Guinea President Conte dies – military coup quickly follows

December 23, 2008

CONAKRY, Guinea –  Hours after the death of the country’s longtime dictator President Lansana Conte, a military-led group declared a coup in the West African nation of Guinea on Tuesday, announcing it had dissolved the government and constitution. At around 7:30 a.m., a uniformed spokesman for a group calling itself the National Council for Democracy began broadcasting its announcement of the takeover on state-run radio and TV.

Conte, who took power in a military coup after the death of his predecessor Ahmed Sekou Toure in 1984, died Monday night, the country’s National Assembly president announced at about 2 a.m. Under the constitution a transfer of power  calls for the head of the National Assembly to be sworn in as the new president but the military quickly moved in to take power.

The mineral-rich but impoverished nation of 10 million has been ruled by only two men since it gained independence from France half a century ago. Conte was rumored to be in poor health for awhile, and it had long been predicted that a military coup would follow the death of President Lansana Conte.

Conte who rules for 24 years, seems no great loss to the country. Though Guinea is blessed with fertile land and rich mineral deposits, including half the world’s reserves of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum — its economy has rapidly deteriorated and its people have remained among the poorest in the world. A food exporter when it originally became indepent, Guinea turned to importing food as it became more impoverished, crippled by corruption, inflation and high unemployment. Conte’s unpopularity was reflected in revolts by disgruntled soldiers and at least two attempts to oust him.


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