News24

Guinea to shrug off sanctions

2009-11-09 17:06

Conakry - Guinea's mineral wealth will help it shrug off international sanctions imposed after a lethal crackdown on anti-government protesters, according to a top aide to junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

The West African state, the world's largest exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite, has faced isolation and punitive measures from African neighbours, the EU and ex-colonial power France since what witnesses said was the killing of over 150 protesters by security forces in the capital Conakry on September 28.

The sanctions include arms embargoes, travel bans on junta leaders and the freezing of their international bank accounts, but not trade measures. Camara is under pressure to step down and allow civilian rule - something he has so far resisted.

"Guinea has always run itself on its own funds," Idrissa Cherif, newly appointed special adviser to Camara, said in an interview in a hotel suite in Conakry.

"It's the army which must tell Captain Dadis to leave power, because it's not you who put him there ... Where is the means to tell the army to leave power? It's practically impossible."

Chinese "interested"

As well as bauxite and alumina operations run by UC RUSAL and Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, the world's biggest single shipper of the aluminium raw material, Guinea produces gold and is a potentially huge source of iron ore.

Analysts say the troubles may give new investors pause for thought before concluding contracts in Guinea, but believe that current players - including minerals firms Rio Tinto and AnglogoldAshanti - are likely to sit tight.

Guinea's trade minister was quoted last month as saying the country was in talks with a group called the China Investment Fund for a $7 billion mining deal, a move that could boost the regime's finances and weaken the West's leverage.

However the Chinese government has said it is not involved in any such investment and there has been no confirmation of the talks by the Hong Kong-based fund itself.

Cherif did not confirm any deal, saying only: "The Chinese are very, very interested."

No sign of compromise

Camara took power in a coup after the death last December of then President Lansana Conte. Initial hopes he would tackle the corruption of the Conte era turned to mistrust after he delayed an election due this year and refused to rule out running in the poll, now scheduled for January 31.

But appetite among Guineans for taking on Camara's National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) appears to have been diminished by the September 28 killings, with few interviewed in Conakry in recent days ready for new protests.

Talks between a broad range of Guinean opposition parties and the CNDD under the mediation of Blaise Compaore, president of Burkina Faso, started earlier this month but there has been no sign yet of how a compromise could be achieved.

There have been indications of rifts within Camara's junta, including a dispute that broke out at his headquarters last month after one military leader sought to have another officer arrested for his part in the killings.

Counter-coup

But Cherif rejected suggestions that Camara is vulnerable to a counter-coup and said he would be able to put down any attempt to dislodge him.

"Within the army, there are no divisions, there is no mutiny," said Cherif, a besuited civilian.

"If people are thinking of a military insurrection, they are mistaken," he said. "It's suicide for anyone who tries it."

Reuters