The Republic of Guinea is a small country in western Africa that separated from France in 1958. Since independence, it has only been ruled by two men.
For the first 26 years the republic was governed by Ahmed Sékou Toure, a union leader who had been one of the most prominent anti-French activists during the colonial period. A Marxist, he tried to bring the country under a socialist economic system- which only further impoverished what has already been one of France's poorer colonies.
In 1984 President Toure was having heart problems, so he traveled to the United States to seek medical attention. He ended up dying on the operating table.
Taking advantage of the vacuum of power, back in Guinea General Lansana Conte staged a coup, and declared himself the new president. He has been in power ever since.
General Conte (seen here sitting under a picture of himself) has tried to ruled with an iron fist just like his predecessor. But as a non-Marxist he could not rely on the support of Guinea's powerful labor unions, which had been a traditional supporter of the old president's regime. He's also had to face unrest in the military and increasing pressures from the public at large to democratize the nation's political system.
The President has been seen in public less and less since 2003. Like Toure before him, Conte suffers from heart problems and has to seek medical attention in western countries. The fact that the fearless leader is so close to death has emboldened the General's various political opponents. For the last two weeks the unions have been leading a crippling general strike, bringing Guinea's faltering economy to standstill. They had been demanding Conte's resignation, but then later softened their rhetoric, and simply demanded the president appoint a prime minister.
In the history of Guinea presidents sometimes share power with a prime minister, then abolish the PM 's office when they get tired of doing that. President Conte most recently abolished the prime minister's job in April of last year.
But yesterday he caved to the unions and appointed Eugene Camara as PM. Camara is a longtime member of the presidential cabinet, a fact which has not made him incredibly popular with the opposition.
The unions seemed to be under the impression that they would have veto power over the president's choice of prime minister. That was the whole idea behind the blackmail. So they're quite pissed that Conte has simply installed some hack loyal to himself, and are now vigorously opposing the appointment.
Will the unrest continue? Stay tuned!