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Guinea Armed Hearts Relaxed, But Changes Needed

CONAKRY (Reuters) – New, unmarked green pickup trucks loaded with soldiers wearing wrap-around sunglasses and assault rifles drove through the streets of Conakry, Guinea’s sweltering and sleepy seaside capital. street.

Forcing other traffic off the road, they come and go from Alpha Yadialo, the sprawling military base that has become the seat of government in Guinea since the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte in December led to a bloodless coup in Guinea. .

Despite widespread condemnation from abroad and rumors of a counter-coup from within, the world’s largest exporter of bauxite has avoided the chaos some feared when soldiers led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power.

But Guinea’s history — Conte ruled for nearly 25 years after taking power after the previous president also died in 1984 — is fraught with instability and uncertainty about what the new military will do when they take power.

“They have to respect the promises they made and they have to organize elections as soon as possible,” said Aboubacar Soure, 29, a resident of Conakry.

In addition to cracking down on corruption and the drug trade, Kamala’s Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) junta has vowed to hold elections by the end of the year.

Tensions escalated late last month after Kamara canceled a trip to Libya, with heavily armed soldiers deployed overnight to strategic locations around the crumbling city of 2 million.

Since then, more than 20 soldiers have been arrested for plotting to overthrow the government, and the atmosphere in the camp has relaxed — but there is no doubt who is in power.

A life-size poster of the young captain as head of state hung on the buildings of the barracks, which were painted in the faded red, yellow and green of Guinea’s national colors. The doorway is decorated with the words “Long live CNDD”.

The cars in Alpha Yaya all have Camara stickers, alternately serious and smiling, but always dressed in green camouflage and the red beret of a Guinean paratrooper.

A coffee shop outside the camp proudly calls itself “Cafe CNDD – Long Live Peace”. Nearby walls are covered in pro-junta graffiti, and on the way from the airport to the city center, hand-painted signs read “Youth in Guinea support CNDD policies.”

Goodwill depleted?

CNDD was initially popular with a population tired of the corruption, abuse of power and corruption of the Conte era, but old fears are quietly making a comeback.

“They got a taste of power,” Sur said. “Once you taste it, it’s hard to leave.”

Guineans, who live in one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries, want the new government to address the lack of infrastructure that plagues the country.

“We don’t need demagogues, we need competent and credible people,” said Dumar Camara, a 35-year-old Guinean with training in computer technology but no job.

He lives in the Dixinn district of Conakry, where young men selling phone cards weave through slow-moving roads, while goats and sheep graze next to low concrete huts topped with rusty corrugated iron.

“There is neither water nor electricity here, and they should fix that first. The government is responsible for these structures, it has to organize, build things,” Kamara said.

Instead, the government was distracted by allegations of rape and looting by soldiers.

Hundreds of soldiers in Alpha Yaya chanted in unison that they had renounced violence after the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called on the junta to submit last week, in a ceremony broadcast on state television.

“Not everything they do is good. The fact that soldiers attack people is bad, but they are isolated, undisciplined, they are not part of CNDD,” Dumar Camara said.

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