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Alpha Conde’s Lack of Governing Skills and Keeping Officials from Former Regime Concern Increasing Number of Guineans

June 23, 2011
Guinea’s Conde fails to push anti-corruption drive

By Stephane Barbier (AFP) – 9 hours ago

CONAKRY — Six months after Guinea’s President Alpha Conde was democratically elected promising reforms, he has kept officials of the former regime close to him, which critics say is undermining efforts to root out corruption.

“His entourage is disorienting the Guineans,” said Aziz Diop, Secretary General of Guinea’s National Council of Civil Society Organizations (CNOSC).

“The president did not prepare himself to lead. He does not have competent officials to help him identify the good ones from the bad ones.

“So he makes the best of it with those belonging to (previous president Lansana) Conte’s regime — specialists in kleptomania,” he added.

Last December Conde, a veteran opposition leader, took office after winning the country’s first democratic election in 52 years, declaring the fight against corruption a top priority.

He took over from a military junta that had seized power after Conte’s death in 2008 following his 24-year rule marked with entrenched corruption and numerous human rights abuses.

Despite its mineral wealth as the world’s leading exporter in bauxite, Guinea is among the five most corrupt nations in Africa and among the top ten in the world, according to a 2006 ranking by Transparency International.

Ten percent of the country’s public sector jobs were found to be fictitious, and the Justice and Economic and Financial Control ministries combined receive less than one percent of the state budget to finance anti-corruption efforts.

Critics say the 73-year-old Conde missed a golden opportunity to cut ties once and for all with the former regime, instead ending up backtracking on pledges and disillusioning the public.

“Never having run (a country), he had lots of room. He could have had a heavy hand to fight against corruption and govern in transparency,” said AGT president Mamadou Taran Diallo.

“For the state’s image, you need to appoint people untainted by suspicion — you need clean people at the leadership,” he said.

The president’s decision to retain his predecessor’s entourage was probably a reward for their votes in the key election battleground of western Basse Guinee against his opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo last year, he added.

But Moustapha Naite, a senior government official close to Conde, defended him: “We are obliged to hold talks with those who governed. It’s a proof of intelligence, a methodological choice, to understand why their (governance) did not work.”

Conde started out on a promising track. He announced he would declare his assets to the country’s supreme court, publish a preliminary list of state debtors and launch proceedings to recover unpaid debts.

Six months later, no information has been divulged, Diallo said.

And, a mining code the president introduced to enforce transparent business dealings with foreign companies exploiting the country’s mineral resources, has fallen short of expectations.

A $700 million (488-million-euro) settlement in April agreed with mining giant Rio Tinto following a dispute has mysteriously been kept off the state books, AGT’s Diallo said.

“What has become of it? Where is the money? In any case we do not see it on the (state) budget,” he added.

Conde also failed to follow up with a pledge to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to come to terms with crimes and abuses committed under previous autocratic regimes.

Social unrest and labour strikes were severely repressed in 2007, resulting in 200 deaths, according to independent sources.

“It is urgent that the president asks for forgiveness to all Guineans in the name of the state, and that victims be compensated,” said CNOSC head Diop.

“If nothing is done before planned legislative elections in November, we will plunge into violence. The military is on the watch,” he warned.

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