CNDD. Fighting impunity with impunity

The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), led by military junta head Capitaine Moussa Dadis Camara, arrested three former ministers of the late President Lansana Conté on 23 March for allegedly embezzling national funds, but human rights officials say the nature of the arrests shows impunity continues.

Impunity

Shortly before their arrests, Camara-appointee and Minister of State Control, Alhassane Onipogui, accused former Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, and former Ministers of Mines Ousmane Sylla and Louncény Nabé of embezzling US$5.3 million of state finances.

The questioning was part of an auditing process of government funds that Camara promised soon after he took power on 23 December.

The international non-profit Transparency International’s 2008 corruption index ranked Guinea as the country with the seventh most corrupt image among 180 ranked countries.

Souaré told investigators in early March the funds were legitimately spent on state finances. The three men are currently being held at Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp in the capital, Conakry.

Contradicts due process

Corinne Dufka, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Senegal, had a mixed response to the arrests. “The good news is that the CNDD and Camara recognise the key role that corruption and bad governance have played in undermining the welfare of the Guinean people. That is very important,” she told IRIN.

“But we are worried that Camara and the CNDD appear to be undermining the rule of law in an effort to establish the rule of law.”

She continued: “Popular justice — which this is an example of — often does not adhere to due process. These people are being held at a military camp, are being interrogated in public, surrounded by people with heavy weaponry, and, we understand, without the presence of lawyers. That contradicts proper judicial practices.”

Popular

But Guineans who spoke to IRIN said despite the questionable approach, they welcome the outcome. “Even if I do not like the way in which these arrests are being carried out, I support the CNDD in arresting these ex-ministers,” Conakry-based businessman Diarouga Baldé told IRIN.

“I applaud the courage of the President of the Republic [Camara] who has dared to rupture all ties with the old regime,” said the businessman. “These measures should now be extended to all of those who misgoverned our country.”

University student Bah Amadou told IRIN Guineans’ hunger for change means they will continue to support the CNDD, despite their heavy-handed tactics.

“I am in favour of these arrests — these people [ex-ministers] have to accept everything that comes their way because under Conté, they did not respect our country. We need to hold them all to account if we are to have meaningful governance change in this country.”

HRW’s Dufka too, welcomed the attention the CNDD is bringing to how Guinea’s mineral wealth has brought little benefit to most Guineans.

Despite holding a third of the world’s bauxite reserves, the majority of Guinea’s residents live in poverty; Guinea ranked 160 out of 177 countries in the latest UN index measuring living conditions around the world.

Sidelined

Dufka told IRIN the justice ministry and police are constitutionally responsible for undertaking such investigations and arrests.

“The problems Guinea [have] had are clearly underpinned by a crisis of impunity. While on the one hand holding erstwhile untouchables to account is positive, the uneven nature of the investigations, amid ongoing abuses by all players, illuminates that impunity is still a major problem there.”

“Confronting this impunity is just as important as pushing for 2009 democratic elections to be held, which is the current push from foreign governments and multilaterals,” Dufka said.

IRIN

603 mois de dictature

La Guinée a saigné, gémit et s’est appauvrie pendant cinquante ans sous la dictature, de  Sékou Touré, d’abord, et de Lansana Conté, ensuite. Ce sombre tableau continue de prévaloir avec les premier trimestre de pouvoir du capitaine Capitaine Moussa Dadis Camara, président du soi-disant Conseil national pour la démocratie et le développment.

Les malheurs ont tendance à se répéter. Et le dicton de rappeler qu’il n’y a jamais deux sans trois. En l’occurrence, pas deux dictateurs sans un troisième.

La date du 23 mars 2009 marque donc, presque jour pour jour, les trois premiers mois d’exercice du pouvoir.

Six-cent trois mois de dictature

Il est extrêmement pénible de constater que Sékou Touré, Lansana Conté et Moussa D. Camara constituent et symbolisent, ensemble, ce que Sako Kondé appelle à juste titre le colonialisme interne, qui opprime la Guinée depuis 1958. Soit une période lourde et catastrophique de 603 mois:

12 (mois) x 50 (ans)  + 3 (mois) = 603 mois

Au plus des guerres civiles du Liberia et de la Sierra Leone, Lansana Conté, connu pour ses écarts de langage, s’exclama : “La malchance de la Guinée c’est d’avoir pour voisins deux pays que Dieu lui-même a maudits!”

