US Funds Training of Guinea’s Presidential Guard
By BOUBACAR DIALLO and TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Writers Boubacar Diallo And Todd Pitman, Associated Press Writers – 14 mins ago
CONAKRY, Guinea – The United States is funding a $1 million program to train Guinea’s presidential guard as the volatile West African nation gears up for its first free election in half a century.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Brett Bruen said the goal was “to ensure that there is a professional, capable, and impartial presidential guard for the newly elected president of Guinea.”
The vote is being held June 27 amid hope the nation may finally be on the verge of escaping decades of coups and military rule.
Bruen declined to give details on who is training the force during the six-month program, which began in late May, but he said they were “civilian police experts, hired and overseen by the Department of State.”
The training “is equivalent to that received by the U.S. Secret Service,” Bruen said, and will focus on security methods, first aid, firearms training, human rights as well as the use of non-lethal force.
The U.S. is not providing weapons or ammunition.
“In any country, the protection of the president is one of the most important responsibilities of a government,” Bruen said. “It helps to ensure that the will of the voters is not usurped by the actions of those who seek political change through force.”
The presidential guard loyal to Guinea’s last dictator, Capt. Moussa “Dadis” Camara, infamously crushed a pro-democracy demonstration in the capital last September. A U.N. panel said 156 people were killed or disappeared after troops went on the rampage, raping scores of women in broad daylight.
Camara grabbed power in 2008 in a coup after the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte and was known as a wildly erratic ruler. He went into exile after his presidential guard chief shot him in the head in December.
Government and military officials say Camara last year had also brought in foreign security experts, including some from a private Israeli company, to secretly train members of his minority ethnic group, possibly as presidential guards. The program was abandoned around the time Camara was shot.
The U.S. ambassador to Guinea, Patricia Newton Moller, said the training was designed to protect the institution of the president, not any specific leader.
“Many countries around the world have approached us asking if we can help them train a professional presidential security service … without any political orientation, any political ambition,” Moller said. “And that is our objective.”
Todd Pitman reported from Dakar, Senegal.