Monday, June 11, 2007

Conté nearly out of options

Longtime Guinean dictator Lansana Conté fired the country's top military officials this week, including his own Secretary of Defense, as a response to weeks of rioting by unpaid soldiers. The last time we checked in with Monsieur Conté, it was the general populace that was up in arms over Conté's choice of Prime Minister. During the unrest, Conté relied on the army to quell the riots and restore order. No big story there, right? Just another dictator relying on his armed forces to keep the status quo humming along. Well, Conté's been writing IOUs to his military for years, most notably promising better pay and housing after a full blown mutiny in 1996. This time, however, the soldiers do not appear to be inclined to listen to Conté's empty promises of being paid sometime down the road.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the world's dictators have been able to operate without the benefit of good relations with their own military. However, very few manage to get by with an openly antagonistic relationship. Conté, who is elderly and reportedly afflicted with a serious heart ailment, has already alienated the public, and he doesn't appear to have a real plan to placate the army. With Conté's position quickly becoming untenable, rumors that a military coup d'etat will oust him from power this summer are swirling, leading even the most jaded observers (myself included) to wonder how he's going to manage to hold on this time.

UPDATE: Professor Inertia bites my style without so much as a link to DotW. Scandalous.

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