In May 2008, he was also active in another military rebellion over pay and conditions after Lansana Conte, Guinea's president for 24 years who died on Monday, sacked the then prime minister, Lansana Kouyate.

Kouyate had been installed by Conte as part of a deal to end a two-month general labour strike in 2007. His dismissal sparked another military revolt that quickly escalated to include demands that senior generals be removed from post.

'Calming influence'

Fellow coup plotters have praised Camara's leadership abilities, describing him as a man of fierce ambition who easily inspires loyalty and has a reputation for getting things done.

"I did not come to power by accident, it is due to a lot of qualities. I am a patriot"

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara

Camara himself, however, has been at pains to deny that personal political ambition has played any part in the coup, insisting he is a "calming influence".

"We are not ambitious, may God keep us from injustice, tribalism and corruption," he said, vowing to "return to barracks" following a general election that the coup leader has promised to hold in December 2010.

"We have no intention of clinging on to power. We must hold an election, free and transparent, in a dignified way to honour Guinea, to honour the army.

"The future of our country is peace, freedom, reconciliation. After that, the most important thing is to fight injustice and nepotism in order to take up the challenge of relaunching the economy of the country," he said in a statement directed at foreign leaders.

Despite this apparent modesty, Camara has not been shy in promoting his own qualities, telling a news conference: "I did not come to power by accident, it is due to a lot of qualities. I am a patriot."

Cautious optimism

Born to a farming family in the southeastern village of Koure, Camara studied law and economics at Abdel Nasser University in the capital, Conakry.

He joined the army in 1990, six years after Conte, a career soldier himself, seized power in a coup following the death of Guinea's first president to come to power after shaking off French colonial rule in 1958.

His rise to power as been greeted with cautious optimism by Guineans who hope this relatively unknown soldier will keep his word and deliver democracy and tackle widespread corruption.

The international community, notably France and the European Union (EU), have already expressed alarm over Camara's pledge to hold polls in two years, saying it is too long to wait.

While Camara has quickly sought to reassure Guineans and foreign leaders he is a committed democrat, both will be watching closely in the hope he demonstrates he is, in fact, a man of the people.

How much time Camara will be given to deliver on his promises remains to be seen.