Coup Leaders In Guinea Work On PR Campaign

Leaders of a military coup in Guinea are working to justify their actions to the world. A group of soldiers took over the government of the small West African country last week. The new leaders appointed a civilian prime minister Tuesday. And they're telling foreign diplomats that the government they replaced was not much of a government.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Leaders of a military coup are working to justify their action to the world. The soldiers took over the government of Guinea; that's one of many small nations that are laid out like piano keys along the coast of West Africa. Today, the new leaders appointed a civilian prime minister, and they're arguing that the government they replaced was not much of a government. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is following this story, and Ofeibea, military coup never sounds good, so what's the argument that this one was justified?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: That Guinea is a special case. That is what the military leaders, the coup leaders, are saying, and that's what a lot of Guineans believe. They've managed to get a lot of Guineans behind them. They say that anyway, the government was an illegitimate government; anyway, the constitution was an invalid constitution; and that the national assembly was not truly representative. And it seems Guineans, at least, are prepared to have the military lead them, although these coup leaders have said that they expect to be in power for two years before they hold elections.

INSKEEP: They're saying it was not a valid government because there was a dictator who'd been in power for decades?

QUIST-ARCTON: A military general who they supported at the time. But for quite a long time now, we have had the military as well as civilians and the unions and many others saying that the situation in Guinea, which is, after all, a huge, mineral-rich country - it's a number-one exporter in the world of bauxite; it has gold; it has diamonds; it has iron ore - but it has been impoverished for half a century and that it has suffered the repression and a corrupt government for a very long time, with just two leaders in almost half a century of independence.

INSKEEP: Well, are these coup leaders senior officers who were effectively part of the last regime?

QUIST-ARCTON: They've got rid of all of those. More than 20 military generals have all been retired. These are junior officers. The coup leader himself is a captain, Moussa Dadis Camara. So, it's a lower level of soldier, and these soldiers are the ones who have - there've been mutinies, even, in Guinea. So, all has not been right. But whether they will be the answer to this potentially rich country's problems is another thing altogether. You have some saying, give them a chance; you have others saying, no, on principle, we cannot accept military takeovers.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, always a pleasure to talk with you.

QUIST-ARCTON: You, too.

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