They do things differently in West Africa. It turns out, according to the Kansas City Star, that Moussa “Dadis” Camara won the Guinean presidency after the Christmas coup not because he was the driving force behind the putsch, nor because he was the most senior plotter, nor even because he was the best man for the job. No, he won it in a game of spoof. After a major row over the leadership with Sekouba Konate – who as an army colonel was way senior to the captain Camara and much better known by the public – Camara suggested resolving the dispute by drawing lots.
The word “president” was written on a piece of paper, which was put in a mayonnaise jar with several pieces of blank paper. Camara picked the winning ticket, but the dogged Konate demanded a second round. Amazingly, Camara picked the right one again. Such fortune cannot be ignored in Africa, so the colonel backed down and Camara got the top job.
Elections have been promised for December, but a lot can change between now and then. Camara himself is worried about a counter-coup – he sleeps during the daytime in the belief that most coups take place at night, and makes sure he sees Colonel Koubate, who presumably remains a threat, every half hour.
A more likely eventuality, however, is that Camara slips into the role of dictator and cancels the elections. Already there are signs that he is suited to such a role. He appears on TV every night for several hours, expounding his views on life and haranguing those associated with the old regime (great viewing apparently – housewives say they prefer it to watching soaps). His photo adorns the walls of every government building, and he is so popular that his sunglasses have become a fashion accessory. More worryingly for those who see in all this a classic pattern of a slide into autocracy, Camara said only last week that Guinea is not ready for democracy. “Who is going to vote?” he asked journalists. “Who is going to organise elections? You?” He believes only the army can put the country’s house in order, and only then can elections be held. Same old same old, as Guineans probably say.