WELCOME TO GUINEA
Below is a recent article about last ditch efforts by members of the international community to bolster the CENI with millions of dollars for the September 24 election. It is not clear how much money the international community contributed to the CENI previously, but adding these large amounts of money now, with just 15 days left to go, suggests that the election is vulnerable both from a logistics and a transparency standpoint. The international community has made quite an investment in Guinea financially and politically and has been the driving force for the election. In many respects, this election is the international community’s, not the people’s.
Neither Conde nor the opposition wanted this election. Conde would have been happy to skip it and continue to rule the country by decree. This is the most durable mode of governance for a head of state who came to office illegally and who faces a mountain of criticism for his brutal and ethnocentric practices.
Naturally, the opposition did not want to go to an election under this administration. Conde MUST come up with a majority in the legislature to validate his invalid election in 2010. If the opposition proceeds to the election and decides not to boycott, it leaves itself open for another bloody nose from Conde, which would be political suicide.
But, the international community could not allow either side to follow its instincts. It put the screws to Conde by reminding him that aid and development taps would run dry unless he completed the transition by holding legislative elections. And, it had to convince the opposition to get out of the streets and into a dialogue with the government focused on holding elections.
So to the “dialogue” they all went. The atmosphere was tense. The government’s behavior towards the opposition alternated between apathy and vindictive surliness. While walking out of talks on a few occasions because of disrespectful and malevolent actions on the part of the government, the opposition endured the process, yet, remained thoroughly appalled by the unfolding circus.
As for the drivers of the dialogue, one has the impression that the UN’s Said Djinnit and the ambassadors of France and the US, who sat in on the dialogue meetings, listened little to either side because they had their own agenda which contained one item — force legislative elections come hell or high water. Now, there is nothing wrong with elections if an impartial electoral commission runs them, if they are held regularly, if the ruling party refrains from treating the opposition as if it was an enemy of the state and, most importantly, if a head of state state refrains from a policy which gives security forces carte blanche to commit summary executions of unarmed opposition supporters participating in peaceful protests.
But, in the “what were they thinking” category? — the international community is using elections as a panacea for violent political and ethnic conflict, which is where Guinea is now and has been since the kickoff of the 2010 presidential election. The philosophy is that if you hold an election in hell, hell becomes less hellish. Yet, the international community is adamant about having an election, even though they know the potential for substantial fraud is high, and that this could easily light a powder keg that cannot be extinguished.
While it remains to be deciphered, a major key to this election puzzle is what did the international community do to get the opposition to go to elections? It had to be a compelling argument in which the opposition saw some advantage. Regardless of what deal was struck, one hopes the opposition is on guard concerning an international community which has been complicit in the past in election-related schemes which were not to the advantage of the opposition. The 2010 election is a sterling example and involved collaborators such as, the Francophonie, former French foreign minister and Conde’s best buddy – Bernard Kouchner, and a Malian General Siaka Sangare brought in to “oversee” the latter part of the election.
And, after this election, what will happen to the people of Guinea? The people will be presented a legislature with a majority designed through fraud which will rubber stamp Conde’s decrees. The opposition will have nowhere else to go, but the streets. And, Conde, having given the international community what it wanted, a “transition,” will sink even deeper into brutal repression of the opposition, especially Peuls, using the full brunt of his military and security forces supplemented with Donzos, Malinke militias, and foreign mercenaries. A blood bath.
Everything will be as bad as it was before, except the holding of the legislative elections in this chaos will turn the flame substantially higher on political and ethnic divisions.
And, the international community? On September 25, many of its representatives will deliver remarks to the press that will invariably include — “a few problems, but overall a free and fair election.” It won’t be true, but it does get the international juices and money flowing. And later that evening, the sound of champagne corks popping and slapping one another on the back will prove that the election was, indeed, theirs.