Friday, February 12, 2010

Sékouba Konaté: Guinea's ATT?

A recent inquirer asked me what I thought about the new Guinean head of state Gen. Sékouba Konaté. Gen. Konaté recently took power after previous junta leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, recovering from an assassination attempt, handed it over. The somewhat unstable Dadis and his equally fanatical cabal were widely seen as an obstacle to democracy and stability in Guinea, whereas Konaté is seen as more moderate. Konaté quickly appointed a civilian prime minister (long-time opposition figure Jean-Marie Doré) as well as a key labor leader to head a body that will manage the transition.

As always, it's hard to tell what any leader's real intentions are. I'm not sure whether the general is a democrat per se. But my sense is that Konaté sees which way the wind is blowing and recognizes that the military has lost all credibility, both internally and externally, after the Sept. 28 massacre and cover up. The outraged reaction to the massacre was much broader and more powerful than anyone (including myself... I'm happy to have been wrong) ever expected. I think Konate realizes that the army's time is up and they need to get out of the way.

I think the bigger question is whether Konaté has enough control over the divided army to actually allow this democratic transition to take place and for the civilians to rule without intimidation. It's clear there have been fanatics loyal to Dadis Camara who don't want to give up power but it's not clear whether they will stand aside without causing chaos or worse.

In 1991 in neighboring Mali, military dictator Gen. Moussa Traoré's forces massacred hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in the capital Bamako. Revulsion to the bloodshed was so widespread that Traoré was overthrown and replaced by Gen. Amadou Toumani Touré (known colloquially as ATT). ATT convened a national conference which wrote a new constitution and organized democratic elections, to whose winners he handed over power. ATT was so widely revered for his role in Mali's democratic transition that he was later elected to the chief executive and has been civilian president since 2002. Will Gen. Konaté be Guinea's ATT? Only time will tell.

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