Guinea: History repeating?

A week after the passing of President Lansana Conté and the military coup led by Captain Moussa Camara that followed, Guinea's military rulers have named a banker named Kabine Komara as their prime minister. According to observers, the situation remains calm after the coup and Guineans in general appear to be hopeful of their new leader. However, for many bloggers, the recent developments have a clear déjà vu quality.

Zot in Guinea, a Peace Corps volunteer, wrote about the feeling of optimism towards the new leader:

Guineans are generally pretty happy with the whole thing. The new president isn’t from any of the three major ethnic groups, which has eased ethnic tensions, and, perhaps most importantly for the general public, the power has been much more consistent since he took over. Most Guineans want change, and figure any kind of change is good.

And there is reason to hope that there will be good change.

For Seckasysteme [Fr], the reaction of the Guinean people to the coup is due to amnesia:

Pris comme dans une amnésie collective, le peuple Guinéen si longtemps opprimé pleure Lansana Konté et fait acte d'allégeance au chef de la Junte militaire autopropulsé Président de la république de Guinée.

[…] C'est à croire que le peuple Guinéen est fataliste et qu'il s'accommode très bien de son asservissement et de la misère dans laquelle l'a si longtemps maintenu ses chefs d'état successifs.

Taken by a sort of collective amnesia, the Guinean people that has been oppressed for so long is now crying for Lansana Konté and is pledging allegiance to the chief of a military junta self-proclaimed as a President of the Republic of Guinea.

[…] It's as if the Guinean people was fatalistic and accomodating very well to its own enslavement and misery, in which it has been kept for so long by successive heads of state.

Widely condemned by the international community as unconstitutional, Guinea’s military junta is promising democratic elections at the end of 2010, which seems too far away for most commentators. But Zot in Guinea argues that it's not realistic to expect elections too soon:

… you cannot possibly know how impossible fair elections would be in a country like Guinea. There is no registration of voters to speak of. There is no identification system. If they set up polls, nothing would prevent the wealthier candidate from paying people to vote repeatedly. The infrastructure to handle and election is just nonexistent in this country. And it can take a long time to put together. […] I’m not saying I think the coup is necessarily a good thing, especially since I don’t know much about the president himself, and it is impossible to know whether the military will actually organize elections. But Guinea has been spiralling downward for some time under not just bad leadership, but a lack of leadership, and hopefully things will be different now.

Naija Pikin, a blogger from Nigeria, is sceptical about the democratic prospects offered by the new military junta:

Lets not be deceived. Guineans are happy with the junta because they were frustrated with Lansana Conte's government which for 24 years suffocated them down with poverty and oppression. They yearned for fresh air. In stepped Camara. Lansana came into power in 1984 via a military coup.

Camara is only threading a farmiliar path. Seize power, the whole world will condemn you. You promise to conduct elections in the soonest possible time. The world relaxes its pressure. Two years time you conduct a ‘democratic’ election with you as the main or only candidate. You win a landslide.We know this song too well.

For Edward B. Rackley, an American scholar blogging about African affairs at Accross the divide, the coup in Guinea follows a familiar pattern:

With last week's passing of Guinea's senile dictator, Lansana Conté, and the military coup that followed, the country is marking no deviation from a well-rehearsed choreography, enacted repeatedly since independence from the French in 1958. The dance moves are economical, simple for new generations of political elites to learn.

A leader emerges, accedes power bolstered by populist rhetoric, buys off the military, installs single-party rule. Cronyism flourishes, rule of law evaporates, the military shores up the trappings of statehood. Decades pass; the population languishes. Leader then dies, military resumes control until a new leader-puppet is found. For nine million Guineans, the spectacle and squalor continue.

For Seckasysteme [Fr], once again history is repeating:

C'est à croire que l'histoire se répète pour le pauvre peuple Guinéen.

Des siècles d'esclavage et de colonisation, 27 longues années de Touréisme et 24 autres longues années de Kontéisme semblent ne pas suffire pour sortir le peuple Guinéen de l'obscurantisme, de la misère et de l'asservissement, pour le faire entrer dans la démocratie et la modernité.

Vraiment dommage que le débile Général n'ait pas emporté avec lui, sa dictature.

It's as if history was repeating for the poor Guinean people.

Centuries of slavery and colonisation, 27 long years of Touré and 24 long years of Conté don't seem to be enough to take Guinean people out of obscurantism, out of misery and enslavement, and to make it enter democracy and modernity.

It's really a shame that the General didn't take the dictatorship with him.

Africa News reports about the African Union's response:

The African Union (AU) has condemned the return of coups d’état to the continent, describing the phenomenon as “a very serious setback in the ongoing democratization process in Africa.

Abantu is a blogger that, like the AU, condemns the coup:

What is really wrong with us Africans? Cant we ever learn from past mistakes and take it upon ourselves to walk the democratic path on our own, or we are so used do disorder and dysfunction as the order of the day, the coups don't mean anything to us?

[…] The world should condemn this act by the Guinean military in the strongest terms possible and ensure that that bauxite producing state should return to a civilian democratic process because the military has no basis of interfering the management of political state affairs.

Neba Fuh of Voice of the Oppressed, a blogger from Cameroon, recently wrote about Guinea in a post titled “Military Coups In African Dictatorships: Liberation or Retrogression?“:

A country blessed with natural resources and its people caged by a dictator for over 24 years. Drowning in poverty for decades, the people are now holding tight to a ‘snake’ hoping that it can take them afloat.- A junior officer of the Military just seized power there after the death of the country's long time dictator- a move apparently welcomed by the populace.

Cameroun, Gabon, Congo, Egypt, Libya and many other African countries will one day have their ‘liberators’. They may come from barracks, who knows???

It will be called a ‘coup'; but the question all of us should ponder on is: In a country where all democratic methods to change a seasoned dictator have been barred or made impossible, is a military coup an act of patriotism or subversion?

For Sofa Jawaro of The sword of truth, a blogger from Gambia, it is important to give credit to the military junta for the sake of stability in a very volatile region:

…taking into consideration the timing of the coup, Conteh’s 24 year autocratic misrule, and endorsements by both a prominent regional player, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and constituents across the Guinean political landscape, it is imperative to give the situation the benefit of the doubt. That may be possible only by supporting the young military leaders to ensure that Guinea do away with its authoritarian past by reforming the fabrics of Guinean communities.

In a region that is already ravaged by bloody civil wars in Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Ivory Coast, low level insurgencies in the southern Senegalese region of Cassamance and northern Mali, isolating the military junta and suspension of aid could have an adverse impact on the sub-region. Guinea continues to be home to thousands of refugees from neighboring Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau


  • DKS

    ZOT should wonder if PC has a legal agreement/right to be in Guinea. The previous government is gone, constitution suspended and a military ruler has not requested the US aid. Is there an MoU or agreement with the military government?

    Is Guinea going to be consolidated into ECOWAS?

  • Really an excellent piece. Hadn’t realized the full diversity of opinion on the topic. Thanks so much for the broad view, Elia.

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