23 December 2008

Guinea: Coup Follows Conté's Death

A military officer appeared on television in Guinea on Tuesday soon after news of the death of President Lansana Conté to announce that a "National Council for Democracy" was taking over the government, news agencies report.

The Associated Press reported from the capital, Conakry, that the unidentified officer said the government, the courts and the parliament had been dissolved.

Conté, who himself came to power in a coup after the death of Guinea's founding president, Ahmed Sékou Touré, had been in power since 1984. He was 74.

Reuters reports that the National Assembly president, Aboubacar Sompare, announced Conté's death in a state television broadcast. He was accompanied during the announcement by Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and military commander Diarra Camara.

Conté ruled with the backing of the military, which has been accused of extra-judicial killings, rape and torture. During a long and bloody general strike in February 2007, he declared a state of emergency and ordered soldiers to act as civilian police.

Veronique Aubert, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa program, wrote in a report condemning the military action that "the Guinean security forces are a permanent threat to the people of Guinea."

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