Whatever the immediate aftermath of the shooting of junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, this latest spate of violence clearly demonstrates the dangers of military rule for Guinea, and the sub-region.
Part of what happened is clear enough. Certain members of the presidential guard, who were involved in the massacres of 28 September, obviously felt threatened by the United Nations commission of inquiry, which was wrapping up its first field investigation into those killings. Toumba Diakite, the leading red beret who shot Dadis Camara, probably feared being made to carry the can.
The core members of the military junta are violent and volatile thugs, who drink to excess and roam the streets of the capital, Conakry, armed to the teeth. And it is not the first incident of this sort. In early October, another argument about responsibility for the 28 September events ended with shots being fired in the main military camp.
There are two likely outcomes to the situation in the short term, and neither looks good. If Dadis Camara pulls through and retains control of the situation, he could become more paranoid and his clampdown on civil society and human rights activists could harden. On the other hand, if he loses control there are four or five strong men ready to take over, and each will probably be prepared to fight for power.
The international mediation effort following the events in September is being led by President Blaise Compaoré of nearby Burkina Faso. He was tasked with the tricky job of reconciling the military junta with the fact that both national civil society and the international community reject the entrenchment of military power in Guinea, as well as encouraging the military to find a proper role to play in the restoration of civilian democratic rule.
But his approach has been far too complacent towards the junta, going so far as to suggest that they should stay in power for a further 10 months in the run up to elections – and be allowed to stand in those elections.
Political parties and civil society rightly rejected this. The latest incidents should make it crystal clear that the military have to be managed out of power. Any other option risks a disaster that could pull in neighbouring countries.
International mining companies, interested in Guinea's huge mineral wealth, have been considering making deals with the junta. They should think again. Quite aside from the moral implication of dealing with an increasingly bloody military junta, they should take into account the instability of the situation. If they sign a deal with one leader today, there is a good chance the next strong man in charge will demand a renegotiation tomorrow. And if a stable civilian government is achieved, it will probably do the same.
Richard Moncrieff is the West Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, www.crisisgroup.org