Dangerous Game: Guinea’s President Plays the Ethnic Card by Peter Pham

 Link to French version appears after the English version

May 12, 2015

Source: Présidence de la République de Guinée

Two months ago, I warned that unless the international community steps up quickly to pressure the incumbent regime in Guinea to achieve a consensus with the political opposition and civil society regarding the sequencing and scheduling of the elections constitutionally required less than six months from now, the West African country’s belated and fragile democracy might well prove stillborn. Last month, I noted that there were alarming signs that tribal tensions were being stoked and that, in a region where ethnic groups transcend borders which themselves are all-too-porous, such a conflict will be impossible to contain. Now these worst fears are being confirmed by the actions of Guinea’s President Alpha Condé.

Guinea has extraordinary potential for prosperity and, indeed, wealth, thanks to its prodigious natural resources (including the largest bauxite reserves in the world). Moreover, unlike some of its neighbors, it does not want for water: the country has, in fact, been described as the “château d’eau d’Afrique de l’Ouest” because of the many great rivers—including the Niger, the Senegal, and the Gambia—which flow from its highlands. But for all these endowments, the country has seen precious little development, ranking a miserable 179th place among 187 countries in the most recent edition of the Human Development Index published by the United Nations.

The incumbent head of state, Condé, who came to power in disputed elections in 2010, has given voters few compelling reasons to award him a second and final term in the presidential election scheduled for October 11. Both urban and rural poverty have increased during the president’s tenure according to his own finance ministry’s report to the International Monetary Fund. The country faces a multimillion-dollar action in a U.S. federal court seeking to enforce a May 2014 decision by the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration, the highest tribunal of a sixteen-member African regional body on commercial law to which Guinea belongs, ruling that the Condé regime illegally ripped up a port management contract with French cargo company, Getma International. Aside from the nearly $50 million judgment against the government, the harm to the country’s reputation with desperately needed foreign investors is incalculable. And all this was before military and security forces started firing on protesters who, in recent weeks, have regularly been gathering peacefully in the capital of Conakry to support opposition demands for a free, fair, and transparent electoral process.

Absent positive achievements of note, it is not surprising that the embattled leader might turn to a crass appeal to ethnic divisions. Although precise numbers are hard to come by absent a reliable census since colonial times, it is generally estimated that the 11.5 million Guineans are roughly divided between the Peul (or Fulani) with some 40 percent of the population, the Malinké with about 30 percent, the Sousou with around 20 percent, and various smaller groups who make up the remaining 10 percent. Since independence in 1958, the country has been governed by three Malinké (Ahmed Sékou Touré, 1958-1984; Sékouba Konaté, 2009-2010; and Alpha Condé, 2010-present), a Sousou (Lansana Conté, 1984-2008), and a Guerze from the Forest Region (Moussa Dadis Camara, 2008-2009). Despite the group’s numerical plurality, no Peul has ever been president, although a good case might be made that opposition leader, former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, who handily won the first round in the 2010 election had the race stolen from him in the run-off despite an electoral pact with the third-place finisher, former Prime Minister Sidya Touré, who threw his support behind him.

This sets the context for the crass tribal appeal Condé made this past weekend when he flew to Kankan, Guinea’s third-largest city and the center of the Malinké lands. There he was warmly welcomed by the regional governor, Nawa Damey, who is best known for having used his position as minister of territorial administration in the interim government during the 2010 election to put in as head of the national electoral commission Louceny Camara between the two rounds of voting and to pressure local government officials to throw their weight behind Condé’s candidacy in the run-off; his prize was an appointment by the new leader as head of this key bastion. Responding to the governor’s welcome, Condé pandered to the massive crowd of supporters with a nearly forty-minute speech, an audio recording of which I received from a friend in Guinea. What was most disconcerting about the discourse, however, was Condé’s opening and the enthusiastic response it received: “Si vous avez accepté le gouverneur Nawa Damey, alors qu’il est forestier, c’est parce que la Guinée appartient aux malinkés, aux forestiers et aux soussous!

