Lansana Conté

Lansana Conté

Infobox President

name = Lansana Conté
order = President of Guinea-Conakry
primeminister = Diarra Traoré
Sidya Touré
Lamine Sidimé
François Lonseny Fall
Cellou Dalein Diallo
Eugène Camara
Lansana Kouyaté
Ahmed Tidiane Souaré
vicepresident =
term_start = 05 April 1984
term_end =
predecessor = Louis Lansana Beavogui (Acting)
successor =
birth_date = ca. 1934
birth_place = Dubréka, Guinea
spouse = Several [ [ "Guinea's strongman feels the heat"] , BBC News, January 22, 2007]
party = PUP
religion = Muslim

Lansana Conté (born ca. 1934) has been the President of Guinea since 3 April 1984. He is a Muslim and a member of the Susu ethnic group.

Early life

Born in Moussayah Loumbaya (Dubréka), a member of the Susu people, [ Hodonou, Valentin (2004) "Guinea-Conakry Adrift" "African Geopolitics" No. 14] ] Conté was educated at a local Koranic school and attended Dubréka primary school. He then went on to study at military preparatory schools in Bingerville, Côte d'Ivoire and Saint Louis, Senegal.

Military and government service

In 1955, he enlisted in the French army and was posted to Algeria during the war of independence in 1957. After his service in the French Army, Conté returned to Guinea, which became independent from France on 2 October 1958, and was integrated into the new army with the rank of sergeant. In 1962, he attended the Camp Alpha officer's school in Conakry. Soon after, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion artillery-training center in Kindia. On 1 July 1963, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant. This was followed two years later by another promotion from Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant. On 22 November 1970, a group of Guinean exiles invaded the country from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) in an apparent attempt to overthrow the government of President Ahmed Sékou Touré. Conté participated in operations to defend the capital and government forces soon suppressed the invasion. For his service to the nation, he was promoted to the rank of Captain on 27 February 1971. In 1973, he was named commander of the Boké operational zone (in Northwestern Guinea) to assist the pro-independence guerrilla movement, African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) in neighboring Portuguese Guinea. On 10 May 1975, he was named assistant Chief of Staff of the army.

In 1977, he was head of the Guinean delegation during negotiations that resolved a border dispute with Guinea-Bissau and was elected to the National Assembly in 1980. Later that year, he took part in the ruling Democratic Party of Guinea's (PDG) official pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Conté Presidency

1984 coup and military rule

President Ahmed Sékou Touré, Guinea's head of state since independence, died on 26 March 1984. Prime Minister Louis Lansana Beavogui acted as interim president. On 3 April, Conté led a military coup that toppled the government.

He denounced the Touré regime's human rights abuses and released 250 political prisoners. He also encouraged the return of approximately 200,000 Guineans from exile.

The country's constitution was immediately suspended after the takeover, along with the National Assembly, and political activity was banned. A 25-member Military Committee for National Recovery (CMRN) was set up and led by Conté, who on 5 April was proclaimed President of the Republic.

On 4 July 1985, former Prime Minister Diarra Traoré, a colonel who took part in the 1984 coup, attempted to seize power while Conté was attending an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in Lomé, Togo. Troops loyal to Conté swiftly gained control and approximately 100 military personnel, including Traoré, were later executed for their involvement in the rebellion. On 3 April 1990, Conté was promoted to the rank of Army General.

President Conté is also the Secretary General of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an Intergovernmental Organization based in Italy.(see [] and [] ).

Economic and political transition

Conté's economic reforms, including currency devaluation and reduction of government spending met with approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and realignment with western nations encouraged foreign investment.

He initiated Guinea's transition to civilian, multiparty rule in the early 1990s. A new constitution was approved in a referendum held on 23 December 1990 and the CMRN was disbanded on 16 January 1991. It was replaced by the Transitional Committee for National Recovery (CTRN), a body composed of civilians and military officials. Political parties were legalized in 1992 in preparation for upcoming elections.

Civilian rule

The first multi party presidential election held since independence was conducted on 19 December 1993. Conté, candidate of the newly formed Party of Unity and Progress (PUP), won 51.7% of the vote; Alpha Condé of the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) was second with 19.6% of the vote. [ Elections in Guinea] , African Elections Database.] The opposition alleged electoral fraud, especially after the Supreme Court discounted as invalid the results in two prefectures where Condé of the RPG had received a large majority of the vote.

Conté's government narrowly survived a 2 February 1996 coup attempt that stemmed from an army mutiny over payment of salaries. Several dozen civilians were killed and the presidential residence sustained significant damage.

In Guinea's second multi party presidential election, held on 14 December 1998, Conté won another five-year term with 56.1% of the vote. The polls, although an improvement over the troubled 1993 election, were considered flawed by opposition parties and observers. A November 2001 referendum that lifted presidential term limits and would extend the term in office from five to seven years was supported by 98.4% of the voters. The results, however, were rejected by opposition parties who claimed that the outcome was rigged.

He went on to win a third presidential election held on 21 December 2003 with 95.3% of the vote after all but one of the opposing candidates boycotted the race, expressing their belief that Conté would never allow a fair election. Conté has been in declining health in recent years, suffering from diabetes and heart problems, and his ability to serve and survive another full term in office was doubted by many. He was sworn in on January 19 2004, and in a television broadcast on this occasion, he vowed to fight corruption. [ [ "GUINEA: Ailing Conte is sworn in for another seven term"] , IRIN, January 20, 2004.]

On January 19 2005, shots were reportedly fired at his motorcade on its way into Conakry in what was apparently a failed assassination attempt. One bodyguard as reportedly wounded. Conté, who was unharmed, went on state radio and television that night to say that he had survived because God had not yet decided it was his time to die. He also mentioned "threats from those who do not wish to see the development of Guinea or those who obey orders given to them from abroad" and vowed that he would "not be manipulated". On the next morning, he made a public appearance to pray. [ [ "Conte unhurt in shooting, hints at discord"] , IRIN, January 20, 2005.]

