Guinea’s President Alpha Conde launched a reshuffle of his government – appointing new finance, budget and security ministers – as the West African country’s leader faces civil unrest and strikes in the crucial mining sector.
No official reason was given for the sweeping changes announced by state TV on Sunday. The moves followed the appointment last week of a new Prime Minister, Ibrahima Kassory Fofana.
The changes came amid heightened political tensions and speculation Conde may be seeking to modify the constitution ahead of a 2020 election.
In the reshuffle, Conde replaced 13 out of 33 ministers in his government. Finance Minister Maladho Kaba was sacked and replaced by Mamady Camara, Guinea’s former ambassador to South Africa. Her deputy, Budget Minister Mohamed Lamine Doumbouya, was supplanted by former central bank official Ismael Dioubate.
Security Minister Abdoul Kabele Camara, in place since Conde’s election victory in 2010, was replaced by Alpha Ibrahima Keira, a loyalist from the regime of former ruler Lansana Conte, who died in 2008.
Guinea is Africa’s top producer of bauxite, the ore of aluminium, and Conde’s government has faced repeated strikes by mine workers, as well as teachers, and has seen civil unrest over local elections.
It also suffered embarrassment over allegations by French authorities that billionaire tycoon Vincent Bollore’s conglomerate backed Conde’s election campaign in exchange for a port concession. Both Bollore and Conde deny any wrongdoing.
As well as bauxite, Guinea has some of the world’s largest deposits of iron ore, but decades of mining have failed to lift most Guineans out of poverty.
About 10 people were killed in February and March when riots erupted in the capital, Conakry, and other cities following local elections, which the opposition said were marred by fraud.
Conde’s opponents also fear he seeks to modify the constitution to stand for a third term in 2020, which is currently prohibited. Conde has not yet commented on his intentions, but the speculation has had a destabilising effect.