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


On the Eve of Supreme Court Announcement of Election Results, Opposition Asks Supporters to Be at the Ready in Case Street Protests are Called


[The French version can be found at guineenews.org.  Below is the article translated into English by Google, with editing by Guinea Oye.]

Shortly after his return from Dakar, the leader of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) Diallo, went to Ratoma, a suburb of Conakry, on Thursday to thank its base. Taking advantage of this meeting, he also asked his supporters to stand ready in case the opposition would give instructions for street protests after the publication of the final results of the legislative by the Supreme Court of Guinea.

In the presence of allies, includingMouctar Diallo of the New Democratic Forces (NFD) and new members, including the Ratoma Elhadj Aliou Mamadou Bah, the youth leader has made it clear that Friday will be a decisive day. In his leader, he was asked to keep his speech. Young, he told them to remain “united, welded”.

In his speech, Diallo praised his supporters for both the mobilization and participation in the last elections and that, despite all the difficulties encountered. “The victory of Ratoma is not a surprise though Mr. Alpha Condé has tried everything.”

Speaking of publication of the final results of the legislative, Diallo electrifies the crowd. “I see, everyone here would like to know what would be done tomorrow,” he started the cheers.

Moreover, Diallo has asked his supporters to be ready. “I ask you to stay tuned for the party leadership, trust us. Opposition will have a meeting at noon Saturday UFDG after the announcement of final results, we will discuss the results and make a decision. Until then, stay ready and mobilized. “

Later, the leader of the UFDG warned his supporters that his party does not fight for the presidency of the National Assembly, but the President of the Republic in 2015, he insisted.

Young Conakry Citizens, Illegally Detained, Have Been Freed from Their Kankan Military Prison Camp and Are Back Home with Families (2010 VIDEOS)

Happening more quickly than many people thought, the wonderful news is that the young men, arbitrarily arrested in Conakry and incarcerated at a military camp near the end of September, are now free.  Two young men remain at the camp and hopefully we will learn more about their fate soon. 

Kudos to the attorney for the youth, Alseny Aissata Diallo, who moved quickly and spoke passionately on their behalf.  It appears that the Ministry of Human Rights played a large role in the release of these youth, as well as the US embassy in Conakry.

Detailed article, in French and English, further below, after the videos.

Stay tuned . . . 






(Translation to English via Google and editing by Guinea Oye)

Thirty youth according to the lawyer and half that according to other sources, arrested in late September 2013 in pre-election violence in Conakry and transferred to Kankan, 660 km away, were finally released thanks to the involvement of the Ministry of Human Rights and U.S. diplomatic representation. Your online daily returns to the circumstances of their arrest and release.

When asked, Alsény Aissata Diallo, the victims’ lawyer, confirmed the facts. “My clients have actually returned to their respective families. Of the 30, only two are held today. I admit that their release was not easy. It took a knock at the door of the Ministry of Human Rights and the U.S. embassy. It is only after these steps that strict instructions were given to free them. “ 
This information was confirmed by another well-informed source, who reported that when the President of the Republic would have been informed of this situation, the tenant of Sékoutouréya Palace would have ordered the immediate liberation and return of the young people. 

Negotiations and release

And when you ask Master Diallo’s about the pattern of the arrests, the lawyer speaks of both “arbitrary and illegal.” “I see no reason for this in any case legally. If any crime is to my clients was criticized, I think we are in a state of law. The police are there, the police also. It was enough to follow the procedure. I wonder why free citizens have been wrongfully arrested and shipped the next day and by night to a military camp 600 kilometers. “

Asked a near victim support after the arrest in Conakry, the youths were nightly embedded in Kankan, in a military camp. “During their journey, they were asked to lie on their back in the trucks transporting them as they passed through each city so as not to be identified. They slapped and knocked them around.”

Once alerted, regulars of the Ministry of Human Rights reported that their boss referred his employees to family members who could provide more information. During the discussion, the Minister assured his interlocutors of his will and determination to make every effort to return the youth in question and ensure that justice is done.

Similarly, the Minister of Human Rights has also promised to personally ensure that all families find their children. “I do not know what these young people have done or not. What is clear, that in their treatment, our laws have not been met. It’s a shame, since they assume is really something that only the judge can and must establish is a risk to society that they are not punished. But this risk is the public authority that is taken by the company, acting outside the legal principles, “a frame-up.”

Shortly after this meeting, the young people were actually released and embarked from Kankan for PM3 Matam.   An interview with a witness who participated in their arrival confirms. “They are mechanics, a doctor, students …. It was neither selective nor specific. What struck me the most, they were so hungry, they could not eat the offered e Minister of Human Rights menu. They were not tortured, certainly, but some had not showered for a week. They really stank. “

In Matam,, the Minister of Human Rights reportedly told police that when questioning those accused of committing a misdemeanor or a felony, that a transfer to another location, outside any judicial control is not in accordance with law or the rights of man. “You are there to ensure the safety of Guinea and Guineans, but in compliance with the laws and rights including respect for human dignity. Otherwise, you weaken,social justice and peace. “

Still Matam, the minister said the youth and their families to the police that he is against any form of impunity, which is young or old, the opposition or the side of power, regardless of its origin or political opinion, adding that any punishment not included within the strict framework of the law, without other considerations, would be a threat to democracy, social peace and human rights. “Such a process is in place to consolidate and legitimize public power weakens and undermines the social fabric and the democratic ideal,” he was informed.

And finally, the minister said that such a practice contrary to the principles of the rule of law and human rights, must be strictly avoided in the interest of the state itself and thus of society, and the perpetrators must be held accountable in court. “It is essential to give meaning and body to the idea of state law, which means that nobody is above the law, or those who are governed or those who govern, or the young, or those who act on behalf of the State, that principle does not weaken the state, on the contrary it strengthens the kidney and its legitimate authority. “

Until we know more, many Guineans are now worried. “In the past, when the police making arrests, the suspects carted it to the police. This time, families have found  their youth close to 700 kilometers in a military camp. This is sobering. Is this a method being tested? I do not know but I’m afraid that to happen again,” growls a family member.

Reaction NGOs

Among the structures that express concern is the Research Institute on Democracy and Rule of Law (IRDED), a non-governmental human rights organization in Guinea. The group in a statement to authorities, sought the involvement of Friends of Guinea countries, given the situation of the “arrest” of citizens without cause.

Continuing, IRDED said the Guinean government must immediately bring to justice all those involved in the kidnapping of citizens in a military camp. “This time the perpetrators are known and identified. Justice must be at the risk of discredit to the citizens. “

Moreover, IRDED promises not simply to denounce these kinds of practices, but also to help prevent their recurrence by ensuring that all citizens are safe at home, at work and on the street ” Souleymane Balde told me.

In the same vein, the United Nations human rights is out of the woods to castigate this series of arrests of youth and moved 700 kilometers from Conakry.

Other NGOs defending human rights went beyond denunciations meeting, for example, the ministry. “The State has a duty to protect the public safety and tranquility, take a firm stand against all violence on the streets and in public spaces. But in a fair and legal manner. As minister of human rights, I am morally, politically and intellectually against all forms of alternative sanctions outside the legal framework, “said the minister.

“The fact that the treatment of these young people is considered non-compliant with the law, the fact they are back in Conakry and released is a victory. This victory is not you, or anyone, but the law. It is the victory of the law, “he concluded.