Guinea's government officials turn themselves over to coup leaders
About 30 of Guinea's government officials, including the country's prime minister, have turned themselves over to the leader of a military coup.
Army Capt. Moussa Camara, who proclaimed himself president of the West African country's interim government on Wednesday, had given Guinea's former government leaders 24 hours to arrive at his base at the Alpha Yaya Diallo barracks.
Camara did not say what would happen to Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare and the other government leaders if they voluntarily presented themselves.
However, he said that if they did not appear, he would "organize a search across the entire country."
"We are at your disposal," said Souare as he turned himself in. The government officials' apparent arrival at the barracks was broadcast on a local independent radio station.
Souare's mother told the Associated Press that her son is no longer prime minister. Aissatou Souare said in the telephone interview that her son and the other ministers decided to go to the barracks to avoid being hunted down.
The radio station reported Camara allowed the government leaders to leave after they had presented themselves.
Souare had not been seen in public since the coup was declared, but spoke with the media by telephone from an undisclosed location, and insisted he was still in control of the government.
Before Tuesday, Camara was unknown to most Guineans.
Government, constitution dissolved
Camara's group, the National Council for Democracy and Development, announced its takeover on Tuesday, hours after the death of long-time dictator Lansana Conte. The group leading the coup said the government, constitution, courts and parliament had been dissolved.
The group has since formed an interim government that consists of 26 military members and six civilians. After initially stating that it would hold elections within 60 days, it has revoked that assertion and now says it will elect a president within two years.
"As the head of the junta, I am reassured and convinced that I am the president of the republic," Camara said in an address on Thursday morning. "But it is not my intention to be a candidate in the election of December 2010, because one should never have the ambition to become something which one is not."
Conte had also seized power in a military coup in 1984 following the death of President Ahmed Sekou Toure.
Mining companies operate while poverty abounds
Camara promised a "grandiose funeral" would be held for Conte on Friday, and guaranteed security for any foreign heads of state and dignitaries who wanted to attend the services at a stadium in the capital of Conakry.
Camara and several thousand soldiers paraded through Conakry on Wednesday while residents lined the streets to applaud.
Under Guinea's constitution, National Assembly President Aboubacar Sompare was next in line to head the country.
"Sompare is a continuation of Lansana Conte," said 49-year-old Cozy Haba. "I recognize that what we are doing instead is jumping into the unknown. But to me that's better than Sompare, who unfortunately I know too well."
Guinea is a large producer of bauxite, used to make aluminum, and also has gold, diamonds and iron ore deposits. Major international mining companies operate in the country. But its 10 million residents are among the poorest in the world, in a country that has struggled with the costs of imported food, and a deteriorating economy with high unemployment and corruption.
The African Union and the European Union have urged Guinea to respect its constitution and hasten its transition of power peacefully through elections.
With files from the Canadian Press