- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

CONAKRY, Guinea | Guinea’s coup leader declared a zero-tolerance policy on corruption Saturday, vowing to renegotiate the country’s numerous mining and trade contracts and warning that he will execute anyone who embezzles state funds.

Capt. Moussa Camara also extended an apparent concession to Guinea’s powerful unions, telling them they could help choose a prime minister after international criticism that elections are not planned for two more years.

On a concrete stage inside the barracks from where he launched his rebellion Tuesday, Capt. Camara jabbed his finger at the sky as he swore to do away with the corruption that has drained the mineral-rich state’s coffers and impoverished the West African nation’s 10 million people.

“For the person who embezzles money, there won’t be a trial. They’ll be killed,” he said, a promise that was met with cheers of “Bring them to justice!”

Guinea is the world’s largest producer of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum, and also produces diamonds, gold and timber. Yet its mineral wealth was siphoned off to enrich the country’s longtime ruling family and its closest associates.

Capt. Camara’s group declared a coup hours after dictator Lansana Conte died late Monday after nearly a quarter-century in power.

The European Union and the United States have called for restoration of democracy in Guinea. Capt. Camara has said elections will be held in December 2010. Neighboring Senegal has declared support for the military group.

On Saturday, Capt. Camara said he would allow Guinea’s unions and others to propose the name of a prime minister. Rabiatou Serah Diallo, head of one of Guinea’s largest unions, welcomed the move.

“If they deviate from the road they promise to take us on, then they’ll find us blocking their path,” she said of the coup leaders.

In 2007, Guinea’s unions led weeks of deadly demonstrations calling for Mr. Conte to step down. He managed to retain power by agreeing to name a prime minister from a list of five candidates approved by the unions.

But Mr. Conte unexpectedly fired Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate through a presidential decree in May after an uneasy 15-month power-sharing agreement and chose a successor.

The coup following Mr. Conte’s death has thrown the country into political turmoil. Under Guinea’s constitution, the speaker of the National Assembly was to succeed the longtime strongman.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe on Friday condemned the coup as “an affront to peace, stability and democracy,” and called on the military rulers to hand over power to Aboubacar Sompare, who had been constitutionally next-in-line. His whereabouts have remained unknown.

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