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If You Rely on Reuters’ Saliou Samb for News on Guinea, You Will Be Clueless

March 15, 2012

September 28, 2009 massacre, a perfect example of an ethnic cleanse wrapped in a political narrative.  “Tiegboro” Camara, the only person to be “indicted” as one of the perpetrators of this massacre, continues to walk the streets of Conakry freely as well as maintain the ear of the head of state, Alpha Conde.

Reuters is one of the few mainstream media outlets that reports regularly about Guinea in English. For English speakers, articles written by Reuters reporter, Saliou Samb may be their only source of information on the country. If so, this is unfortunate. Samb’s reporting on Guinea is short on context and presents an air-brushed image of the head of state, Alpha Conde, that bears no relation to reality.

Over the last two years, Guinea Oye! has felt obliged to fill in numerous omissions and add context to unbelievable over-simplifications which run through much of Samb’s Guinea coverage (Further below, you will find links to previous Guinea Oye! posts, written during the last stages of the 2010 presidential campaign, which critique Mr. Samb’s coverage and provide much-needed historical context as well as political analysis.).

Through Mr. Samb’s articles, neither Guineans, nor those living elsewhere who follow Guinea closely, would recognize his portrayal of the country. When combined, his omissions and over-simplifications serve to deflect criticism of Conde. His articles transform Conde intoTeflon Man, against whom nothing bad sticks. As for the opposition, Samb paints it as recalcitrant and prone to using insignificant demands to delay elections. This is a Guinea that Alpha Conde would like to show the world and Samb’s articles appear to be the primary mechanism for doing just that. Regardless of whether Samb is going easy on Conde because it is his job or because he is too distracted, tired, uninspired, or possibly frightened to show the full picture, he is betraying readers who deserve nothing short of comprehensive and frank coverage from his prestigious news outlet.

The truth about Guinea is that it is in a perilous mess and Alpha Conde is responsible. Alpha Conde spewed anti-Peul rhetoric throughout the 2010 campaign which incited Malinkes to attack Peuls in the towns of Siguiri and Kourrouso. The result was machete murders, rape, burned homes and businesses, and family property destroyed. Ethnic hatred underlies Guinea’s entire political framework. In Guinea, ethnicity and politics are tightly intertwined. The target of the Conde administration are Peuls who happen to be overwhelmingly aligned with the opposition. When the administration throws a roadblock in front of the opposition, it is throwing a roadblock in front of Peuls and vice-versa. In fact, much of the anti-Peul actions of the government are wrapped in anti-opposition clothing. When prominent media outlets such as Reuters, prop up Alpha Conde and dismiss the opposition, just months before legislative elections, it contributes to a dangerous, artificial narrative likely to put Guineans in more danger. Peuls know that if further escalation of tensions by Conde continue, which they will, the assistance of the international community will be essential. Let’s hope the community is not following events in Guinea, solely through Mr. Samb’s articles.

Mr. Samb’s latest article, which appears below, was published on Monday, March 12, 2012. The focus of the article is “political risks in Guinea.” With the exception of the section on mining, it has enough holes to drive a fleet of trucks through. In fact, much of the non-mining parts are outdated, appear to be a a re-iteration of previous Samb articles, and provide precious little analysis. Alpha Conde’s authoritarian approach to governing grows more audacious every day and the impacts on the population mount. But, you would never know this by reading Samb’s articles. As a result, Guinea Oye! has annotated his most recent article with comments which hopefully will give readers a more comprehensive look at Guinean politics. The comments appear in bold and in brackets [].

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Guinea
Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:55pm GMT

By Saliou Samb

DAKAR, March 12 (Reuters) – Guinea’s President Alpha Conde plans to review mining contracts and cut the size of the army in 2012, risking the wrath of international investors and the country’s notoriously unruly soldiers.

The agenda, aimed at boosting the economy and cementing fragile gains in security, was announced on the anniversary of his first year in office in the West African state last month.

Guinea is the world’s largest supplier of the aluminum ore bauxite and has vast deposits of iron ore that have drawn billions of dollars in planned investments, but it is struggling to emerge from decades of political turmoil.

Tension between Conde and the opposition has eased after the government agreed to delay legislative elections that the opposition said were being organised unfairly. The polls, key to reviving foreign aid programmes that were cut during junta rule in 2009, are now scheduled for July 8.