La vérité n’est peut-être bonne à dire que sur autrui. Mais, s’il avait eu un peu de culture et de sagesse, Conté se serait souvenu de la réponse de Jésus Christ à ceux qui condamnaient une femme adultère. Le prophète leur dit :
— Que celui de vous qui est sans péché jette le premier la pierre contre elle.
Ils se retirèrent tous un à un.
De même Lansana Conté aurait dû s’abstenir de condamner ses voisins victimes et auteurs des guerres civiles qui ravagèrent la Sierra Leone et le Liberia. Car il mena toute sa vie une guerre destructrice contre la Guinée et ses populations. Durant un quart de siècle, il imita froidement la politique ruineuse de son chef Sékou Touré.

Entre le 23 et le 27 décembre, Dadis Camara donna l’impression d’être l’agent de la rupture avec le passé dictatorial de l’Etat guinéen.

Hélas, depuis sa rencontre avec les forces sociales, le 27 décembre 2008, au Camp Alfa Yaya, il s’est révélé un vecteur virulent de la maladie politique qui a ruiné la  Guinée.

Depuis lors, il a renié sa modestie initiale et s’est mué en un dictateur en puissance, porteur des traits négatifs de ses deux devanciers.

Car, tout comme Sékou Touré et Lansana Conté, Moussa Dadis a des problèmes personnels de santé. Concernant la santé physiquement, je n’en sais rien encore. Mais au plan psychique, une évidence s’impose : et c’est la psychopathie, c’est-à-dire une forme de maladie mentale, ou en tout cas de comportement anormal et déviant par rapport à la norme. Tout comme les deux premiers présidents, Moussa Dadis est atteint de paranoïa, c’est-à-dire de la peur insurmontable de perdre le pouvoir. Et son mal est doublé de schizophrénie, c’est-à-dire le dédoublement voire la multiplication des personnalités contradictoires dans son corps.

En tout état de cause, leurs déficiences morales et mentales reposent sur le manque de santé physique des présidents guinéens.

En 1977, après avoir examiné Sékou Toure, un docteur américain en poste à la CBG à Kamsar diagnostiqua la syphilis cardiaque, qui finit par emporter le Responsable suprême de la révolution sept ans plus, le 26 mars 1984 à Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Conté commença à boiter et perdre du poids à la fin des années 1990. C’est seulement vers 2001 que les spécialistes s’accordèrent sur sa double affliction : diabète et leucémie. Il résista lui aussi sept ans environ avant de s’éteindre sans son lit le 22 décembre 2008.

Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, chef de la junte du CNDD. Conakry, mars 2009
Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, chef de la junte du CNDD. Conakry, mars 2009

Tout en luttant âprement contre la maladie et résistant à sa longue agonie, Conté trouva le temps de se choisir un successeur et continuateur. Il pensa d’abord à son narcotrafiquant de fils, capitaine Ousmane Conté. Face à l’opposition des états-majors de l’armée il se ravisa. Il jeta alors son dévolu sur capitaine Moussa Dadis Camara, un promotionnaire et ami de son aîné.
Pourquoi ? Parce qu’inspiré et guidé par le génie du mal, c’est-à-dire la seule lueur d’intelligence qui brûlait en Conté.
Il avait deviné en Dadis les traits requis pour perpétuer la tyrannie guinéenne : mégalomanie, mythomanie, cruauté, incompétence, impulsivité, insolence, arrogance.

Talon d’Achille

Les travers ci-dessus causeront immanquablement la perte de Moussa Dadis. Son manque d’équilibre mental alarme les observateurs. C’est peut-être un aspect de sa complexion physiologique et psychologique. Il s’agit sans doute d’un trait génétique et hérité, ou d’une condition acquise, de sa personnalité. Mais alors, il aurait dû accepter la vice-présidence du CNDD, et laisser ses supérieurs (général Mamadouba Toto Camara et colonel —à présent général — Sékouba Konaté) diriger la barque.

