Ebola en Guinée : une épidémie « politique » ?
Ebola en Guinée : une épidémie « politique » ?
Report 121 / Africa

Guinea: Change or Chaos

The 12 February 2007 declaration of siege and establishment of a permanent curfew and martial law by President Lansana Conté after three days of renewed violence has brought Guinea to the verge of disaster.

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Executive Summary

The 12 February 2007 declaration of siege and establishment of a permanent curfew and martial law by President Lansana Conté after three days of renewed violence brought Guinea to the verge of disaster. Towns throughout the country rallied to the general strike launched on 10 January, turning it into an unprecedented popular protest against the regime.Conté. The repression of the demonstrations – over 100 dead in total since January – and the nomination of Eugène Camara, a close Conté associate – as Prime Minister have shown the regime will do anything to ensure its survival. The international community, which has shown itself unable to stop the killings,, needs to react urgently to help produce real change if chaos that could well spread beyond Guinea’s borders is to be prevented.

Weakened by illness, Conté clings to his privileges, showing more interest in his extensive agricultural estates than the fate of the country. Receiving conflicting advice from sycophants obsessed by presidential succession and safeguarding their own material interests, he has responded to the rebellious trade unions with a mixture of carelessness, clumsiness and violence. His consent on 27 January to delegate powers to a Prime Minister who would be head of government and the decree he issued four days later setting out the powers of that office do not mean he will actually withdraw or that the Conté system will end soon. Nor do they remove the question of responsibility for the January and February slaughter of unarmed demonstrators.

The choice of Camara, who was currently Minister of State with responsibility for presidential affairs, as Prime Minister on 9 February was a tragic mistake that was received by the people as a provocation. It was promptly followed first by riots, and then by renewed violent repression. The Presidential Guard’s red berets and anti-riot police fired live rounds at people but prevented neither looting nor the systematic destruction of state symbols, including property belonging to members of the government, the presidential entourage and others associated with Conté’s regime.

Guinea now faces two possible scenarios. There is still a chance, though a diminishing one, for real political change agreed among key Guinean actors with the support of the regional and wider international community. Alternatively, if the Conté regime continues to rely on military repression, it could rapidly bring Guinea to a dramatic spiral of deadly violence: a chaotic and violence popular insurgency which could end with a bloody, military take-over, leading in turn to similar hellish situations which have have torn apart its neighbours.

If it comes to that, the troubles are unlikely to stop at the city limits of Conakry or even the country’s frontiers. Chaos in Guinea’s Forest Region, bordering Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, could well destabilise one or more of those frail countries. Likewise, politically unstable Guinea-Bissau could suffer as its President, Joao Bernardo Vieira, seems ready to to support his long-time friend, Conté.

Western governments as well as multinational firms that benefit from the country’s natural resources, not to mention the Guinean population and their neighbours, value political stability but they would be making a serious mistake if this led them to support efforts to maintain the Conté system. Guinean actors and the international community urgently need to cooperate to implement an action plan that brings about change and prevents an escalation of violence.

Dakar/Brussels, 14 February 2007

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