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Interim leader urges army must back new Guinea president

by Staff Writers
Conakry (AFP) Dec 16, 2010
Guinea's interim leader Sekouba Konate urged the army to back newly-elected president Alpha Conde on Thursday as he made his final speech to the country's under-fire security forces before stepping down.

"I remind you that the army is apolitical. I invite you therefore to support and accompany the new president in his mission," the general told soldiers, gendarmes and police at Conakry's camp Boiro in a speech carried on state radio and television.

Last month, Conde won what has been hailed as the country's first free and democratic election since independence from France in 1958, closing a chapter on a string of despotic and military regimes.

Violence after the November 15 release of provisional results left at least seven people dead and hundreds injured as security forces cracked down on protests, sparking international condemnation of unnecessary brutality.

Konate said the army, condemned internationally for its brutality in a crackdown on election-related violence as well as the September 2009 massacre of opposition supporters, could now hold its head up high after ushering in democratic elections.

"We have done what we have promised to do, for the first time in the history of our country, which was to give Guineans the chance and the opportunity to freely chose their president," said Konate, a general and former army chief.

"We can raise our head now, everywhere. We have shown that the vast majority of the army has acquired democracy," he said.

But he advised the incoming president nevertheless to "put among his priorities the resolution of problems" in the military.

Konate was made vice-president and minister of defence when the military took power in a 2009 coup after the death of longtime ruler Lansana Conte. Konate eventually took over completely after coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara was left seriously wounded by an assassination attempt.

He became head of an internationally-recognised provisional government in January, tasked with ushering in the elections.

A date for Conde's inauguration has not yet been announced, but is thought likely to take place next week.

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