Malheureusement, l’ambition — surfaite — prit le dessus et c’est lui qui prit les commandes de l’Etat.

Mais pour autant, il ne fait pas l’unanimité et la paranoïa se manifeste déjà. Qu’on en juge:

  • Il dort le jour et travaille la nuit pour mieux surveiller les vélléitaires et les rivaux qui pourraient le débarquer à tout moment.
  • Il dirige tout et dans les moindres détails, et n’a confiance en personne, à commencer par son figurant de Premier ministre.
  • A la cérémonie d’ouverture du congrès des chirurgiens d’Afrique de l’Ouest, au Palais du Peuple, le 13 février dernier, son comportement avait suggéré à certains membres de son audience —tous des spécialistes de santé — qu’il était sous l’effet de médicaments. He appeared medicated.
  • Il est bloqué au Camp Alfa Yaya, n’osant pas occuper le Palais présidentiel, encore moins le Camp — rival— Samori Touré.
  • Il ne peut s’aventurer en dehors de Conakry, craignant de ne pouvoir y revenir.

Autant que je sache, capitaine Dadis n’a pas encore commis de crime du sang. Mais il s’est installé dans l’exercice personnel et l’usage abusif du pouvoir. Avec tout ce que de telles tares évoquent dans le contexte guinéen. Les mauvais griots et les flagorneurs lui racontent ce qu’il veut entendre, à savoir qu’il est, lui, Moussa, un Moise, descendu du Ciel pour sauver la Guinée (Elhadj Biro Diallo). Il prend goût et se repaît de telles inanités. Pour cette raison, il continue de garder au secret des officiers (général Diarra Camara, contre-amiral Ali Daffé et leurs compagnons). En violation flagrante de leurs droits humains.

Il rabroue publiquement des Guinéens qui ont plus d’instruction et d’expérience que lui. C’est ainsi que le vice-président du CNDD, général Toto Camara et l’ancien Premier ministre Sydia Touré ont essuyé en public des propos humiliants de Dadis.

Je reste perplexe, peiné et impuissant face à tant de cruauté de la part du sort et de l’histoire, qui s’acharnent si implacablement contre la Guinée.

J’espère cependant que capitaine Moussa Dadis sera amené, d’une façon ou d’une autre, à quitter la scène publique. Il avait sollicité en janvier un poste de médiateur international, invoquant comme prétexte le précédent du général Amadou Toumani Touré, président du Mali. La requête elle-même était indue et indigne d’un chef d’Etat. Il aurait dû attendre qu’on lui fasse l’offre plutôt que de la solliciter. Mais une patience est apparemment contre-nature pour Dadis le bouillant et inconséquent maître de Conakry.

Depuis cette date, le chef de la junte guinéenne a cherché à courir simultanément dans plusieurs directions. En conséquence, il n’a pas fait un pas en avant. Toutes ses initiatives sont tombées à plat après une courte période d’agitation :

  • L’intimidation des politiciens
  • La campagne contre les hommes d’affaires
  • La lutte contre le trafic de la drogue
  • La protection de la famille Conté

Trois constantes émergent de l’activité bouillonnante, mais peu constructive, de Dadis.

  • L’obsession du pouvoir présidentiel
  • Le refus de fixer un calendrier précis et la création d’un organisme élargi et représentatif  pour diriger la transition.
  • Les performances personnelles du Show Dadis à la télévision

J’ignore évidemment les faits et évènements du prochain trimestre. Mais j’espère que la pression sur Dadis augmentera pour l’amener à joindre les actes aux promesses. Et à comprendre que bien qu’il soit entré dans l’histoire à pas feutrés au milieu de la nuit, il devrait chercher à la quitter honorablement et en plein jour, sans contrainte ni force.

Tierno S. Bah

Untried Soldier and Guinea’s Desperate Hopes

Conakry, Guinea — The captain likes to sleep late. Most days he rises well into the afternoon. Sometimes it is not until after sunset. He governs in darkness, his aides whisper, because that is when coups happen, like the one he staged early one December morning.