[No. The government did not ease tensions by delaying elections. The date of elections is irrelevant because the opposition is unable to get Alpha Conde to address its number one concern: the composition of the Guinea electoral council (CENI) and its penchant for electoral fraud. CENI head, Louceny Camara, was convicted in 2010 for vote stealing as part of an elaborate scheme to ensure a "win" for Conde. The opposition has every reason to expect extensive fraud in the legislative elections -- in fact, Conde, as in the 2010 presidential election, cannot get a majority in the Assembly without fraud orchestrated by Camara. Conde has made it clear that removal of Camara is non-negotiable].

Guinea’s transition to civilian rule in late 2010, in elections seen as the country’s first free polls since independence from France, was seen as a powerful example for the region after years of military leadership.

[Powerful example? This is the mantra of the West and Samb insists on infusing this and other like platitudes in his articles, including the most popular mantra of all -- "Conde, Guinea's first democratically-elected president." Unfortunately, Conde's actions, both before and after becoming head of state, are contrary to the kumbayah theme that the international community is pitching. Samb is not reporting, he is passing along the propaganda.]

But age-old ethnic tensions are still simmering.

POLITICS

Since Conde won the Nov. 7, 2010, election, his security forces have cracked down on supporters of his chief political rival Cellou Dalein Diallo, who conceded defeat in the poll.

[Before, during, after the election and to this day, "crack-downs" on opposition supporters have been delivered regularly by state security forces. Violent acts include summary executions, mass arrests without cause, and lengthy detentions in prison without charge. In addition, crimes against ethnic Peuls is increasing and result in murder, injury, incarceration and destruction/theft of property.

Actually, Diallo did not concede defeat after the election. He agreed not to contest Guinea's Supreme Court decision which "selected" Conde as president, in spite of a mountain of evidence of election fraud which Diallo provided the CENI, but was never taken into consideration.]

What to watch:

- Legislative elections. Guinea’s electoral commission set a July 8 date for the polls after they were delayed from late 2011 due to a row with the opposition. A planned reform of Guinea’s voter roll and the polls themselves could be the next flashpoint for street violence, though Conde has defused tensions somewhat by agreeing to hold talks with opposition leaders over how the elections are organised. Donor nations have urged Guinea to hold the polls and the European Union has said it will only resume full cooperation with Guinea after they are held.

[No! Conde defused nothing and, thereby, inflamed the situation. Conde's modus operandi throughout has been to offer talks with the opposition and then do whatever is necessary to make sure the "dialogue" ends in a bust.

Mr. Samb continues to use language which makes important issues seem insignificant. A "row" doesn't even come close to describing the opposition's primary concern that extensive fraud will be committed in legislative elections, just as it did in the 2010 presidential election. The common denominator in both is CENI president, Louceny Camara. Yet, Mr. Samb does not report on opposition concerns about fraud when he writes about the legislative elections. This is absurd. Why is Samb reluctant to mention Camara's name and inform his readers that he was convicted of electoral fraud on September 22, 2010? His readers need to know that the same guy who stole the presidency for Alpha Conde in the 2010 election, is the same person who will oversee the 2012 legislative elections.

And, Camara's impact in the 2010 election? In one of numerous instances of fraud, Camara stole ballots from 109 voting stations in Ratoma and Matoto. If those ballots had been properly counted, Cellou Dalein Diallo would have won the election outright in the first round! Is it newsworthy that the opposition is demanding Camara be removed before the legislative elections? Hell, yes.]

- Protests and ethnic tension. Three people were killed in protests in late September when rock-throwing demonstrators clashed with security forces using teargas grenades and truncheons. Opposition figure Diallo has repeatedly accused Conde of sidelining his constituents, which include many of his fellow ethnic Peul, Guinea’s largest ethnic group.

[Sidelining? Mr. Samb has a responsibility to report the real dangers which face Guinea's opposition. Within his first year, Conde has commanded state security forces into action against unarmed, peaceful members of the opposition on at least two occasions: an April 3, 2011, attack on Diallo supporters waiting to great their leader at the airport and the September 27, 2011, attack on an opposition march. These repressive measures led to murder, injury, and incarceration without cause or charge.

In addition, Conde, members of his cabinet, and his political party followers continue to use anti-Peul rhetoric publicly, creating an "open season" of sorts to commit violence on Peuls. In the US, this would constitute "hate speech" and prosecution would be in order. The ethnic baiting and associated violence continue to escalate, especially in Peul-dominated neighborhoods including summary executions and disappearances, making the atmosphere in Guinea nothing short of electric. Much has happened since the September 2011 state security attack, but Samb's coverage of more recent instances of state-sponsored violence are relatively non-existent. ]

Conde and Diallo drew support essentially on ethnic lines and the election rekindled ethnic tensions. Conde is from the Malinke ethnic group, like 35 percent of the population; Diallo is a Peul, a group making up some 40 percent.

