The leaders of a military junta that seized power in Guinea appealed on Friday for international support for their pledge to lead the country into a new era of democratic rule.
A group of little-known junior officers launched their takeover on Tuesday following the death of Lansana Conté, the autocratic president who ruled the country for almost a quarter of a century before succumbing to a long illness.
The United States, European Union, African Union and France, the former colonial power, have all condemned the coup in the West African country, where Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and other mining giants have multi-billion dollar projects.
The junta, led by Moussa Camara, a captain who served in a logistics unit, is hoping to win international credibility with its pledges to root out the corruption that flourished under Mr Conté and to hold elections in 2010.
”Now we need to be supported by the World Bank and by these kinds of institutions, so we can have the financial conditions to carry out this mission,” the vice-president of the junta, General Mamadouba Toto Camara, told reporters in Conakry, the dilapidated seaside capital.
Western governments face a dilemma in dealing with the new military rulers in Guinea, whose strategic importance is bolstered by its huge reserves of bauxite – the ore used to make aluminium – and its ties to neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia, both emerging from long civil wars.
While donors usually condemn coups in Africa on principle, they will be watching for signs that the new leaders might provide hope of breaking with ruinous decades in which a tiny elite dined on the country’s mineral wealth while the majority sunk deeper into poverty. The late Mr Conté, who staged his own coup following the death of the country’s first president in 1984, was due to be buried in his home town on Friday.
”A good scenario is possible. This is the moment for the international community to get mobilized and push towards that,” said one donor official. ”It would be dangerous for the region if the situation is allowed to deteriorate.”
Mining companies also have much at stake. Rio Tinto had been locked in a dispute with Mr Conté’s administration over its $6bn Simandou iron ore concession, a key asset in its defence against a hostile takeover attempt by BHP.
Capt. Camara appears to have rallied some significant sections of Guinea’s military and political elite behind him in the tense hours after his men seized a radio station to allow him to broadcast news of his takeover on Tuesday. The officer has said he has no plans to run for president , though thousands of Guineans have acclaimed their support, some calling him ”Obama Junior”.
Get alerts on Mergers & Acquisitions when a new story is published