The students, at Kofi Annan University, cheered Captain Camara during his visit. Many hail him as a hero, for the moment.

Poverty and drug

Poverty and the drug trade are among Guinea’s many ills.

Capt. Capitaine Moussa Dadis Camaraa, who seized power along with a group of junior officers after the death of Guinea’s longtime president, is only the third man to rule this abysmally poor, perpetually broken nation.

The warmth with which this young, untested soldier has been welcomed by many of the people is a testament to just how low Guinea, a onetime pioneer in African independence, has sunk, and how desperate for change its people have become.

“Guinea is a country of missed opportunities,” said Georges Gandhi Tounkara, a political analyst here. “It remains to be seen if this opportunity will be wasted, too. Everyone is just hoping for some kind of change.”

Guinea has suffered through years of tyranny. The country chose to be independent from a reluctant France in 1958, but a nation that seemed like a beacon of hope for Africa quickly slipped under the shroud of socialist dictatorship, ruled by the charismatic but brutal Sékou Touré. Isolated and impoverished, Guinea became a redoubt of misery.

After Mr. Touré died, in 1984, a young military officer, Lansana Conté, seized power and promised reform. Hope and optimism greeted him. But he governed as a military dictator. Mr. Conté eventually made a show of multiparty democracy, but his rule was in practice virtually unchallenged.

In the past few years, as Mr. Conté’s health declined, Guinea drifted toward chaos. Corruption rotted the country’s already fragile courts and the police. Workers went unpaid, and strikes became common and violent. Mr. Conté unleashed his presidential guard to quell dissent, and hundreds died, according to human rights investigators.

South American drug traffickers, who ship cocaine to Europe via West Africa, infiltrated the government at the highest levels. Mr. Conté’s son Ousmane confessed on television last month to aiding the cocaine traffickers who had turned Guinea into a virtual narco-state. Senior police officials and some of the country’s top drug enforcers were involved, according to investigators.

When Mr. Conté’s deathwatch finally ended in December, the army leapt into the breach. Captain Camara, who is in his 40s, led a group of junior officers to take power, contending that the constitutional order of succession would only court disaster in such an unstable country.

Guinea’s Desperate Hopes

Captain Camara, sensing the public outrage at corruption and the drug trade, vowed to clean up the country. In a bizarre but riveting set of televised interrogations, the compact, square-jawed captain extracted confessions from some of the most feared and powerful figures of the ancien régime.

These broadcasts, which came to be called “The Dadis Show,” proved a powerful catharsis.

“It is cleansing,” said Sidya Touré, who was prime minister in the 1990s and is a prominent opposition figure. “The former government pillaged and criminalized the state. People want justice for that.”

Garbage piles shoulder high on the potholed streets of Conakry, where drug kingpins prowl in Hummers and Cadillac Escalades. But Captain Camara is hailed as a hero by many.

“He is cleaning up the country like only a soldier can,” said Ousmane Sow, an out-of-work carpenter who sells cigarettes and chewing gum on a downtown street corner. “I support him. He should stay in power as long as it takes to finish the job.”

Analysts and diplomats warn that this optimism could quickly sour. Guinea is almost broke. The bauxite ore on which it depends is worth much less these days.

The junta has appointed soldiers with no governing experience to top posts in the finance and other important ministries, and it is straining to pay salaries. Many people struggle to eat one decent meal a day. The good will from the antitrafficking campaign could quickly disappear.

Under pressure from Western countries and the African Union, the junta has pledged to hold elections by the end of the year, but there is little evidence of preparations for a transition to civilian rule.

The United States has cut off some aid, and has refused to recognize the junta. “By remaining in power through repeated refusals to set a timely election date, the military regime in Guinea is fast becoming the poster boy for misrule in West Africa,” said a statement from Phillip Carter III, the acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

But some European governments take a softer line, contending that a fragile country like Guinea needs stability as much as democracy, according to diplomats and analysts in the region.

At Conakry’s airport, where students gather to study in the evenings under the glow of some of the city’s only functioning street lamps, it was hard to find anyone who disagreed.