A Guinean court filed charges against a top army officer over the killing of scores of mostly Peul protesters during a 2009 demonstration, a move that could ease some of the country’s lingering ethnic tensions.

[Oh my, one has to wonder if Mr. Samb has been to Guinea recently or interviewed anyone not affiliated with the government (another element distinctly missing from his coverage.) The indictment of "Tiegboro" Camara is a hoax and everyone in Guinea knows it. It is Guinea's first step in the "prosecution" of the perpetrators behind the September 28, 2009, massacre of unarmed opposition supporters, primarily Peul. The indictment by the Guinean court was designed to keep the International Criminal Court at bay. The case will wither on the Guinean court docket. The reason the indictment of "Tiegboro" Camara cannot but heighten tensions is that he is not in detention and he remains a member of Alpha Conde's cabinet. It seems Mr. Samb could have written a story to educate his readers about increasing impunity in Conde's Guinea in which a massacre perpetrator can walk the streets of Conakry freely as well as maintain the ear of the head of state.]

- Military unrest. Guinea’s army has a history of meddling in politics and some military elements were implicated in an assassination attempt targeting Conde in July. The government said 26 military officers and 13 civilians had been arrested in connection with the attack and said they had spoken of links to political and business circles.

[This is widely viewed in Guinea as another grand hoax of Conde's. The "attack" was planned so Conde could use it as an excuse for a carte blanche round-up of worrisome senior military officers and key members of the opposition. In the case of Bah Oury, a major figure in the Guinean opposition, Conde sent the military to kill him after the "attack" without any proof of his involvement. Bah Oury was able to get out of the country beforehand and for the past eight months he has lived in exile. Last week, 17 of the prisoners were released. No, this was not an act of benevolence on Conde's part. These guys are guilty of nothing and neither are those still in jail. This prisoner release is more likely the result of the recent EU visit to Guinea in which Conde was "encouraged" to thin out the number of political prisoners he has locked up, as part of a deal to re-establish relations -- read "funding."]

Conde’s military reform effort could heighten tensions if soldiers feel they are being stripped of power. In late December Guinea announced the forced retirement of 4,600 soldiers as part of the drive to shrink the force and improve discipline.

[When writing about the Guinean army, it's always a good idea to inform readers of its size. The number ranges between 40,000-50,000 soldiers. This is a huge army for such a small country and reform will be extremely difficult to accomplish. As for the 4,600 soldiers eliminated from the army recently, they are primarily retirees and represent a drop in the bucket. Additional reforms have not been announced.

The army may be impacted by reports that Conde has commissioned an ethnic-based, armed militia which he sent out of the country for training. Upon return, the militia members are to be integrated into the Guinean army. A quick call to Bah Oury, VP of the UFDG opposition party, currently living in exile in France, would confirm these reports, as he raised the issue in a recent interview, Alpha Condé a recruté une milice armée de 1200 personnes sur des bases ethniques qu’il veut incorporer dans l’armée, dénonce BAH Oury, vice président de l’UFDG . One would hope that Mr. Samb would be curious about such reports and do an article analyzing what impacts this might have on army reform and ethnic relations.]

Conde appointed himself defence minister, giving him direct involvement in a military reform effort started by junta leader Sekouba Konate. The military has a reputation for brutality and indiscipline.

[When Conde needs to use state-sponsored muscle against the people of Guinea, it helps to be the defense minister as well. As defense minister, he can execute rapid deployment of the army as well as keep an eye out for pesky military coup attempts.]

MINING AND INDUSTRY

Guinea, which relies on minerals for more than 70 percent of exports, is planning to review all mining contracts to “clean up the business environment” and ensure they comply with a recently revised mining code.

It is the world’s biggest shipper of bauxite, the feedstock ore for aluminium. RUSAL, with its Friguia complex, has a capacity for 640,000 tonnes of alumina a year which it ships around the world for further refining into aluminium.

Guinea also produces gold, and iron ore is its major growth industry. Joint ventures by Rio Tinto and Chinalco, and Vale and BSG Resources, are between them spending more than $5 billion on the Simandou and Zogota iron ore projects.

What to watch:

- Mining review. It is unclear to what degree the review will provoke complaints from investors. RUSAL said existing contracts could not be altered unilaterally.

Guinea adopted a new mining code in September that lifted the state share in mining projects from 15 percent to 35 percent. The new state share includes a 15 percent free carry, a clause the mining companies say will eat directly into their profits and make new investment less likely.

- China has shown growing interest in Guinea. Apart from the Rio-Chinalco JV to develop the Simandou iron ore project, Guinea is in advanced talks with state-owned China Power Investment to develop a bauxite mine and build an alumina refinery, deep water port and a power plant in deals worth nearly $6 billion.

