Thousands gather to mourn death of Guinea's dictator
The leaders of Guinea's military coup were not among the thousands of mourners who gathered to pay final respects to the country's longtime dictator on Friday.
Capt. Moussa Camara, the self-declared interim president of Guinea, lived up to his promise of a "grandiose funeral" for president Lansana Conte, who died on Monday night. But Camara was not present for the eulogy at a stadium in the capital of Conakry on Friday, and it was unclear if he would attend any of the events scheduled for later in the day.
National Assembly president Aboubacar Sompare, who had been next in line to be president under Guinea's constitution, was also not at the funeral. Camara had ordered on Thursday that all former government officials present themselves at the army barracks where the National Council for Democracy and Development is based within 24 hours.
Sompare is the only high-ranking official who has been reported as not yet turning himself over to the coup leaders.
Several thousand people gathered inside parliament dressed mostly in white, the traditional Muslim color of mourning, the Associated Press reported.
The service was heavily attended by members of Conte's former government, including Ahmed Tidiane Souare, who surrendered to coup leaders and stepped down from his position as prime minister on Thursday.
Also attending were the presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau, as well as African Union commission chairman Jean Ping.
Conte's coffin was placed on a stage with two of his three wives sitting behind it wearing dark sunglasses and clutching tissues.
"I ask the people of Guinea to forgive the general for all that he did that was not good," said Facinet Toure, who helped Conte rise to power in his own military coup in 1984.
The eulogy was interrupted several times by people who wanted to enter. Guards used belts to beat back mourners who wanted to push their way in.
Camara's group announced its takeover on Tuesday, just hours after the death the west African country's leader. The group 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.
Camara said he will not be a candidate in the December 2010 elections.
Guinea is a large producer of bauxite, used to make aluminum, and has gold, diamonds and iron ore deposits. Major international mining companies operate in the country.
Its 10 million residents, however, 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 Associated Press