When Guinea’s Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in a December 2008 coup hours after the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte, he probably knew what awaited him following the deep divide that occurred later inside the military clique that had helped him grab control of Guinea.
As such, he never left the country until the moment he dreaded most arrived when he was forced to leave after surviving an assassination attempt on him by his military aide and head of the presidential guard, nearly a year after he assumed power.
Born in 1964 in the remote town of Koulé in Guinea, Camara joined the Army of Guinea in 1990 as a corporal and was from 2001 to 2002, sent to Sierra Leone as a member of the United Nations’ peacekeeping troops. In 2004, then-President Conte sent Camara, along with several other Guinean soldiers, to Bremen, Germany, for 18 months’ military training.
The National Council for Democracy and Development (Conseil National pour la Démocratie et le Développement, CNDD), with Camara as president, was created to serve as a transitional government. His arrest of corrupt officials later won him praise from the people as he also vowed to fight corruption and promised to hold elections within one year.
In spite of his promise that he and other members of the junta would not stand in the elections, Camara began hinting that he planned to run for president, and this sparked a massive protest on the streets of Guinea on September 28, 2009. The military’s brutal response led to the deaths of at least 157 people, and dozens of women were drugged and gang-raped by soldiers, according to survivors and human rights groups.
The EU and the African Union imposed sanctions on Guinea, including a travel ban on senior members of the junta. At the same time, the massacre inflamed divisions that were already present in the military, as Camara tried to distance himself from the actions of the military at the September protest and asked the opposition to join him in forming a unity government.
Three months after the massacre, on December 9, 2009, 45-year-old Camara was shot at by Aboubacar “Toumba” Diakité, who was the commander of the presidential guard. Camara was shot at while at a military camp housing hundreds of men under Diakité’s control, according to reports.
Camara had, before the shooting, confronted Diakité after the latter went to a police station and released officers who were faithful to him but whom Camara had ordered arrested, Communication Minister Idrissa Cherif said at the time.
Cherif insisted that Camara was “doing well” and the situation was under control even though scores of witnesses said the president suffered a bullet wound to the head.
Diakité, who was still at large, announced days later after the incident that he shot Camara because the junta leader had wanted him to take the blame for the September 28 massacre.
“I shot him because at a certain point, there was a complete betrayal in my view, a total betrayal of democracy. He (Camara) tried to blame me for the events of Sept. 28,” Diakité told RFI.
Camara was living in Burkina Faso when Alpha Conde won elections in 2010 after an agreement was reached between Guinea’s military junta and the opposition, and order was restored. That election became Guinea’s first democratic vote since gaining independence from France in 1958.