- Labour relations. Workers have shown frustration over pay and conditions repeatedly in recent years, and have proven they can significantly affect output with strike action.

Ongoing labour negotiations became messy in December at RUSAL’s Friguia plant after a union leader said the refinery was shut down by management to pressure workers seeking higher pay. RUSAL officials denied the operations at the plant were shut.

Workers at Guinea CBG downed also their tools for 48 hours in early December at the Alcoa, Rio Tinto and Guinean government bauxite joint venture over wage negotiations, the company said.

- Disputes with government. Aside from looming contract reviews, Guinea has a long history of disputes with major companies. Chief among them were a decision to remove Rio Tinto’s rights to part of the Simandou iron ore development , ongoing disagreements with RUSAL over pollution and back taxes, the cancellation in March of a deal with France’s Getma International to manage Conakry’s container port, and the transfer of the deal to port group Bollore. . In April Conde cancelled an agreement with Vale to upgrade a 640 km railway.

More recently, Israeli billionaire diamond trader Beny Steinmetz’s BSGR said in March it would resist any attempt by Guinea to undermine its Simandou joint venture with Vale, a signal of a potential contract dispute.

- New projects. Large-scale new projects would be a boost for the new government. BHP Billiton is, with Global Alumina, Dubai Aluminium Co and Mubadala Developments, a shareholder in Guinea Alumina Corporation, a joint venture that plans to build a 3.3-million tonne a year alumina refinery.

- Guinea has approved a $2 billion plan by British firm Herman Trading to build a 150,000 barrel per day oil refinery. The plant will be built in Guinea’s western Boffa region and will start producing at between 6,000 and 10,000 bpd next year before reaching full capacity after five years.

SOCIETY AND WIDER ECONOMY

Annual mining revenues worth around $100 million to the government have not been enough to alleviate poverty in Guinea, which is ranked 170 out of 182 in the U.N. Human Development Index of living standards.

What to watch:

- Donors coming back. The European Union in 2009 suspended development aid and withdrew a plan for a fishing partnership with Guinea. But foreign donors will want to reward democratic progress by swiftly unblocking aid and Guinea’s new leaders can expect help from Brussels and ex-colonial power France.

[No, foreign donors are not trying to reward Guinea for democratic progress because there has been none, and they know it. Foreign donors will return in the same manner they always have, in disregard of human rights abuses and mounting state impunity, in order to continue the important work of assuring business interests that all is well in Guinea.]

The International Monetary Fund in late February signed off on a three-year credit line for Guinea worth nearly $200 million to help restore stability and usher the country towards completion point for billions of dollars of debt relief, a sign of growing donor confidence.

[The truth is that donors are nervous. The real stability of Guinea is not determined by a true assessment of whether human rights are respected and whether those in opposition to the state are treated as colleagues rather than criminals. These strides are far off. Stability exists in Guinea if international donors give money and pronouce Guinea to be a stable state, regardless of the political-human rights situation. If the IMF had not agreed to dispense the funds to Guinea, it would scream "instability" in Guinea -- the worst word an investor can hear.]

EU development chief Andris Piebalgs visited Guinea in May 2011 and said the country had made progress towards democracy and full cooperation could resume after legislative elections.

[Much has happened in Guinea since May 2011 and none of it is good. This is EU double-speak where Piebalgs is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.]

- Infrastructure improvements. Many Guineans have no electricity or running water, and less than a third of the population is literate. The new government will come under pressure to make improvements. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)

In summary, Mr. Samb has to tell the whole story or do something else. This is one case where hiding the truth from the world is dangerous to the people of Guinea.

PREVIOUS GUINEA OYE! POSTS ABOUT REUTERS’ REPORTER, SALIOU SAMB

September 27, 2010

“Reporter, Saliou Samb of Reuters’ Africa on the Konate-Dore-Conde Payroll?

October 12, 2010

“When It Comes to Guinea, Reuters Saliou Samb Takes Dictation and Passes It Off as Reporting”

November 5, 2010

“Reuters’ Samb Shows Us How to Pave the Way for the Loser to Look Like the Winner in Guinea’s Presidential Election”

November 13, 2010

“Hello, Reuters? Can You Spell F-R-A-U-D??

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ollaid permalink
    March 16, 2012 1:57 AM

    Just a great remark! Totally agree! But we must admit that the opposition is too soft and do not react as they should do to such bias report. The opposition not proactive attitude helps Alpha Conde.
    POOR Guinea or rather Guineans !

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