“We have seen democracy under Conté, and it was a sham,” said Alpha Barry, 20, a student who sat hunched over a photocopied organic chemistry textbook. “I don’t want the military to stay long. But if we have elections now we will only have another coup.”

Many Guineans point to Mauritania, where the public welcomed a military coup in 2005 that ended years of misrule. After Mauritanians elected a president in 2007, the same officers overthrew the government again last year. Captain Camara has said he looks to Mali as his model. In 1991 army officers joined a popular uprising against the one-party dictatorship, then ushered in a new era of democracy and stability.

But Africa’s post-colonial history is littered with tales of strongmen who were first welcomed, then despised.

“The erstwhile exterminating angel who is setting everything right becomes the scourge of the nation,” said Mike McGovern, an anthropologist at Yale University who has studied Guinea for years. “That was Lansana Conté’s career, and it could well be Dadis’s as well.”

Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times

CNDD : artilleurs borgnes

Le Conseil national pour la démocratie et le développement a publié une liste de débiteurs de l’Etat. Tels des artilleurs borgnes, les auditeurs du CNDD ont tiré un boulet sous la forme d’un document, qui rate les grosses cibles et les accusés principaux :

Par ailleurs, le CNDD continue d’ignorer les violations des droits de l’homme commises sous la dictature de Conté. Il feint ainsi d’ignorer la corrélation profonde qui existe entre droits de l’homme et développement véritable. Une telle position est délibérée et ne surprend pas. Car le CNDD est conscient que certains de ses membres sont impliqués dans les fusillades cycliques, ordonnées par le défunt président et aveuglement exécutées par les forces armées et de sécurité. Le nouveau pouvoir à Conakry sait qu’on ne peut pas être en même temps tueur et enquêteur. Les militaires évitent donc un sujet à la fois brûlant et dangereux pour eux.

En se concentrant sur les audits financiers et la corruption — au détriment des enquêtes sur les tueries de 2006-07 et de la promotion des droits de l’homme au pays du Camp BoiroCapitaine Moussa Dadis Camara et ses compagnons font de la diversion. Toutefois, ils perdent leur temps à jouer à cache-cache avec la vérité et l’histoire.

On peut lire à ce sujet le rappel sans détour de Human Rights Watch.

En attendant, voici la liste partielle du CNDD :

Débiteurs Montant Dette Nature Dette
Directeur général Electricité de Guinée 6 millions $US Convention de crédit BNP-Paribas
Alsény Barry, SAFRICOM et Mamady Kourouma, Hamana 14 millions700.000 $US Convention de crédit BNP-Paribas
Mamadou Sylla, FUTURELEC 22 millions $US Surfacturation de l’Etat
Mamadou Sylla, FUTURELEC 16 milliards GNF Bons de caisse du Trésor
Aliou Bah ‘Super Bobo’, Alsény Barry, Sylla Mariador, Mamadou Sylla, Guelguédji Barry, Alpha Amadou Diallo SCF 17 milliards GNF Liquidation de la BIAG
Baidy Aribot, ex-ministre de la Jeunesse et des Sports 70 milliards GNF CAN 2008 à Accra
Ousmane Doré, ex-ministre de l’Economie et des Finances 25 milliards GNF Budget du Cinquantenaire
Direction générale CBK 16 milliards GNF Redressement fiscal
Direction générale ACG 67 milliards GNF Redressement fiscal
Adnand Abou Khalil, Lonagui-PMU Guinée 4 milliards GNF Redevance due à l’Etat
Gallé Hann 1 milliard700 000.000 GNF Paiement des actions SGP
Idrissa Thiam, ex-directeur du protocole de la Présidence 40 millions $US Fonds koweitien d’aide au développement
Aboulaye Aziz Soumah, ex-SG, Sékouba Condé, ex DAAF, Ligue islamique nationale 9 milliards700 000.000 GNF Pèlerinage 2006
Mamady Camara et Siba Koivogui, entrepreneurs 3 milliards700 000.000 GNF Contrat Ministère de l’Education et de la Recherche scientifique
Général Lansana Conté et héritiers ??? ???
Guido Santullo ??? ???