“Guinea belongs to the Malinké, to those from the Forest Region, and to the Sousou!” No mention of the Peul, the country’s largest ethnic group. A cynical, possibly even rational, political play, to be sure, but certainly not the statesmanship one would expect of a man who would be president of a multiethnic country—at the very least it is a highly irresponsible gambit in one of Africa’s most volatile and fragile subregions, one just recovering from long years of conflict, recently afflicted by Ebola, and currently on edge with an uptick in Islamist militancy coming out of the Sahel. We have seen the seeds of this type of poisonous tribalism sown before elsewhere in Africa and the harvest is always unfailingly bitter. The international community had better start paying more attention to the dangerous game that Alpha Condé is playing before it is too late.

J. Peter Pham is Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. Follow the Africa Center on Twitter at @ACAfricaCenter.

Link to French version: 

Jeu dangereux: quand le président de la Guinée joue la carte ethnique

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Opposition to Participate in National Assembly: Statement Reflects Conde-RPG 3 Year Campaign to Sabotage Opposition Efforts to Participate in Governance of Guinea

CONDESUPCTCONDE AND HIS DEPENDENT JUDICIARY

The Joint Opposition Statement appears in full further below, translated into English via Google.  You may view the French version by clicking on the following link.

Déclaration Conjointe : les Députés de l’Opposition Républicaine siègeront à l’Assemblée Nationale

After a government-sponsored, fraudulent legislative election on September 28, followed by a failed appeal to the Supreme Court, the opposition decided last week to seat its representatives.  The only exception is the party of Lansana Kouyate, PEDN, which decided not to seat its two candidates.
 
In a joint statement, issued on Thursday, December 12 (see below), the opposition gives reasons for its decision to seat representatives in the Assembly, in spite of threatening not to do so after the election.  Here’s an excerpt.
 
– The consolidation of peace and national cohesion in order to contribute to the establishment of a more stable and conducive to the improvement of living conditions of the populations socio-political environment;
– The possibility for opposition MPs to prevent the inappropriate adoption of laws which undermine democratic gains and fundamental freedoms;
– The ability of the opposition to initiate laws to contain the excesses of power in political, economic and social governance and promote the creation of basic social investments and more generally contribute to the fight against poverty, exclusion and injustice;
– The obligatory involvement of the Opposition, because of the lack of qualified majority of the presidential party in the definition and implementation of the conditions for the creation and functioning of the institutions of the Republic (Constitutional Court, Court of Auditors , Supreme Court, High Court of Justice, the High Authority of Communication, the Superior Council of Magistracy, Ombudsman, National Independent Electoral Commission, the High Council of Local Government, Independent National Institution for Human Rights).
 
Further, the opposition, resurrects the July 3, 2013, political agreement between the government and the opposition which was brokered by a heavy-handed Said Djinnit of the UN.  In this regard:
 
To enable it to achieve its objectives of promoting civil peace and safeguard political stability, the participation of the Opposition in the future parliament should be accompanied by the urgent establishment of a permanent forum for political dialogue with core mission is to ensure and take, where appropriate, all necessary measures for the implementation of all the measures agreed in the framework of the inter-Guinean political agreement of July 3, 2013, among which are:
 
– The recruitment of new technical operator who will be responsible for the revision of the electoral roll to be used for the presidential election of 2015;
– The development of an electoral calendar for the next elections, including local elections in Q1 2014
– Compensation for victims of violence occurred during the last events of the Opposition;
– The identification and prosecution of the perpetrators and sponsors of crimes committed by the security forces during these events;
– The effective implementation of constitutional provisions regarding the neutrality of public service and a fair access of all political parties in the public service media.
 
Many who read the opposition statement might wonder how it could have considered a boycott of the Assembly, given all the work it outlined for itself.  Ah, but nothing is ever quite as it seems in Guinea. The work outlined is noble and promises to address fundamental ideals upon which functioning societies operate. Yet, the opposition knows that in a Guinea ruled by Alpha Conde, through a one party dictatorship in which the opposition is treated like an enemy of the state, this stuff is nothing but a pipe dream.
 
