Sacked prime minister speaks out

Sacked Guinean prime minister, Cellou Dalein Diallo, refuted claims that he is under house arrest and told IRIN that his 11 years in government were a testament to his loyalty to the president.

Diallo, appointed prime minister 17 months ago after a decade in cabinet, quickly earned the high regard of international partners and donors as a reforming influence in the government of Guinea’s president for 22 years, Lansana Conte.

Diallo, speaking at his home in the seafront capital Conakry, said that reports in local newspapers that he had been placed under house arrest since his dismissal were false.

“Since the decree that ended my tenure as prime minister on Tuesday, I have been in my home. I have freedom of movement and I have not subjected myself to any extraordinary interpretation of the situation,” said Diallo, adding that he had not received any special visit from security forces.

Diallo’s sacking for “serious misconduct” came hours after local radio reported an extensive cabinet reshuffle that would have substantially increased Diallo’s influence in government, bringing in seven Diallo allies and removing 12 other ministers.

Diplomats say that Conte, who is in his seventies and is diabetic, could have signed off on the reshuffle without thoroughly reading the document.

The health of the former soldier has been a matter of concern since Conte collapsed while on an official overseas trip in 2002. The subject again came to the fore after an unscheduled visit to Switzerland last month where he had medical treatment. Government officials at the time strongly denied that the president, who left in the early hours of the morning, had been evacuated.

Trade unions which last month staged a five-day strike that brought Conakry to a crippling hush, this week described Diallo’s sacking as “incomprehensible, indescribable and worrying”.

"At a time when workers are looking forward to an improved condition of life,” a union statement added, “we are faced with a crisis within the government… these tendentious attitudes do not augur well for the development of the country.”

Diallo refused to be drawn into details of his sacking, saying only that his previous longevity in government was testament to his loyalty to Conte.

“I have been asked to quit as prime minister and I wish to seize this opportunity to thank the president who during 11 years maintained his confidence in me,” said Diallo.

In more than a decade in Conte’s government, Diallo headed six different ministries before being appointed to the top cabinet post of prime minister where he spearheaded an anti-corruption drive.

But Diallo’s anti-graft crusade was not popular with everybody and his investigations into a bogus government contract worth US $22 million were quietly dropped not long after an influential businessman linked to the president was implicated.

Diallo’s predecessor, Francois Fall, resigned as prime minister while visiting France with his family, where he sought exile. Fall complained of corruption and said that his position was repeatedly compromised by the president.

Some of Diallo’s supporters who had gathered at the former prime minister’s home this week, told IRIN that they believed Diallo was the victim of an ethnic row. Diallo is from the Foulah ethnic group, while many of Conte’s ministers are from his minority Susu ethnic group.

“The president’s men played the tribal card,” said one Diallo supporter who declined to be named. “And on this occasion, they won.”