 

Tierno S. Bah

The Dadis Show

The Dadis Show. Conakry, March 2009
The Dadis Show. Conakry, Camp Alpha Yaya, March 2009

Soldiers sit near a giant portrait of military junta leader Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara in a waiting room adjacent to his bedroom at a military camp in Conakry Monday March 9, 2009. The modesty that characterized his first weeks in office has been replaced by a Messianic tone. Wall-sized portraits of the coup leader now hang not only in his waiting room, but also in top ministries, replacing the long-hanging image of the last ruler, who like Camara came to power in a coup promising reform. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) — AP

Conakry, Guinea — It’s 9 p.m., and this country’s new leader has finally woken up for the day. He throws aside the satin curtain that separates his bedroom from a waiting room adorned with 6-foot tall portraits of himself.

The room is full of dignitaries, some of whom have waited four days to see him. They scramble to their feet. The short, square-jawed man lunges through the curtain, screaming so loudly that his spit speckles the air.

“Our country is screwed up!” Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara roars for the benefit of the rapt audience as well as a TV crew.

Camara is another outsized personality in tiny Guinea, a country the size of Oregon on Africa’s west coast whose mineral-rich soil has been plundered by two consecutive dictatorships. He came to power in a coup three months ago, promising to root out corruption and hold elections by the end of the year.

The international community responded by cutting off aid and freezing Guinea’s membership in the African Union. But the world’s snub of the junta is perplexing to most Guineans, who see Camara as a kind of Robin Hood — punishing those most responsible for the country’s perpetual poverty.

The Dadis Show

He appears nightly on TV, sitting in his waiting room across from members of the former regime, whom he scolds for leading ostentatious lives at the expense of Guinea’s poor. While his arrests of corrupt officials have won him admiration, his love for the TV spotlight and his insistence on broadcasting his rambling, multi-hour tirades have some wondering if Guinea is on the brink of another dictatorship. In top ministries, wall-sized portraits of Camara have replaced the long-hanging image of the last ruler, who also came to power in a coup promising reform.

“It is possible that he is sincere,” says Richard Moncrieff, author of a recent report on Guinea for the International Crisis Group. “But what if he is sincere and dangerous? Young men in power usually go wrong.”

Guinea’s long-ruling president Lansana Conte died on Dec. 22, leaving a power vacuum in a country that had known only one other ruler since independence in 1958.

Conte’s inner circle, including numerous wives and dozens of children, lived in rococco villas and traversed the capital’s potholed roads in eye-catching SUVs. During Conte’s quarter century in office, Guinea’s people became poorer, sliding to No. 167 out of 179 countries ranked on the U.N.’s development index. The president used the country’s Central Bank as his personal savings account, arriving in a motorcade and waiting as bags of cash were loaded into his car.

Hardly anyone had heard of Camara, an army captain in his 40s, until Dec. 23, when his men broke down the glass doors of the state TV station. He announced that the constitution had been dissolved and that the country was now under the rule of a military junta.

Locked inside their homes, Guineans frantically called each other, trying to learn what they could about the unknown officer. When state TV read out the names of the 32 members of the junta, Camara topped the list, ahead of far better-known figures. Sekouba Konate — a colonel who headed an elite unit of specially trained commandos — did not even figure on the list.

Soon after his announcement, a brawl broke out at Camp Alpha Yaya Diallo, the capital’s main barracks, according to a witness who was present but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Konate’s men demanded he be put in charge, the witness says. To settle the matter, Konate, Camara and a third officer agreed to draw lots. The word “president” was written on a piece of folded paper and dropped inside an empty mayonnaise jar along with several pieces of blank paper.

On the first try, Camara drew the winning ticket. Konate’s men demanded a redraw. Again, Camara pulled out “president.”

Konate is now a vice president, leaving the country at the mercy of a fragile alliance between armed men with big egos. There are whispers that Camara — whose men stood guard next to the mayonnaise jar — had come to the draw prepared with his own piece of paper already labeled “president.”

