The international community’s policy towards Guinea is straightforward: at all costs, the huge Guinean army must be prevented from rearing its ugly head and scaring away investors. In the 2010 presidential election, Conde, a Malinke, was deemed the person who could best prevent a coup by a largely Malinke army. Beyond that, the international community, which installed Conde in the presidency, has placed few constraints on him.
But now, the international community, anxious to close the deal on Guinea’s “democratic” transition by pressing for legislative elections, is watching Conde nervously. By Conde giving his security forces shoot-to-kill orders during peaceful demonstrations, making anti-Peul politics the center of his government policy, striking shady mining deals while courting mysterious loans, and relentlessly jerking the opposition around, when combined, scream for a presidential makeover. When you add Guinea’s refusal to pursue prosecutions for the September 28, 2009, massacre and the issuance of a UN statement this past September 28, that “political rape goes unpunished in Guinea,” the makeover becomes mandatory.
Unfortunately, the makeover is not designed to improve governance, rather it is a mechanism the international community will use to express its confidence that Guinean legislative elections will be “free and fair” and to ensure broad acceptance of the results, even if they are fraudulent, as was the case in the 2010 presidential election.
Who is capable of transforming Conde over the next few months? The answer is simple: Guinea’s former colonial ruler, France. This is the country where Conde lived for 59 years, this is the country where Conde met his good friend, Bernard Kouchner, the former foreign minister, and this is the country without which there would be no Organization of the International Francophonie which, with Kouchner at the forefront, orchestrated Conde’s “win” of the 2010 presidential election.
The first stage of Conde’s makeover is the re-shuffle of his cabinet. France’s prescription for the new cabinet is simple: get rid of the military uniforms sitting at the table in cabinet meetings and create a human rights ministry. The media are full of analyses of the re-shuffle of the Guinean government, much of it suggesting that Conde has fully embraced “democracy,” and that his government re-shuffle is proof. After two years with Conde at the helm of the country, journalists should know that Conde doesn’t do the right thing unless forced from the outside and, even then, he makes sure it is done in a way that is advantageous for him only.
Conde’s ridding the cabinet of the military is nothing more than an impressive swindle. He removed three senior military officers, which allows him to bill his government as “civilian,” which the media and the international community will translate as “democratic.” But two military officers remain in his government who are the primary perpetrators of the September 28, 2009, massacre. Claude Pivi, is the Minister for Presidential Security, but the new cabinet roster does not show his name nor list his position. And, Moussa Tiegboro Camara, technically not a cabinet member, but his czar-like responsibilities for drug enforcement, organized crime, and terrorism, ensure him a seat at cabinet meetings. Neither Pivi nor Camara were dumped in the re-shuffle. International human rights organizations have been banging Conde about Pivi and Camara, yet nothing is likely to change. Both men are from the ruling military junta of 2008-2009 and former interim president Sekouba Konate is rumored to have told Conde to make room for them in his government.
The second cabinet swindle is the establishment of a human rights ministry. After Conde clearly stated at a Washington meeting in 2011, in response to a question about human rights, that he was the president, not the head of human rights, it is clear this issue is not high on his agenda. Given that it is 2012 and almost every leader, good or bad, has a human rights office or ministry, Conde can no longer buck the idea of creating one. But, hold your applause because, just like other leaders who don’t give a damn about human rights, Conde has found a self-serving use for the new ministry. It will be nothing more than a repository for human rights complaints, which should fill very quickly given Guinea’s long-standing history of repression, and where the complaints will never see the light of day. Conde is using the same method to the September 28 massacre investigation and prosecutions by keeping the issue buried deep in the bowels of the Guinean judicial system.
But, this is not the end of Conde’s political makeover. In the next post, a bit of analysis about that near-love letter French president Hollande sent to Conde on the occasion of the anniversary of Guinea’s independence.