Guinea's Konate makes history for delivering free vote
Coup architect or not, General Sekouba Konate has landed a favourable spot in Guinea's history for fulfilling a promise to lead the country to its first democratic vote since independence in 1958.
Nine months ago, Alpha Amadou Balde was among a group of youths protesting on the esplanade of Conakry's grand mosque, angry at "soldiers who kill, soldiers who lie."
His brother was killed in a September 2008 massacre when soldiers opened fire on a stadium filled with tens of thousands protesting a military junta, which left 156 dead.
Today, the young glazier says he was "really delighted" to have been able to vote on Sunday for one of 24 presidential candidates, all civilians, in an election seen as historic after half a century of despotism.
"When Dadis (junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara) spoke, you didn't believe that elections would take place. But, thank God, Sekouba Konate took over. He was able to organise the elections as he promised and he has already entered Guinea's history," he said in a telephone interview.
He added: "It's very rare for a soldier to behave like that, even if there was the case of Mali's Amadou Toumani Toure," a former coup leader who made a successful transition to democracy before being elected president, ten years later.
On Sunday, Guinean voters voluntarily thanked Konate, such as Fatou Camara who said he was "blessed by God." Konate, a former commander of the elite Battalion of Airborne Troops (BATA), also known as the "red berets", was the chief architect of a bloodless coup in December 2008, shortly after long-time ruler President Lansana Conte's death.
Shunning the top spot, he left Captain Moussa Dadis Camara to lead the junta, while taking on the role as defence minister.
But on September 28, 2009, when troops massacred at least 156 opponents to Camara in the capital -- with women raped in public and hundreds more injured -- Konate was said to be out of the capital.
After the attempted assassination of Camara by a close aide, in December 2009, Konate was named acting president.
In January an accord to end the country's crisis was signed in Ouagadougou and Konate was charged with leading the country to its first democratic election, which no member of the transition or soldier could take part in.
And, after 51 years split between first the civilian dictatorship of Ahmed Sekou Toure and then the military rule of General Conte, Konate kept his promise.
"His role was decisive because he forced the issue, against his own entourage. It is because he banged his fist on the table that we could go vote on Sunday," says Guinean journalist Souleymane Diallo, who also recognises the merit of having "dismantled the whole (rogue) band in the army.
"Because Guinea no longer had an army, it was a militia," he told AFP.
Addressing candidates on Saturday ahead of the election Konate said: "We cannot continue living like we are in a jungle or in a state without a soul."
Konate has however not been cleared of all responsibility for the mismanagement of the country in 2009.
He has also been accused by NGOs of awarding contracts without tender to a friend's company for the renovation of army barracks.