CONAKRY, Guinea — One of the fiercest critics of Guinea’s military leader became prime minister today, marking another step toward power being ceded to civilians after more than 50 years of strongman rule in the West African country.
Jean-Marie Dore, a veteran opposition leader in his 70s, was brutally beaten by soldiers loyal to Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara last year when Dore helped lead a demonstration calling for an end to military rule.
His appointment as prime minister comes less than two months after Camara was badly wounded in an assassination attempt and agreed under intense pressure to go into exile and allow elections to be held. The agreement called for a civilian to be appointed interim prime minister.
“I am committed to leading Guinea toward free, credible and transparent elections,” Dore said today, adding that the country’s military needs to be restructured in order to guarantee security.
Earlier this month, Camara agreed to stay in Burkina Faso and not return to Guinea while he recuperates after being shot in the head by his former aide-de-camp.
Camara was flown to Burkina Faso after being ejected from Morocco, where he had been undergoing medical treatment following the December assassination attempt. The country had been in limbo as many worried that factions within the army might try to make a bid for power.
Although initially popular when he seized control in a coup on Dec. 23, 2008, Camara quickly lost support when he backed away from a promise to organize elections in which he would not run.
Dore was among the tens of thousands of people who thronged the main soccer stadium in the capital in September to protest against Camara. Members of Camara’s presidential guard shot into the crowd, killing at least 156 people and raping dozens of women.
Opposition leaders were targeted by the presidential guard. Dore had his skull cracked when he was beaten by soldiers and keeps a bag with the bloody clothes he was wearing that day.
The military-led massacre gave rise to fears that Guinea — one of the few countries in the sub-region that has never had a civil war — could descend into conflict, a dangerous development that could rope in other countries and once again set this part of Africa on fire.