In April 2006 he was flown to Morocco for medical treatment. Most people expected he would not return, but he did. Then in May 2006 riots in Conakry over the price of rice and fuel led to around twenty deaths as security forces savagely repressed the popular uprising. In August 2006 he was again flown to Switzerland for medical treatment. This time no crowds met him on his return to Guinea. Meanwhile Henriette Conté, the President's first wife, has been accused of flouting the rule of law and taking advantage of the President's physical and mental incapacity to abuse her power.

In August 2006 Human Rights Watch produced a 30-page report condemning human rights abuses in Guinea, highlighting the power vacuum resulting from the President's ongoing illness, and expressing concern about the future.

In an interview with journalists reported by Guinéenews in October 2006, Lansana Conté said that he intends to stay as President until 2010, which is the end of his seven-year term. Conté also said that he is looking for a replacement who "loves the country and will protect it against its enemies." [ [ "Conté veut rester au pouvoir jusqu'en 2010 et cherche un successeur «qui aime le pays, (et) qui le protège contre ses ennemis»"] ,]

In November 2006 Transparency International updated its annual corruption index. Guinea under Lansana Conte is now 2nd equal as the most corrupt country in the world (pride of place for corruption going to Haiti). This is a matter of concern for foreign firms intending to invest in Guinea (for example to exploit its extensive bauxite reserves) as they are unable to operate in Guinea without paying huge bribes to highly placed government officials, but if caught doing so they may face legal action in their country of origin.

In January 2007, a general nationwide strike was held protesting Conté's continued leadership of the country. [] The strike continued for over two weeks, during which hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in the streets. Within the first two weeks, savage repression by red-caps (Presidential guards) and other security forces left at least twenty protesters dead. By the end of the strike on January 27, it was reported that at least 90 protesters had died in violent clashes with police [ [ "Guinea union chief calls off strike"] , Al Jazeera, January 28, 2007.] and at least 300 had been injured, according to a local human rights group.

The strike ended following an agreement between Conté and the labor unions, according to which a new Prime Minister would be appointed as head of government; Conté also agreed to lower rice and fuel prices. [ [ "Guinean unions end general strike"] , BBC News, January 28, 2007.] On February 9, Conté appointed Eugène Camara, who had been Minister of State for Presidential Affairs since January, as Prime Minister. [ [ "Guinea president names new PM"] , Al Jazeera, February 9, 2007.] [ [ "Guinea : Lansana Conté nominated PM"] , African Press Agency, February 9, 2007.] This was rejected by the opposition, and widespread violence broke out after the appointment. [ [ "Deadly clashes erupt over Guinea PM"] , Al Jazeera, February 10, 2007.] The strike resumed on February 12, and Conté declared martial law on the same day. [ [ "Martial law declared in Guinea"] , Al Jazeera, February 12, 2007.] On February 25 Conté agreed to a deal to end the strike, and on February 26 he appointed a new Prime Minister, Lansana Kouyaté, from a list of individuals chosen by the unions and representatives of civil society; people returned to work on February 27. [ [ "Guineans back to work after deal"] , BBC News, February 27, 2007.] Kouyaté was sworn in on March 1 in a ceremony at which Conté was not present. [ [ "Kouyate takes his oath in Conakry"] , AFP ("IOL"), March 2, 2007.]

In an interview with Agence France-Presse and TV5 on June 14, 2007, Conté asserted that he was still in charge of the country ("I'm the boss, others are my subordinates"), rejected the possibility of a transition, and said that his appointment of a prime minister was not due to pressure and that he was pleased with Kouyaté's performance. [ [ "I'm still the boss, says ailing Conte"] , AFP ("IOL"), June 15, 2007.]

On December 5 2007, a decree restructuring ministries increased the powers of the Secretary-General of the Presidency at the expense of those of the Prime Minister, and on January 3 2008 Conté dismissed and replaced Justin Morel Junior, the Minister of Communication and Government Spokesman, without consulting Kouyaté. On January 4, Kouyaté demanded that Morel be restored to his position, and labor unions announced plans to begin a new "unlimited general strike" on January 10, demanding that Conté's agreement with the unions be properly implemented and that Morel be restored. [ [ "Tensions en Guinée: préavis de grève générale à partir du 10 janvier"] , AFP (, January 4, 2008 fr icon.] On January 9, the unions withdrew their call for a strike. [ [ "Guinée: mot d'ordre de grève générale levé, selon un syndicaliste"] , AFP (, January 9, 2008 fr icon.]

In a surprise move, [ "GUINEA: New threat to stability with dismissal of PM"] , IRIN, May 21, 2008.] on May 20 2008, Conté dismissed Kouyaté and replaced him with Ahmed Tidiane Souaré. [ [ "Guinée: le Premier ministre Lansana Kouyaté limogé par le président Conté"] , AFP (, May 20, 2008 fr icon.] [James Butty, [ "Guinea's Consensus Prime Minister Sacked"] , VOA News, May 20, 2008.] [ "Guinea's president fires prime minister"] , Associated Press ("International Herald Tribune"), May 21, 2008.] [ "Limogeage de Lansana Kouyaté, syndicats et opposition dans l'attente"] , AFP (, May 21, 2008 fr icon.] Kouyaté was widely considered a disappointment in his role as Prime Minister, and his unpopularity meant that his dismissal was not greeted with any major unrest of the kind that led to his appointment a year earlier. Through this dismissal and the appointment of Souaré, who was considered close to Conté, Conté was considered to have strengthened his position.


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