jabbed his finger at the sky as he swore to do away with the corruption that has drained the mineral-rich state’s coffers.

“For the person who embezzles money, there won’t be a trial. They’ll be killed,” he said as the crowd went wild. “I was born in a hut. I walked to school ... Money means nothing to me.”

Guinea is the world’s largest producer of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum, and also produces diamonds and gold.

Yet its mineral wealth was siphoned off to enrich the country’s longtime ruling clique.

Guinea has been ruled by only two people since gaining independence from France half a century ago. Dictator Lansana Conte died on Monday and the military junta led by Camara declared the coup a day later.

He said the country’s ruling clique “spit on the faces of the poor,” enriching themselves at the population’s expense.

One of the remedies he proposed was reviewing the country’s mining contracts and renegotiating them if the terms are unfavorable.

Even as the crowd of thousands cheered him, the international community continued its condemnation of the coup.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe condemned it as “an affront to peace, stability and democracy.”

The EU said the junta needed to hold elections next year.

In a move that appeared calculated to address the international community’s concerns, Camara said he was calling on Guinea’s opposition, including its powerful unions, to propose the name of a prime minister.

Rabiatou Serah Diallo, head of one of Guinea’s largest unions, welcomed the move, but said the unions were dilligently watching.

“If they deviate from the road they promise to take us on, then they’ll find us blocking their path,” Diallo said.

Camara was largely unknown to most Guineans before his group seized public airwaves and declared the coup. On Saturday, he invited civilian community leaders — including union leaders, religious heads, politicians and human rights workers — to meet him at his barracks.

He arrived surrounded by a cordon of soldiers armed with machine guns. They hollered at the crowd to move back. Many wore fetishes tied around their arms and necks intended to protect them from harm.

Camara, a short man with a taut face, took the microphone, electrifying the crowd with one pronouncement after another.

A generation of Guineans have known only Lansana Conte as their ruler and even though the coup leader appears to enjoy broad support, tens of thousands turned out for the dictator’s funeral on Friday.

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