- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2008

CONAKRY, Guinea | The leader of a coup in Guinea paraded through its capital Wednesday, followed by several thousand soldiers, hours after saying a presidential election would be held within two years. A crowd cheered him on, screaming “Long live the president!”

Capt. Moussa Camara was seen standing in the first truck of the convoy waving to the crowd that lined the streets in the West African country’s capital. A phalanx of soldiers hoisting Kalashnikovs accompanied him.

The convoy was winding its way to the nation’s presidential compound, where Capt. Camara was expected to read a declaration, officially naming himself head of the country’s interim government.

Capt. Camara was unknown to most Guineans until Tuesday, when he and other members of the military announced a coup following the death of the country’s longtime dictator Lansana Conte.

The military-led group initially promised there would be a vote within 60 days, but Capt. Camara broadcast another message Wednesday, maintaining the group’s hold over public airwaves.

“The National Council for Democracy and Development has no ambition of staying in power,” he said on state radio. “We are here to promote the organization of credible and transparent presidential elections by the end of December 2010.”

The group set a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. in the capital, where soldiers loyal to the coup plotters circulated in tanks and jeeps armed with rocket launchers. The troops carried machine guns and wore military uniforms and red berets.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, who has been in hiding since the coup was declared, said from an undisclosed location that the government remained in control.

“This unknown captain doesn’t control the army. The majority of the troops are still loyal - but one little group can cause a lot of disorder,” Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare told the Associated Press earlier Wednesday.

Since independence from France in 1958, Guinea had been ruled by only two people until Mr. Conte’s death Monday evening. He first took power in a 1984 military coup after the death of his predecessor and went on to win presidential elections in 1993, 1998 and 2003.

But every election his government organized was marred by accusations of fraud. The most recent in 2003 was boycotted by the opposition, and Mr. Conte - who by all accounts had become deeply unpopular - secured 95 percent of the vote. The next presidential election had been scheduled for December 2010.

The United States will be “examining what options we have in the coming days,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, including a cut-off of non-humanitarian U.S. aid, although no decisions have been made.

“One of the things we want to see happen immediately is the restoration of civilian, democratic rule. We’re very disappointed that this transition process in Guinea doesn’t have any civilian component,” Mr. Wood said.

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