C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CONAKRY 000209
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/21/2018
TAGS: PGOV KDEM ASEC PREL GV
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT SACKS GUINEAN PRIME MINISTER LANSANA
Classified By: POL/ECON CHIEF SHANNON CAZEAU FOR REASON 1.4 B AND D
Â¶1. (U) SUMMARY. President Conte fired Guinean Prime
Minister Lansana Kouyate on May 20 and replaced him with a
cabinet member from a previous government, Dr. Ahmed Tidiane
Souare. Public support for Kouyate has been steadily waning
and the public reaction has been relatively quiet, although
there have been a few instances of mild public disturbances.
For many contacts, the key questions revolve around how
Souare will set up his government, how his cabinet will be
structured, and how his agenda takes shape. The PM's
dismissal suggests that further cabinet changes are on the
way. END SUMMARY.
PRESIDENT FIRES PM
Â¶2. (U) Around 8:00 PM on May 20, the government-owned
national news agency Radio Television Guinean announced that
President Conte had fired Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate and
replaced him with Ahmed Tidiane Souare, who had served in
previous governments first as the minister of mines and later
as the minister of higher education. Rumors of the PM's
dismissal have been circulating for months. The public has
been increasingly disappointed with Kouyate's failure to
deliver "change," and some civil society leaders have been
quietly advocating for his dismissal.
Â¶3. (C) Although the local press has been reporting that the
trade unions may be planning a labor strike to protest the
appointment, Embassy contacts indicate otherwise. Union
Leader Serah Rabiatou Diallo told Pol LES that the decision
is not a surprise. She did not have any immediate objections
to Souare as the new PM, but said that much of the public
reaction will depend on how Souare does his job, and how he
structures his cabinet. Another union representative told
Pol LES that he is "extremely disappointed in Kouyate...he
should hang...183 people were killed for nothing." Union
leader Ibrahima Fofana is currently out of town.
Â¶4. (C) Dr. Dansa Kourouma, a prominent youth leader in
Conakry, told Pol LES that he has been receiving many
telephone calls from youth colleagues, all of them calling
for "change." According to Kourouma, Souare is in a position
to use his personal relationship with Conte to manipulate the
political situation for the better. He told Pol LES that "if
Souare can use...Conte to change the situation in Guinea, the
youth will support him...if not, Souare will find himself
dealing with strikes worse than those of 2007." Souare said
that various youth organizations plan to hold a meeting on
May 21 in order to analyze the situation and publish a joint
declaration, in which they plan to invite Souare to hold
consultations with them before appointing his cabinet.
Kourouma told Pol LES that youth are particularly concerned
about what the cabinet may look like, especially since he had
heard that many former members of government were at Souare's
house last night.
Â¶5. (C) Business contacts expressed similar sentiments with
respect to the decision. Sherif Abdallah, who is president
of a local business association claiming more than 15,000
members, told Econ LES that the decision to fire Kouyate
should have been implemented months ago. Benogo Conde,
Deputy Secretary of the Patronat (the one controlled by
Youssouf Diallo, not Mamadou Syllah) told Econ LES that his
reaction to Kouyate's dismissal is mixed. He said that
Kouyate has failed to do his job, but questioned whether the
president or the PM should be held accountable, since there
were significant political constraints at work. According to
Conde, the PM's dismissal itself does not violate the 2007
tripartite agreement. He argued, however, that appointing
Souare to the position does violate the agreement because it
stipulates that anyone having served in Conte's
administration within the last ten years cannot be appointed
prime minister. Conde said that the Patronat planned to meet
later on May 21 to discuss the situation.
Â¶6. (U) There was some evidence of rock throwing and minor
civil disturbances last night, but the public response in the
capital has been relatively quiet. There are fewer cars than
normal on the streets, but shops and markets are open for
business, and people appear to be going about business as
usual. Some of the international schools closed, but most
students were seen heading to their classes this morning.
Â¶7. (SBU) Late morning reports indicate that there has been
some tire burning in Kankan, Guinea's second largest city,
and that all the government offices are closed. The Director
of the American Reading Room in Kankan reports that large
groups of teenagers have been marching through Kankan and
throwing rocks at buildings. He reports that one of the
windows at the American Reading Room was broken.
Â¶8. (U) However, other urban centers in the interior appear
to be relatively quiet. There is some internet reporting
indicating minor peaceful protests last night in N'Zerekore,
Kissidougou, Gueckedou, Macenta, and Kankan, but Embassy
contacts report little activity. The DATT, who is in Kankan,
reported a small peaceful gathering of people earlier this
morning while the Econoff, who is in Labe, reported no
activity at all.
INSIGHTS FROM THE FINANCE MINISTER
Â¶9. (C) Ambassador Carter met with Finance Minister Ousmane
Dore on May 21 to discuss recent developments. Dore said
that he had been asked months ago to consider accepting the
PM job, but that he had declined. He told the Ambassador
that members of the president's entourage had approached him
again just two weeks ago, pressuring him to take the job,
saying that the president wanted to replace Kouyate, but was
concerned about the public's reaction. Dore declined again.