The opposition statement’s greatest value is that it chronicles Conde’s three-year campaign to shut out the opposition by sabotaging its efforts, along with those of the overwhelming majority of Guinean voters, to freely participate in politics.  To accomplish this, Conde and his administration created an opposition-proof political process by doing away with the rule of law. In a lawless state, which Guinea is now, two things prevail traditionally: the people have no legal redress to actions of their government nor protection from unbridled, state violence.  Living in a country under these circumstances is dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
 
So, what’s in it for Conde to bring the country to its knees?  After stealing two elections, Conde has no choice.  When you steal an election, you arrive in office without a mandate to govern which means your control over the course of a country is diminished.  In turn, this leaves you vulnerable to coups and assassination attempts.  Conde was lucky to come to office when he did — during the proceedings of a toothless transition council and before the resurrection of the National Assembly.  This allowed Conde to rule the country by decree for three years.  Just as with the National Transition Council, Conde will pass along issues to the National Assembly for a rubber stamp, but the decrees will continue to flow.
 
The opposition knows its ability to operate within the Assembly will be seriously hampered by Conde and his RPG operatives.  Should the opposition have participated in the legislative elections?  Should it seat its representatives in the Assembly?  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  In the end, the opposition must have figured they were obligated to witness the destruction of their country, from a front row seat. 
JOINT STATEMENT:  The Deputies of the Republican Opposition to Sit in the National Assembly
Conakry, le 12 décembre 2013.
 
L’Opposition Républicaine.
 
The member parties of the Republican opposition, taking into account the views expressed by their respective bases and structures, taking into account the arguments of civil society and wishes expressed by the international community, decide to serve their members elected to the Assembly national legislative elections of 28 September 2013.
 
This decision is based on the following main reasons:
 
– The consolidation of peace and national cohesion in order to contribute to the establishment of a more stable and conducive to the improvement of living conditions of the populations socio-political environment;
 
– The possibility for the opposition to prevent the inappropriate adoption of laws which undermine democratic gains and fundamental freedoms;
 
– The ability of the opposition to initiate laws to contain the excesses of power in political, economic and social governance and promote the creation of basic social investments and more generally contribute to the fight against poverty , exclusion and injustice;
 
– The obligatory involvement of the opposition, due to the absence of a qualified majority of the presidential party in the definition and implementation of the conditions for the establishment and functioning of the institutions of the Republic (Constitutional Court, Court of accounts, Supreme Court, High Court, High Authority for Communication, Higher Judicial Council, Ombudsman, Independent National Electoral Commission, the High Council of local authorities, independent national human rights institution).
 
To enable it to achieve its objectives of promoting civil peace and maintaining political stability, the participation of the opposition in future Parliament must be accompanied by the urgent establishment of a permanent forum for political dialogue with core mission is to ensure and take, where appropriate, all necessary measures for the implementation of all the measures agreed in the framework of the inter-Guinean political agreement of July 3, 2013, among which are:
 
– The recruitment of new technical operator who will be responsible for the revision of the electoral roll to be used for the presidential election of 2015;
 
– The development of an electoral calendar for the next elections, including local elections in the first quarter of 2014;
 
– Compensation for victims of violence occurred during recent opposition protests;
 
– The identification and prosecution of the perpetrators and sponsors of crimes committed by the security forces during these events;
 
– Effective implementation of the constitutional provisions on the neutrality of the public service and equitable access for all political parties to the media public service
 
The Republican opposition noted that the Party of Hope for National Development (SARP), while reaffirming its membership of the opposition, has decided not to sit in the National Assembly.
 
The opposition welcomes its activists and supporters for their continued availability and thanked the international community for their invaluable commitment towards the completion of the political transition begun in Guinea since December 2008.
 
The opposition seized the opportunity to pay a final tribute to all victims of violence perpetrated during his peaceful protests and demands of current political authorities put an end to impunity final systematically accompanies these crimes and encourages their recurrence .
 
Aboubacar Sylla, spokesman

Like a Fox in a Chicken Coop: US Amb. Laskaris Wants to Verify Opposition Claims of Irregularities and Fraud in 9-28 Legislative Elections to See “If It Affects the Election”

Africaguinee is reporting that US Ambassador Laskaris is offering  to “verify irregularities and fraud claims” made by the opposition concerning the September 28 Guinean legislative election and determine “if claims affect the election.”

