Guinea: Time Running Out?

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January21, 2007: The situation in Guinea verges on total collapse, and a popular uprising or military coup may be imminent. In 1982 a coup installed Lansana Conte as president of Guinea. The chain smoking 72-year old Conte has diabetes, suffers from a heart condition, and is apparently lucid only in the mornings. Despite this, he clings to power. Not only has he refused to designate a successor, but he has even refused to delegate any authority during his several recent trips to Switzerland for heart treatments.

As evidence of Conte's declining health has mounted, so too have demands for his resignation. Early in 2006 demonstrations led by union members occurred across much of the country, but were put down by police. As opposition leaders quit the National Assembly in protest, Conte banned several newspapers to tighten his grip on the country. A series of demonstrations in June were similarly broken, up, with police beating, robbing, and in some cases raping protestors.

Meanwhile the country has sunk into severe poverty and is mired in corruption. Recently a courageous judge put two of Conte's henchmen on trial for stealing millions in government funds. Conte immediately halted the trial. On January 10th a series of major public demonstrations began across the country. Rabiatou Sera Diallo, president of the National Confederation of Guinea Workers, promptly organized a general strike with the stated goal of getting Conte out of office.

Although Conte attempted to make some concessions, offering to reduce the price of fuel, increase food subsidies, and curb police corruption, demonstrations have become a daily affair and the protests have affected most areas of the iconology, including the lucrative (for Conte) bauxite mines.

On the 16th, the demonstrations in the capital, began to turn violent. Police forces attempting to keep the protesters away from government buildings, began using tear gas, riot gear, and firearms. One women was reported killed by police fire on the 17th.

On the 18th, Ms. Diallo and several hundred demonstrators marched on the National Assembly. Acting swiftly, paramilitary police used tear gas to temporarily break up the group, so that they could arrest Diallo and seven others. The eight were taken into the National Assembly building, where the Speaker, a Conte man, apparently tried to bribe her and the other leaders protests into dropping the issue. The offer was rejected. Meanwhile, the protest crowd had reassembled, and literally hundreds of people surrounded building, calling for Diallo and shouting ''Down with Conte!'' This apparently convinced the authorities to release the group.

If Conte continues to cling to power, Guinea may be the next African country to undergo complete collapse.

 

Article Archive

Guinea: Current 2007 2006 2004 


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