Its supposed success signing deals with China aside, the junta in Guinea may well be falling apart. The coalition led by Moussa Dadis Camara that took over last fall is looking increasingly frayed -- its leadering increasingly unstable, and the situation increasingly volatile. (Watch out China -- if you were planning to invest, might be rough times.)
To be honest, the junta didn't get off to a bad start -- for a junta, that is. The soldiers were greeted with cheers back in December, when the military officers replaced a notoriously corrupt and patronistic President Lansana Conte. Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara promised
to hold elections -- and not to stand as candidate. The junta even made gestures toward cleaning up the state, including the arrest of high profile leaders thought to be involved in the international drug trade, a Congressional Research Service report issued at the end of September, explains.
After months of muddling through, however, the junta took a turn from unpleasant to drastically worse on September 28, when opposition protestors were massacred in a stadium, in a pre-mediated way, Human Rights Watch claims this week. Those killed were protesting a change of heart by Dadis about elections -- he now says that he may well stand as candidate. Taken together, the election bid and the massacre have catalyzed the opposition in a way rarely seen in the small, West African state. There are about 91 or 92 political parties in the opposition, says an international NGO worker who cannot be named for security purposes. "Most political parties and civil society organizations are all working together" against the coup, she told me.
All the comes at a time when the junta itself is falling apart. Dadis comes across as crazy, drugged, or bi-polar in his interviews and TV spots. He has become increasingly fragile, observers say, as the pressures of patronage and a fractured junta coalition weigh on him.
And fractured the junta certainly is. The group of 30 or so soldiers who came to power, with the backing of about 500 more, make up just a handful of the armies 20,000 forces. Within the high ranks, the most obvious split has emerged between Dadis and his defense minister, General Sekouba Konaté. The latter was an important figure in the military prior to the coup as is largely percieved as the biggest "threat" to Dadis's rule -- an impression codified by the fact that, since earlier this year, Dadis has refused to let his defense minister out of his sight for more than a few moments (they are pictured together above). When Konaté left the country several weeks ago to Morocco (the rumor mill claims he was sent to procure arms), many in Guinea wondered if he would be let back in to the country. His whereabouts now are unknown.
All this raises the scepter of civil war that Guinea has been fighting back literally for decades. During the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia earlier this decade, Guinea's role was largely in taking collateral damage and refugees. But internal ethnic strife has always been both a real component of governance in Guinea, and an element of the society with the potential to be exploited for the worse. "You have a sporadic history of state-sponsored violence targeted at different ethnic groups thorughout Guinea's history," CRS researcher Alexis Arieff told me. "Now, you have a situation in which every self-identified group has a narrative of political exclusion, and there's some truth to all of those narratives." Instrumentalize the grievances, many fear, and Guinea will be headed for trouble.
Add to that one more ugly truth: "many observers will say that it is likely or at least possible that members of the [junta] and or business interests that support them are involved in the international drug trade," a business increasingly penetrating Western African shores. It's got the potential to truly criminalize the state -- though the junta has done a pretty good job of this already.
Photo: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images