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article imageMoussa Dadis Camara: A man who plunged Guinea into chaos

By Miriam Mannak     Oct 11, 2009 in World
A year ago, the world barely knew about Guinea's existence. Today, the African country is popping up in the news more and more often - due to Moussa Dadis Camara, who with a coup plunged Guinea into chaos. But who is this man with the red beret, exactly?
Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was born in 1964 in Koure, a remote town near the border with Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia. As a member of the Kpelle or Guerze ethnic group Camara - as opposed to 85 percent of Guineans, who are Muslim - grew up in a Christian household.
After finishing primary and secondary school, he studied law and economics at the Abdel Nasser University in Guinea's capital Conakry. Camara never really practiced law, at least that is how the story goes, as in 1990 he joined the Guinean army as a junior corporal. He eventually became captain and Chief Fuels at an army base in Kindia, situated about 60 miles northeast of Conakry.
Camara, the peace keeper
In 2001, Camara joined the United Nations Peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. A noble cause, as the country had been subjected to violence and political instability for decades. Camara however lost his nobleness somewhere along the way.
In December 2008 - after the death of president Lansana Conté, who is believed to have died of leukemia - the army captain seized power in a coup d'etat.
Red beret
Camara, who was little-known in his own country before seizing control, then suspended the constitution as well as political and union activity, which according to him were incapable of resolving the many problems faced by Guinea, including poverty and corruption.
On the day before Christmas, Camara - whose trademark is a red beret - announced himself as the country's new president, claiming he intended to lead the country for a maximum of two years only and promising "credible and transparent presidential elections by the end of December 2010".
Since then, things have gone downhill in Guinea. Running his government from various military bases, Camara on September 28 sent troops to a soccer stadium in Conakry to halt a protest by member of the opposition. The protest was directed against Camara's candidacy for the forthcoming presidential elections.
Apart from civilians, local journalists are also experiencing hardship as result of the situation. They are increasingly facing abuse, assault and death threats, says media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), calling the situation "extremely menacing".
Death threats
"A resolution of the Guinean crisis requires protecting not just civilians in general but also journalists in particular, as they are the target of military abuses," RSF said in a statement. Several reporters and journalists have received death threats, and some were assaulted by soldiers. Among them were the Guinea correspondent for AFP and Radio France International, as well as BBC journalist Amadou Dialo - who were "roughened up" during the bloodshed on September 28.
Leave the country
It is unsure how the situation will develop in Guinea, or how Camara will manifest himself as a president and if he will indeed give up power after two years. The International Community is nevertheless worried. The British government for instance urged its nationals to leave Guinea before things get out of hand.
"The level of security in Guinea has deteriorated steadily since the coup in December 2008 and has been made worse by the shootings of September 28 in Conakry," the government said in a statement. "Although Conakry is currently relatively calm with the occasional shooting reported from within the military camps, we advise UK citizens to leave Guinea by whichever means are available to them."
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