Potential Hot Spots: Guinea Goes Down

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: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

February 14, 2007: The West African state of Guinea has fallen into a state of low level civil war. Demonstrations against President Lansana Conte have been continuous for some weeks now. Violent encounters between demonstrators and security forces are a virtual everyday occurrence. Casualties are unknown, but literally hundreds have been injured, and the dead are believed to number well over a hundred. Conte, a diabetic in his 70s has been in power for decades, and has run the country into the ground. He recently attempted to head off criticism by appointing an "independent" prime minister with broad powers. This only sparked further demonstrations, since the prime minister was one of Conte's kinsman and a close crony. Given the availability of cheap firearms across most of Africa, there is a strong likelihood of full scale civil war. The critical international player in Guinea is France, which maintains a strong influence in the country. But so far the French appear to have been content to sit back and await developments. The United States has been flying U.S. citizens out, to nearby Senegal.

On February 12th, claiming that the measure will "save Guinea from civil war," President Lansana Conte imposed martial law on the country. For weeks now mass demonstrations have occurred, mostly in the capital, protesting Conte's decades of misrule. Security forces have responded with violent countermeasures that have led to hundreds of casualties, including many deaths. Conte's move would suspend some civil rights and also permit the country's armed forces to assist in suppressing the demonstrations. But these measures are hardly likely to dampen increasing public resistance to the aging tyrant's rule. A more likely development is that these measures will spur still more protests against Conte, which in turn will require more violent measures from the security forces. For now the police and armed forces remain firmly under Conte's control, but that could change.

Back before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Conte might, at this point, have played the "Cold War" card. This was a favorite tactic of tyrants back then, when faced with popular discontent. Some would proclaim themselves "socialists" and get lots of Soviet Bloc aid, while others would claim that they were really "democrats" confronted by "communist agitators," which would result in lots of Western aid. This card is no longer in play, leaving guys like Conte with no place to go for help.

 

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