 
Amb. Laskaris has not been in Conakry long, but he made his mark quickly as he metamorphosed  from an American “every man” to a duplicitous, slippery operator. Laskaris decided to take a hard line on opposition demonstrations by playing dumb about the origin of violence which occurred during those demonstrations.  He knows well that the violence originates from two, collaborative forces: state security and RPG militias-provocateurs (sometimes supplemented with Donzos and foreign mercenaries). The RPG militias infiltrate the protests and attack opposition supporters, who have every right to defend themselves.  When they respond to the RPG aggression, state security rushes in to mete out violence against the opposition, including summary executions in the streets.  
 
It wasn’t long before Laskaris, in public presentations, interviews, statements, and probably at dinner parties, built his case that the opposition and its stone-throwing tactics are the real culprits in Guinea.  He repeated it like a mantra. He knows that the RPG and state security are not there to operate within the law, and he uses their violence as the basis to criminalize the opposition.  But, the real reason that Laskaris and other diplomats want the opposition off the streets is because the massive numbers reveal the original dirty sin.  Alpha Conde stole the 2010 presidential election, with the international community’s assistance, which brought him to office, but without a mandate to govern.  In order to control the majority of the population who did not vote for him and to shield him from being removed from office, he built up his existing arsenal of repression with “irregular forces,” the better to hide a direct link to the government.  And, yes, once you steal one election you must steal all the others.  This is how Conde and the international community have held onto the myth that he is Guinea’s “first democratically-elected” president.  Every time the opposition hits the streets, the massive numbers pulverize the myth like a wrecking ball.  There is no doubt that the opposition did very well in the recent elections and that will become evident, that is, until the CENI works its diabolical magic.  Laskaris and many members of the international community shamelessly propped up Alpha Conde over the last three years by criminalizing the opposition and ignoring the state-sponsored violence.
 
So, look at Laskaris’ next moves as if you were playing poker with him. You know from past games, he comes with several aces up his sleeve and a true “poker face” to cover his strategy.  The most prudent thing to do would be to shut the game down and devote every effort to preventing Laskaris from getting within 500 feet of a Guinean ballot.

Guinea Dialog Update 6-5: No Great Strides and No Slugfests

djinnitInternational Facilitator for Guinea Dialog
On Monday, June 3, the first day of the dialog between the opposition and the government, each side had separate pre-meetings with international facilitator, Said Djinnit.   At that meeting, the opposition presented Djinnit with a proposed agenda for the first formal meeting to take place the next day.  On several previous occasions over the last few years, the opposition has  complained that the government never provides agendas for meetings, making it impossible to move ahead.
 
The agenda presented to Djinnit on Monday, June 3 is as follows:  
 
1.  The Waymark-Sabari contract issues
 
2.  The inner workings of the electoral commission, THE CENI
 
2.  Voting for Guineans living abroad
 
3.   The schedule for elections
 
The opposition also suggested that the government could show good faith if it released opposition supporters being held in jail without cause.
 
 
Yesterday, Tuesday, June 4, was supposed to be the first full day of dialog, but the opposition asked for a postponement.  
 
Finally, the first dialog meeting finally took place today, June 5.  It last nearly nine hours and Said Djinnit met with reporters afterward.  Below is aminata.com report.
 
Note, in the following article, it states that today’s meeting  was attended by representatives of the “international community.”  Ambassadors from France and the U. S. were in attendance.
 
Stay tuned . . .
 
 
Posted on June 5, 2013

Just after the meeting of politicians, “The first session of the dialogue was opened this morning at 10 am with the participation of delegations of the presidential party and the opposition and the presence of college facilitators and representatives of technical partners and financial representatives of the international community were also present.”

Parties adopted the agenda in four points:

1.  Questions related to the technical operator (Waymakr-Sabari) and voter registration

2;  Vote Guineans abroad

3.  Operation of the CENI

4.  Election Timeline

It was followed by frank exchanges between the parties on the issues of the agenda. I want to emphasize that the discussions took place in a friendly atmosphere, fraternal, in a constructive spirit in order to find the necessary compromises. The parties have agreed to maintain a climate conducive to further dialogue relaxation and healing. So I appeal to all that nothing is said, done which might compromise this mindset. the debate will resume tomorrow at 15 hours and in the meantime informal consultations will be conducted. “

Interview by Oumar M’Böh for Amianta.com