African Union Suspends Guinea Following Coup

The African Union suspended Guinea on Monday after a coup in the West African nation.

The suspension will stand "until the return of constitutional order in that country," the African bloc said after a meeting of its Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital, where it is based.

The military coup followed the Dec. 22 death of Guinea's longtime dictator Lansana Conte after more than two decades in power. The coup leader, renegade army Capt. Moussa Camara, said his group would hold power until elections in two years.

Until Conte's death, Guinea had been ruled by only two people since its 1958 independence from France.

Conte first took power in a 1984 military coup after his predecessor's death, embarking on more than two decades of stern-handed, dictatorial rule.

Timeline: Guinea's History Since Independence.

For years, Conte was forced to make TV appearances to counter rumors that he was in fact dead. His declining health paralleled the decay of what was once one of Africa's most promising states — blessed with diamonds, gold and half the world's reserves of bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum.

By 2002, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund suspended aid because of bad governance. Guinea in 2006 was ranked Africa's most corrupt state by the governmental watchdog group Transparency International.

Economic statistics paint a gloomy picture. From a tame 4 percent in the 1990s, inflation is now over 20 percent and growth has been cut in half. Guineans earn on average just $91 per month, a sum that led to riots last year when a government salary could no longer allow a family to buy a bag of rice.