Guinea borders Liberia and Sierra Leone, countries that are still recovering from civil wars that left hundreds of thousands killed or mutilated. To the east lies Ivory Coast, the former jewel of West Africa that remains divided following a civil war that broke out in 2002. Conflicts in this part of the world tend to cross borders, as the Guineans who fought in Liberia's war know all to well. A lively regional arms trade and recruitment of fighters could easily destroy years of peace building.
If military vehicles rolled through the capital of your country during the chaotic days following the president's death, and soldiers brandished weapons and declared themselves the new government, you might assume there would be widespread panic. But if you live in the mineral-rich West African nation of Guinea, that assumption would be wrong.
When young Guinean military officers seized power after Guinea's president Lansana Conté died on Monday aged 74, people lined the streets of Conakry, the capital, to cheer them on. A little-known army captain, Moussa Camara, declared himself the country's new leader, as well as the head of a group of 26 officers and six civilians who go by the name the National Council for Democracy and Development.
Guinea's president narrowly survived an assassination attempt Tuesday after gunmen surrounded his home overnight and pounded his bedroom with rockets, throwing into doubt the stability of the country's first democratically elected government in a part of the world that has long been ruled by the gun.
President Alpha Conde was saved because he was sleeping in a different room when the shooting erupted outside his residence at around 3 a.m.
In Guinea, after the death of longtime President Lansana Conte, a Guinean army captain named Moussa Dadis Camara launched a coup in December 2008, promising to cede power after elections were held. Capt. Camara only ended up ceding power a year later after being shot in the head by one of his own aides. (Camara survived the attack, but retired from politics.)
The attacks were part of a violent outburst on Sept. 28 in which soldiers shot and killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators at the main stadium here, where perhaps 50,000 had assembled. Local human rights organizations say at least 157 were killed; the government puts the figure at 56.
But even more than the shootings, the attacks on women — horrific anywhere, but viewed with particular revulsion in Muslim countries like this one — appear to have traumatized the citizenry and hardened the opposition’s determination to force out the leader of the military junta, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara.
Guinea's mineral-rich soil had been plundered by two consecutive dictatorships before Camara seized control of the country a day after President Lansana Conte, who had ruled for nearly a quarter-century, died Dec. 22. Camara initially was embraced by Guineans, thousands of whom lined the streets to applaud him as he rode through the capital on the back of a flatbed military truck.
But since then, tensions have risen amid rumors that Camara may run in presidential elections scheduled for Jan. 31. He initially indicated that he would not but said recently he has the right to do so if he chooses.
Last week, the most mineral rich country this side of the Congo signed into action 106 pages of updated rules affecting the mining companies that operate here.
There are oodles of them: European, American, Chinese.
The new law would allow Guinea to purchase rights of up to 35 percent of all money made off their mines and to hike export taxes on mineral shipments. It was the keystone of President Alpha Condé's campaign, last year, to become Guinea's first democratically elected leader after five decades of misrule by dictators.
"The government of Guinea, the UN and Interpol are concerned by the fact that the clandestine production of controlled drugs might be widespread in Guinea."
The investigation followed seizures of the chemicals by Guinea's armed forces last month at several properties in Conakry, the capital.
"For the first time in the West African sub region, the UN has provided the best evidence yet for clandestine laboratory activity," the UNODC added.
For despite vast reserves of bauxite and diamonds, Guinea is in a terrible mess, and life for ordinary people continues to worsen. A recent UN report concluded that 11% of the population struggle to eat even a meal a day. Civil servants often earn just $30 a month, while the price of basic necessities such as rice keeps rising.
Guinea, an impoverished West African nation of 10 million, was a country of immense promise when it gained independence from France in 1958, with gold, diamonds, verdant banana fields, seemingly limitless aluminum ore and gushing rivers ideal for hydropower. But it slipped into obscurity, becoming an abysmally poor, perpetually broken nation.