Guinea - Leadership

President Conté is recognized for his strong but ruthless leadership. His tacit approval of the 1985 reprisals and execution of the mutineers, his brutal eviction of Conakry sidewalk vendors in 1994, the violent razing of a Conakry squatter neighborhood in 1998, and the detention of Alpha Condé following the 1998 elections characterize his style of rule. Failure to stage credible elections has undermined his government's legitimacy.

As a man in mufti (ordinary dress, but of a military nature), Conté is comfortable with authoritarian rule and distrustful of political parties and democratic competition. He perceives disagreement on matters of public policy as an affront to his judgment and to his leadership. In 1999, when Conté named the new presidential palace to honor Sékou Touré, it was seen by many Guineans as a premature rehabilitation of the former dictator and an attempt to rewrite history.

Following the 1996 coup, Conté appointed Sidya Touré prime minister. In early 1997, Conté created an office for minister of finance and budget to control economic planning, setting a course for economic growth and improved infrastructure and services. However, nepotism and ethnocentric appointments led to increased cronyism, corruption, and a retrenchment on economic and political reforms.

In November 2001, Conté and the PUP-dominated National Assembly amended the Constitution to increase the number of years in a presidential term from five to seven, and to remove term limits. The amendment also allowed the president to nominate local government officials, who previously were elected. Critics dismissed the referendum as a constitutional coup. Despite his health problems, Conté insists that he will stand for reelection in December 2003. Should he be unable to run, the country could be thrown into political chaos because he has not groomed a successor, and the army, which is deeply divided by age, ethnicity, and other factors, would likely intervene.

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