April 10, 2006:
Although the Guinean Army has made no secret of its plans to take power in the event of the death of ailing president Conte, these officers are coming under increasing international pressure to allow the succession to be determined by the prescribed constitution process. France and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States, headed by Nigeria) have both weighed in against a military assumption of power. Constitutionally, in the event of the president's death, the President of the National Assembly takes over as acting president, to supervise elections, which must be held within 60 days. Unfortunately, like many African nations, the president has stayed in power for so long by keeping senior military officers well supplied with cash and other gifts. When the president, especially one who has been in power for a long time, dies, the military officers are naturally anxious about their economic future. A new president will have a different set of favorites in the military. Old, and lucrative, relationships will change for the worse. If there's anything worth fighting over, it's a large pile of money, not to mention all the perks that go with being a senior officer in the military. France is taking the lead in trying to convince the Guinean officers that there are worse things that can happen. Over the next few months, we will all find out if the French arguments were persuasive.