According to Dore, he was approached by Mamadou Syllah, Sam
Soumah, an intermediary from Idrissa Thiam, and businessman
Alpha Oumar Diallo. Dore said that he knew the decision was
coming, especially since Conte called him about it when Dore
was recently in Maputo, but did not expect it this quickly.
Â¶10. (C) Dore said that Souare is not a bad choice for PM.
He added that he had seen the list of other candidates and
that Souare is the best of the bunch. According to Dore, who
knows Souare well since Souare was a dean at Dore's
university when Dore was head of the student union, Souare is
a technocrat who understands budgets and financing because of
his experience at the Ministry of Finance.
Â¶11. (C) For Dore, the replacement is an improvement. He
told the Ambassador that things were getting "very bad" with
Kouyate towards the end, noting that Kouyate was
circumventing Dore by going directly to the Secretary General
of the Ministry of Finance. According to Dore, Kouyate kept
making promises he could not keep because the money was not
there. He also told the Ambassador that Kouyate was
convinced that Dore was trying to take his job, and that
Souare's appointment is a good thing because at least it
proves that Dore was not maneuvering behind Kouyate's back.
Â¶12. (C) Regarding the outlook for the new PM, Dore said that
he has seen a plan to enlarge the government, to include 28
separate ministries and two secretary general positions. He
told the Ambassador that "some cabinet colleagues will be
moving on." The Ambassador said that he wants to try and
meet with the new PM as soon as possible in order to
emphasize U.S. priorities. He told Dore that the U.S. will
continue to focus on actions and progress, not the
personality in office.
THE RUMOR MILL
Â¶13. (U) As usual, a multitude of rumors are circulating in
the local press. There is some discussion of the possibility
of a court trial against Kouyate for misuse of public funds.
Others are questioning whether the decree is legitimate and
actually comes from the president. There are several reports
of possible demonstrations or planned labor strikes.
Information from contacts negates many of these claims.
SOUARE'S FIRST INTERVIEW
Â¶14. (U) An interview with Dr. Souare was being broadcast
over the radio early this morning wherein Souare said "I am
not a hero, but a combatant in the service of Guinea." When
asked about his objectives and a possible plan of action,
Souare spoke of transparency, cooperation, and change. He
later said "I wish that everyone will bring change to Guinea
in a spirit of calm and serenity." In regards to a possible
cabinet reshuffle, Souare essentially sidestepped the
question, saying that he had not yet thought about it. When
the question came up again later in the interview, Souare
said that he must work with the president to find acceptable
candidates, which is why he could not respond to the question.
Â¶15. (SBU) Dr. Souare (57) was appointed as the Minister of
Mines and Geology in 2005 by then Prime Minister Cellou
Diallo, who is believed to be a very close friend. According
to archived Embassy bio notes, Dr. Souare is considered a
highly capable technocrat. He was actively involved in
successful tripartite negotiations between the Government of
Guinea, ALCOA, and Global Alumina for bauxite mining
concessions. He received high marks from both American
companies for his hard work and fairness during these
negotiations. He also negotiated and signed the
controversial offshore concession with Hyperdynamics, another
Â¶16. (SBU) Although he was seen as former PM Diallo's ally,
Souare appeared to distance himself from Cellou Diallo in the
months before Diallo was removed from office. After Diallo's
dismissal, Souare was appointed as the Minister of Higher
Education and Scientific Research, as part of the cabinet
reshuffle that appointed Fode Bangoura as the Minister of
State for Presidential Affairs (and de facto prime minister).
Â¶17. (SBU) Dr. Souare has a degree in geological engineering
from the University of Conakry as well as a doctorate in
metallurgical engineering from a Moroccan university. He
lived in Morocco for nearly ten years before returning to
Guinea in 1994. He worked as the Chief of Cabinet in the
Ministry of Finance and then as the Inspector General. Dr.
Souare is a Peuhl from Mali, which is located north of Labe,
in Middle Guinea. Dr. Souare is the cousin of the current
Minister of Education, Ousmane Souare.
Â¶18. (C) Support for Kouyate has been steadily waning over
the last several months and it is unlikely that his dismissal
will spark any widespread popular backlash. The key question
for many Guineans is how the new prime minister will take on
his role, and who he will select to fill his cabinet.
Contacts, including the French, British, and Lebanese
Ambassadors, share the belief that Kouyate's dismissal is
unlikely to result in violence. Dr. Souare may be a solid
choice since he is a technocrat and not overly political, and
therefore may be able to advance the reform agenda. However,
he is also close to the old regime and it is unclear where
his allegiance lies, or what his ambitions might be.
Kouyate's dismissal is likely the first of many cabinet
changes, and the population will be watching the subsequent
appointments, and the new PM, very closely. END COMMENT.