Send EU Envoy to Charm School and Throw in a Primer on the 2010 Guinean Election
The European Commissioner for Development, Andris Peibalgs, was in Guinea recently to re-establish relations which the EU severed after the December 2008 coup. He came bearing a gift of 5 million euros to help Guinea put on a much-delayed general election.
Unfortunately, Piebalgs, gave remarks to the press which he should have reserved for a private conversation with a trusted colleague over cocktails:
“Elections are crucial because countries in Africa have a lot of tribal history and it is very difficult to find any other method to avoid violence and poor representation of each and every ethnic group,” Piebalgs says.”
It is safe to say that any nation that does not hold elections excludes the overwhelming majority of its citizens from the political process and, more often than not, a violent backlash will be the result. Given that Piebalgs’ would not dare comment about a European country in such a manner and that his remarks pertain to Africa only, he reinforces the long-standig arrogance that underlies European policy towards Africa.
Piebalgs unfortunate comments beg a larger question that should be addressed: Did the November 2010 presidential election increase representation among Guineans and reduce violence as well? No. Alpha Code used violence to attain the presidency by promoting a lie that Peuls had attempted to poison Malinkes. This, in turn, led to violence against Peuls in some areas of the country causing thousands to flee. Many were ultimately disenfranchised by the time the election took place because it was not safe to return to their home districts to cast a ballot.
Further, in a recent post-election incident, Conde, perhaps reflecting on the fact that his stolen election offered little mandate to rule, sent his storm troopers to the airport to attack his former opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, and his supporters. This resulted in several deaths and over 100 injured.
The truth is that the 2010 election only served to exacerbate ethnic hatred of Peuls by Malinkes. Even more alarming is that the violence visited upon Peuls was largely at the hands of a well-equipped, Malinke-dominated army. State-sponsored, ethnically targeted violence was committed under the leadership of former interim president, Sekouba Konate, to help Alpha Conde secure the presidency.
Ending ethnic violence must involve two things: a nation-wide acceptance that the violence must end if the country is to be saved and a mechanism to administer justice for victims. Normally, it would be the leader the country whom citizens would rely on to create an atmosphere for such a transition. Given that Conde whipped up ethnic violence during the campagin for his own political gain and that becoming the head of state did little to dissuade him from using violence to crush Diallo and his supporters, one should not look in his direction for a solution.
But, Mr. Piebalgs could help in this regard by apologizing for his ridiculous statement and, if he is truly concerned about “violence and poor representation,” he should advocate “clean” elections and call for the perpetrators of ethnic violence to be punished for their actions.
It always comes back to “no justice, no peace.”
Guinea – EU – Interview –
Article published the Sunday 08 May 2011
By Daniel Finnan
The European Union is to provide five million euros to help Guinea run a delayed general election. Wrapping up his two-day visit to Guinea on Saturday the European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs told RFI that support for the country’s parliamentary elections is “crucial” to avoid future ethnic violence.
“Elections are crucial because countries in Africa have a lot of tribal history and it is very difficult to find any other method to avoid violence and poor representation of each and every ethnic group,” Piebalgs says.
Guinea has not had a legislature since 2008 when it was dissolved by former military junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara. A 155-member National Transition Council has been acting in place of parliament since February 2010.
“Without parliament all the debates that come between different groups of interest could overspill,” says Piebalgs, who arrived in Guinea a few days after violence left at least 25 people dead in the south east of the country.
The European Union broke off diplomatic relations with the former French colony following the military’s coup in December 2008 and Piebalgs’ visit marks a warming of ties since last year’s presidential election.
“For us, it was of crucial importance – the presidential election – it passed well,” the EU Commissioner insists. “Since then we’ve started to develop cooperation.”.
During the visit Piebalgs took part in the inauguration of the Forecariah bridge, a structure providing a route between Conakry and Freetown, completed with 8.35 million euros from the EU.
But aside from EU support for improvements to the country’s infrastructure, Piebalgs believes reform to the country’s lucrative mining sector could bring the biggest windfall.
“There is quite substantial interest from Rio Tinto and also from other companies. And that gives the country a chance to move quite rapidly out of poverty if the governance is right,” he believes.
Guinea has some of the largest bauxite reserves in the world. Income from bauxite mining is “key”, according to Piebalgs. Although he warns that the status of existing contracts signed under the previous government is a “delicate area”. Guinean President Alpha Condé has already embarked on a review of mining licenses.
The EU diplomat also discussed military reforms with Condé reflecting concerns over any future involvement of the army in governance.
“This country has a huge army and it’s definitely important to have security sector reforms,” Piebalgs says. “For the size of the country, it definitely requires people to go into retirement and that means that we need to support this process, because if we don’t the risk of military coup there is quite substantial.”