Camara brims with anger when asked about the lottery. He says soldiers hoisted him and Konate onto a tank and told them that if they didn’t agree to lead, they would be killed on the spot. “Is it true?” Camara yells from his perch on the leather couch. “It’s true, boss!” the soldiers, grasping AK-47s, yell back.

The first time Guineans saw him up close was on the bed of a military truck, with Konate at his side. The convoy paraded into the capital and the people waved tree branches and screamed, “Long live the president.”

He told his countrymen that he was born in a hut, just like many of them. He vowed that money holds no power over him.

The audits began on TV last month. The former chief of protocol was accused of embezzling $40 million from Kuwait. The former minister of finance was interrogated for allegedly taking money intended for festivities marking the country’s independence. More than a dozen high-ranking officials were arrested for drug crimes, including the use of the country’s security forces to assure safe passage for convoys of cocaine-loaded trucks.

In one session, Camara lost his temper with Bakary Thermite, the former head of the country’s anti-drug unit.

“These drugs that you seized, did you resell them?” Camara asked — and then exploded when Thermite tried to duck. “It’s simple. Answer me! If not, I think we’re going to pass the whole night here … I am allergic to lies!”

These outbursts are lapped up by the people of Guinea, population 10 million. Housewives say they prefer watching Camara to their favorite soap opera. Even top Western diplomats say they can’t unglue themselves from the “Dadis Show.”

“It’s as if you’re at the theater. It’s astonishing,” says a veteran European diplomat. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Camara has appointed members of the military to all the top ministry positions. He recently declared that he is considering abolishing the post of prime minister, the top job currently held by a civilian. He also appears to be backing off from his initial promise to hold elections quickly.

“The international community needs to understand us if they want democracy,” he says. “Who is going to vote? The people are hungry. They are thirsty. Who is going to organize elections? You?” he asks during a sit-down interview with The Associated Press. “We need to clean our house from top to bottom. Only the military can do it. … Only once our house has been cleaned we can hold elections.”

In the market, you can buy posters of Camara. And the boys that sell sunglasses in traffic have run out of the wraparound Ray-Bans Camara is usually seen wearing. People who have never met him speak of him as if he is an honest elder brother.

“To put Guinea back on the right track, you need a very strong man,” says Aissatou Bela Diallo, a former minister under Conte who now runs a private radio station. “The fact that he had the courage to put those people on TV shows that he has the political will to take real measures … It’s made people afraid — they know that if they embezzle money, they’re going to be embarrassed in front of everyone.”

But most coup leaders in the region start out as reformers. In next-door Ivory Coast, a 1999 coup led by another young army captain marked the beginning of the country’s descent into civil war. Farther north in Mauritania, a military junta first allowed democratic elections, then ousted the democratically elected president last year.

“The problem with embracing a coup d’etat is that Africa has had dozens and dozens and only one or two have turned out well,” notes Mike Mcgovern, an anthropologist at Yale University who is an expert on Guinea.

Camara rarely leaves the barracks, which have become his de facto office. People come to see him. His aides refer to the barracks — and specifically the waiting room — as “the presidency.”

Soldiers with guns guard the stairs outside and each side of the door inside. Rows of leather couches face a white couch where only the president is allowed to sit. Two more soldiers sit outside the entrance to the president’s bedroom.

Businessmen and foreign delegations are told to arrive by noon. They wait all day, sometimes falling asleep doubled over on the couches.

There is a TV but if they turn it up, a bodyguard rushes out and turns it back down. They scold anyone who accidentally slams the door. At around 6 p.m., soldiers walk in carrying plates of food and disappear behind the golden curtain.

No one seems to know why the president sleeps all day and emerges at night, but there is speculation that he fears a countercoup, which in this part of the world tends to happen at night. The person always at his side is Konate, the colonel who challenged him the day of the coup — and insiders say Camara demands to see him every 30 minutes.

When he finally emerges on a recent night, he is flanked by Konate, a long-faced man who towers over the small-boned Camara. They sit on the couch together.

The TV crew blasts white light over the uniformed men. The cameras roll. Camara raises his voice and jabs his finger at the plaster ceiling. The Dadis Show has begun.

Rukmini Callimachi
The Associated Press