Conté, Lansana (Guinea)
Gen. Lansana Conté won a third term as president on 21 Dec. 2003. Many opposition parties boycotted the election claiming fraud and irregularities. He remained in control, despite reports of his declining health, until his death on 22 Dec. 2008.
Lansana Conté was born in 1934 in Dubréka, Guinea. He was educated in Dubréka before completing his military training at preparatory schools in France and West Africa.
In 1955 he enlisted in the French army and was posted to Algeria during the war of independence. Guinea gained independence from France on 2 Oct. 1958, and when Conté returned home from military service he joined the new national army as a sergeant. In 1962 he attended the Camp Alpha Officer’s School in Conakry, Guinea. He became a second lieutenant the following year before being promoted to lieutenant in 1965. In Nov. 1970 Guinean exiles invaded the country in an attempt to overthrow President Ahmed Sékou Touré. Conté was part of the military team that repelled the invasion and, in recognition of his contribution, was promoted to captain in 1971. Four years later he became assistant chief of staff of the army.
In 1977 Conté began his political career when he headed Guinea’s delegation during negotiations to resolve a border dispute with Guinea-Bissau. In 1980 he was elected to the National Assembly. On 3 April 1984, following the death of President Touré, Conté led a bloodless coup to overthrow the interim government of Prime Minister Louis Lansana Beaogui. Conté created the Military Committee for National Recovery (CMRN), suspended the constitution and the National Assembly and banned all political activity. He denounced the Touré regime, released over 200 political prisoners and encouraged those Guineans exiled during Touré’s rule to return to the country. He was proclaimed president 2 days later.
Conté’s presidency was plagued by controversy. In July 1985 Prime Minister Diarra Traoré tried to seize power while Conté was attending an ECOWAS summit in Togo. Conté’s troops prevented the coup and on his return 100 military personnel, including Traoré, were executed.
Conté assumed the rank of army general in 1990 and shortly afterwards the government introduced a new constitution which included provision for the establishment of civilian government. In June 1991 the CMRN was replaced by the Transitional Committee for National Recovery (CTRN).
In 1992 Conté legalized political parties in the build-up to presidential elections in Dec. 1993, the first multi-party election since independence. Conté’s new party, the Party of Unity and Progress (PUP), was victorious but the elections were blighted by serious irregularities. In 1996 the government was subject to another unsuccessful coup attempt. Around a quarter of the Guinean army mutinied in protest over salaries and poor conditions and many died. A multi-party presidential election was held in 1998 and, despite a number of flaws and protests, Conté was confirmed as president.
In Nov. 2001 Conté’s government approved constitutional amendments allowing the president to run for more than two consecutive terms. The referendum was boycotted by the opposition, who referred to the move as a ‘constitutional coup’ designed to ensure Conté’s lifelong rule. Conté was confirmed for a third term in Dec. 2003 with all but one of the opposition parties boycotting elections. In Jan. 2005 he survived an assassination attempt and two general strikes were staged in Feb.–March and June 2006. In April 2006 Conté sacked the prime minister, Cellou Diallo, who was not replaced until Eugène Camara was appointed premier on 9 Feb. 2007. However, faced with a further general strike and growing violent protests against his regime, Conté dismissed Camara just over 2 weeks later, appointing Lansana Kouyaté in his place. In the midst of further unrest in 2008, Conté sacked Kouyaté in May and replaced him with Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, a former cabinet minister. Conté remained in office until his death on 22 Dec. 2008, after which the army seized control in a widely condemned coup.