CONAKRY - Guinea's military junta chief is in a difficult condition after an assassination attempt and a return to Guinea is not imminent, a junior French minister who works on relations with African countries said on Wednesday.
Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was shot on December 3 and later evacuated to Morocco, where he has been treated for head wounds. He has left behind a power vacuum and a divided military in the world's number one bauxite producer.
Camara is in a condition that is apparently rather difficult, but in any case his life is not in danger, Alain Joyandet, France's Secretary of State for Cooperation, told reporters in Paris.
In terms of his capacity to return to Guinea, I don't think it's reached that stage yet. For now he is in Morocco and for a certain amount of time, it would seem, he added.
Moroccan officials said on Sunday that Camara was stable after an operation to treat trauma of the cranium but they have given no details on when he could be discharged from hospital.
Defense Minister Sekouba Konate has taken over as junta chief. But as uncertainty about Camara's future grows, so does the risk of instability in Guinea spreading across a historically volatile region.
Neighboring Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast are trying to rebuild their economies and infrastructure after civil wars and are acutely sensitive to regional instability.
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said his country was securing its frontier with Guinea and preparing for a possible influx of refugees.
We're all very, very concerned. All of us believe the situation in neighboring Guinea is as important to us as even to Guineans themselves, he told reporters on Tuesday. Anything happening there ... will have a direct impact on our activities.
In Guinea's capital Conakry, where gunshots are heard almost daily as soldiers loyal to Camara pursue those linked to his would-be assassin, many residents have grown weary of the latest round in years of power struggles within the army.
The hardest thing is that I haven't seen my husband's body, said widow Salimatou Bah, whose husband died when security forces opened fire on a pro-democracy rally on September 28, a crackdown which witnesses said killed more than 150 people.
The attempt on the life of the president leaves me cold, Bah told Reuters. More than anything else what I want to is to find what's left of my husband.
Konate acknowledged public dissasfaction with the army in a broadcast on state television on Wednesday. A soldier without training is a criminal, he said. We must instill discipline. We must reinstall respect for the hierarchy, he said.
(Additional reporting by Yann Le Guernigou in Paris and Kimberly Johnson in Freetown; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton/David Stamp)