- Title: GUINEA: El Tigre's grip on Guinea army may stem chaos
- Date: 12th December 2009
- Summary: KONATE LISTENING TO MILITARY ANTHEM VARIOUS KONATE WALKING SURROUNDED BY SOLDIERS
- Embargoed: 27th December 2009 12:00
- Location: Guinea
- Country: Guinea
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA4WRLCBUVAL0YH2R9WZGGZ8J04
- Story Text: A swift crackdown on rogue elements in Guinea's military by Defence Minister Sekouba Konate could keep the crisis-struck West African nation from tipping further into chaos, residents, analysts and government sources said on Friday (December 11).
The veteran fighter, known as El Tigre for his ferocity on the battle field, stepped into a power void left in the mineral-rich country last week after junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was shot in a botched coup attempt by his own soldiers and evacuated to Morocco for medical treatment.
Since taking the reigns, Konate has directed a violent purge of rogue elements in the military - centred on those believed to have been sympathetic to the assassination bid - and has been touring military bases in the capital giving speeches on military discipline.
"Our Motto should be to secure our civilian population, who have suffered so much from our past behaviour. We have to avoid such behaviour now," Konate told troops gathered at the Alpha Yaya military camp in Conakry.
Since the botched assassination attempt on Camara, trucks full of heavily armed soldiers have swept through Conakry and into the countryside looking for suspects. Bursts of gunfire have occasionally awoken residents at night and there have been reports of multiple arrests, torture and killings.
Despite sometimes brutal tactics, Konate' swift action on the army has sparked cautious hope among residents that his efforts could bring an end to the decades of violence they have suffered at the hands of belligerent and unruly soldiers.
"A soldier is not a liar. A soldier is not a demagogue, and all soldiers who have not passed their training are potential criminals. That's the truth," Konate told soldiers at Guinea's biggest military camp.
Guinea is the world's top supplier of aluminium ore bauxite and is seen as a lynchpin of stability in a region recovering from three civil wars this decade.
Since independence in 1958, the country entered 50 years of brutal rule dominated by the presidencies of revolutionary socialist Ahmed Sekou Toure -- during which tens of thousands of people disappeared or were tortured and executed -- and later strongman Lansana Conte.
Camara took power in a bloodless coup after Conte's death in December, quickly losing his initial popularity among Guineans after stepping back from a promise to opt out of general elections that had been set for January 2010.
The attack on Camara came as United Nations experts were wrapping up and investigation into a crackdown on anti-government protesters in a Conakry stadium Sept. 28 in which witnesses say scores of people were raped and killed.
"The sins of a leader are more grave than the sins of those he commands. However, we see that things are starting to change," Konate told troops.
"I hope that we have made ourselves understood," he added as helicopters hovered overhead.
In Guinea's capital Conakry, where gunshots are heard almost daily as soldiers loyal to Camara pursue those linked to his would-be assassin, many residents have grown weary of the latest round in years of power struggles within the army.
Konate's focus on reigning in the army has also caught the eye of Western powers looking for a leader in Guinea who can bring the country toward civilian rule through elections.
But while the early reception to Konate's tightened grip on the military has been a positive one, the hopes it has stirred among crisis-weary residents remain tentative.
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