CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinean President Alpha Conde on Tuesday replaced the minister of territorial administration with an army general in a move the government said was necessary to strengthen the fight against an Ebola outbreak in the West African nation.
A statement read on state-owned television announced the appointment of General Bourema Conde, considered to be among the president’s closest allies in Guinea’s army.
More than 14 months after the first Ebola case was reported in Guinea’s forest region, the government still faces pockets of often violent resistance to the campaign against the epidemic, undermining its plans to rebuild the health sector and economy.
The disease has killed a total of 2,091 people in Guinea since the outbreak was first identified, according to data released by the World Health Organisation on Wednesday. Nearly 10,000 people have succumbed to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries hit hardest by the disease.
“Our objective is two-fold: to strengthen the mobilization of local authorities and to increase awareness of local communities (of Ebola),” government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said in a statement on Wednesday.
Bourema Conde replaces Alassane Conde, a civilian who had held the position since President Conde named his first government following his election in late 2010. He will continue to serve as a government minister with an advisory role to the president. None of the three men are related.
Conde’s election marked the end of a 2008-2010 military junta that seized power following the death of long-time dictator Lansana Conte. However, the polls were tainted by deadly riots and opposition complaints of fraud.
As minister of territorial administration, Bourema Conde will be responsible for providing the independent electoral commission CENI with much of the logistical and technical support for presidential elections expected later this year.
Opposition figures were quick to criticize Conde’s decision to appoint a military figure to the position.
“The president had succeeded in getting rid of the soldiers, but to our amazement they are coming back and occupying strategic posts,” opposition politician Faya Bourouno said.
Since his election, Conde has prioritized luring investment into the mining sector and developing the country’s largely untapped iron reserves.
Reporting by Saliou Samb; additional reporting by Emma Farge; writing by Joe Bavier; editing by Andrew Roche and Leslie Adler