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
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
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.