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By Scott Stearns
Dakar
31 December 2008

Guinea's new prime minister faces many challenges in returning his country to civilian rule. Guinea's military leaders chose an international banker as their prime minister to lead a process toward new elections following last week's military coup.

Banker Kabine Komara, who was named prime minister by the military junta which seized power in Guinea last week is pictured upon his arrival at Conkary airport, 30 Dec. 2008
Banker Kabine Komara pictured upon his arrival at Conkary airport, 30 Dec 2008

Kabine Komara has returned to Guinea to help the country's new military leaders fulfill their promise of democratic elections in December 2010.

The veteran of Guinea's central bank and Ministry of Finance was most recently a senior director at the African Export-Import Bank in Cairo. Komara was one of four men nominated by labor leaders to assume the post of prime minister following anti-government protests in 2007.

Then-president Lansana Conte decided against him. But the French Ambassador to Guinea, Jean-Michel Berrit, believes Komara's previous nomination makes him a solid consensus choice to work toward new elections.

Ambassador Berrit says the French government wishes Komara good luck and believes that for the first time in Guinea's history, the country may be ready for a free election. He says there is considerable work to be done, but Guinea is in a better position than some of its neighbors. While Guinea appears to be on the road toward elections, the French ambassador says that road should not be a long one.

Army Captain Moussa Camara came to power last week in a coup launched within hours of President Conte's death. Captain Camara said the military was taking charge to stop what he called widespread corruption, impunity, anarchy, and "unprecedented economic and social crisis."

Guinea is one of the world's poorest nations despite being the world's largest exporter of aluminum ore.

Fighting poverty is clearly one of the new prime minister's greatest challenges, especially as most foreign donors are still condemning the military take-over. The African Union has suspended Guinea. The United States says the military's undermining constitutional rule can only lead to greater isolation.

Human rights officials say restoring international good-will is linked to delivering on promised elections, improving government accountability and fighting illegal drug trafficking.

Corrine Dufka, the regional director for West Africa for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, says chronic abuses by security forces and the previous government's complicity in drug trafficking leaves Captain Camara with a serious crisis in governance.

"There are individuals within his government that have been implicated in issues related to drug trafficking and certainly in issues related to excessive use of force. So he needs to send a very clear message very soon that there will be a zero tolerance for abuses by the military of any sort," said Dufka.

While military leaders say Prime Minister Komara will run the government and lead the process toward new elections, Dufka says Guinea has a long history of military intervention in political affairs.

"One of the problems in Guinea is you have not had a separation between military and political life for decades. And when that happens, the military can use their influence, can use the powers of intimidation to try to influence a political process. So you don't have that strict split between political and military life which is necessary in order to have free and fair elections," Komara.

Legislative elections in Guinea have already been postponed three times. So Prime Minister Komara will preside over a national assembly with lawmakers who are already serving well beyond their electoral mandate. Military leaders say legislative elections scheduled for next year will be put back again to coincide with presidential elections in 2010.

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