Guinea’s leader says he’s not returning home

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OUGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Guinea’s wounded military leader says in a declaration he is willingly taking a leave of absence in order to continue his convalescence.

The declaration issued on behalf of the man that led a coup in Guinea a year ago is seen as a major step forward for his embattled country, which diplomats say could have slid into civil war had he returned.

The declaration states that Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara is “willingly taking a period of convalescence” in light of his health after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt in December.

Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore who was helping mediate between factions inside Camara’s military clique told reporters Camara has agreed to allow his No. 2 to steer the country toward a return to civilian rule.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Guinea’s interim leader has threatened to resign amid an impasse over whether the wounded president should be allowed to go home given fears his return could undermine attempts to restore civilian rule.

Opposition officials, meanwhile, named their candidate Friday to serve as prime minister in a transitional government proposed by the interim leader. However, it remains unclear whether the president, who survived an assassination attempt last month, even backs that plan.

Interim leader Gen. Sekouba Konate, Guinea’s vice president, is under intense pressure from opposition leaders and the international community to keep Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara out of the country. Western diplomats fear his return would sabotage efforts to restore civilian rule.

Camara, who seized power in a December 2008 coup and was shot in the head last month by his former aide-de-camp, has been accused of crimes against humanity for his alleged complicity in a September massacre that left at least 156 dead.

The military-led massacre has given rise to fears that Guinea — one of the few countries in the sub-region that has never had a civil war — could descend into conflict, a dangerous development that could rope in other countries and once again set this part of Africa on fire.

The presidential guard that carried out the killings is largely composed of men from the small ‘forestier’ ethnic group, the ethnicity of the 46-year-old coup leader. Their victims were overwhelmingly Peul, the largest ethnicity in Guinea, and a major group in neighboring countries including in Burkina Faso.

During a closed-door meeting Thursday, Konate allegedly accused Camara of having betrayed him and of having created an ethnic problem when there was none, according to a security adviser who was present during the talks. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The two came to power in a December 2008 coup and Camara initially promised to quickly hand over power to civilians. He then reversed course, putting up 6-foot-tall portraits of himself and hinting that he planned to run in upcoming elections. This angered Konate, who many say could easily have become the president in Camara’s place but is said to have no interest in power.

When Camara was shot on Dec. 3 and evacuated to Morocco for emergency surgery, Konate grabbed the chance to put the country back on course, meeting with opposition leaders to begin crafting a roadmap for a return to democracy. That move upset hard-liners in the country’s ruling junta, many of whom are forestier and benefited handsomely from their ties to Camara.

They issued a statement on behalf of the junta saying Camara must be allowed to return from Burkina Faso, where he was flown earlier this week after being ejected from Morocco. Late Thursday, a nine-member delegation of junta officials also arrived in Ouagadougou to demand the return of their president.

The security adviser at the talks said Konate threatened late Thursday to resign if they do not reach a “realistic agreement on the fate of Dadis Camara and on how the transition should be led.”

Konate told other junta leaders that the people of Guinea are “fed up with the military and they should prepare to leave power with civilians,” the adviser said.

The same adviser said that an argument broke out between Col. Moussa Keita, the junta official leading the delegation, and Konate. When Keita insisted that Camara should be allowed to return, Konate exploded, telling him: “You want a civil war.”

Last week, Konate invited the opposition to name an interim prime minister to oversee a transitional period and eventually restore civilian rule through elections.

The opposition coalition on Friday proposed Jean-Marie Dore, a senior opposition leader who was badly beaten by the presidential guard and keeps in his house a plastic bag filled with the bloody clothes he was wearing that day.

Although he is respected by many, Dore is from the forestier ethnic group and his appointment is likely to anger those opposition members who had argued that the candidate should be Peul in order to show a clear break with the past.

Camara had been rushed to a Moroccan hospital for emergency surgery after last month’s shooting and his health had become a tightly guarded secret, with many speculating that he was in a coma even as the government insisted that he was about to return.

Late Tuesday, he walked off a plane at Ouagadougou airport propped up by several people. It marked his first public sighting since the assassination attempt.


Callimachi reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press Writer Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea contributed to this report.