Vol. 25 No. 4 Feb 15, 1984
With the forthcoming OAU summit uppermost in his mind, President Ahmed Sekou Toure is concerned that the Western Sahara conflict (AC VOL 24 No 24) may scutter the Conakry conference, as it did the Libyan one in 1982. Recently he has worked hard to project himself as a wise statesman. Now age 62, he wants to crown his career by becoming OAU president.
To this end he may well make embarassing compromises. For example, after years of support for King Hassan's cause Toure has changed his stance. We understand the Polisario backers warned him they would boycott the Conakry session. Moreover Toure must soon make crucial economic decisions. In 1983 negotiations collapsed with the IMF over a stand-by credit and structural adjustment-loan. This happened because Guinea refused to devalue its currency, the syli (elephant) massively. Now, we understand, IMF officials are asking for a minimum devaluation of 100% plus pruned state sector and an end to subsidized government services and staple foods. Toure has rejected this Draconian programme saying that he did not turn his back on the franc-zone 25 years ago to knuckle under the IMF today. A devaluation of about 15% has been counter-prepared by Guinean monetary authorities. But the deadlock remains.
This logjam has discouraged foreign investors and will delay plans to bring Guinea back into Western trade. It could also retard the meeting intended by the Paris Club to reschedule Guinea's foreign debts, (about $1.5bn). As Guinea has a sizeable mining potential, this sum does not seems alarmingly high to Western financiers. The hitch is that it is concentrated in short-term debts which Guinea is decreasingly able to honour. Arrears in debt-repayment now stand close to $200m.
The Guinean experience has been an economic fiasco. Since the 1977 "mammies march" on the presidential palace, trade has been liberalized so that most goods can be found in Conakry's central market. Industry barely limps along. But the real black spot is agriculture. An exporter before independence, the country is forced to spend hard currency to import cereals and other foods.
In recent years Toure has paid business visits to Western capitals, but he left the United States with few positive results. A US agro-industrial team has reported that Guinea offers few investments opportunities for American corporations. The French sell equipment and finance part of the infrastructure, but make investments in Guinea's priority sectors.
Other Western powers act similarly. West Germany is refitting Conakry's archaic port. The Soviet Union supports bauxite mining and fishing for hard cash. Guinea is the top petro-dollar recipient in sub-Saharan Africa from the oil-rich Arab states, thanks to the introduction of Islam as the quasi-official state religion. Guinea relies on this aid for basic infrastructure needs.
The twelfth congress of the ruling Parti Democratique de Guinee (PDG) at
the end of 1983 turned out to be a celebration of Toure's growing personality cult. He is known as the « Guide of the Revolution » or, as the official party weekly, Horoya, described him, « the eternal tree of Africa. » Toure's record was loudly acclaimed together with the party's
activities since 1978 when Guinea officially became a "party-state".
The sitting members of the last political bureau were reelected and five personalities joined them.
The congress proved to be a convenient dry run for the imminent OAU summit. Conakry, still very much as it was in colonial days, has been cleaned , the potholes in the streets filled in and large sums invested in the necessary arrangements for the reception of 50 heads of state. The conference hall was built by North Koreans and East Germans, while the Moroccans ran up 50 luxury villas financed by Saudi Arabia. The French built and managed the Grand Hotel de l'Independance for foreign guests. The dilapidated Gbessia airport is getting a facelift and vagrants are being chased from the capital.
Party activists will organise a 'spontaneous' demonstration of support for
the President during the summit.
Rarely in Africa has a family coterie monopolised power as much as in Guinea. Toure's clan are naturally all from his Malinke tribe in the centre of the country. The Toure family "Who's Who" seems to go as follows:
Tension has been growing within the family in recent months. There seems to be three overlapping clans, each jostling for a place in the succession race.
Ismael Toure's clan, reputedly pro-American, was weakened by the dismissal of Abraham Kabassan Keita. He can still count on the support of
Andree Toure's clan is small but powerful. It includes
The third clan is built around Siaka Toure and adheres to the hard line principles of the Guinean revolution. Sekou Cherif backs Siaka as do other senior bureaucrats. Many favour closer ties with the Soviet Union and Cuba.
The President has played skillfully on ethnic differences to consolidate his power. While centring the regime on his own Malinke tribe, he has also, cleverly, spread the spoils widely throughout the country.
The Soussou: occupy the coastal area of lower Guinea and have supported Toure since pre-independence days. This has not stopped the president from striking out against the Sossou elite from the Coyah and Forecariah areas, including
Soussou politicians hold essential posts:
The Sossou, along with the Malinke, virtually control the security forces.
The Peuhl: traditionally the President's bête noire, they opposed him even in pre-independence days supporting a pro-French party known as Bloc Africain de Guinee (BAG). It was against the Peuhl elite that repression has been most severe one victim was former OAU Secretary-General Diallo Telli. Peuhl intellectuals tend to hold technocratic posts.
The Forest tribes: these are located in Upper Guinea along the Liberian and Ivorian frontiers. They have largely resisted Islam being mostly Christian or animists. Most of these tribes are linked ethnically to the Malinke. This accounts for the president's wide local support. Since the region is politically marginal, the Guinean leader has kept one of its representatives, Dr Lansana Beavogui, as prime minister for over a decade.
The opposition mainly resident in France, remain fairly impotent. The principal groups are l'Organisation pour la Liberation de la Guinee (OLG) led by Professor Ibrahim Kake, which publishes a journal, l'Eclair; and the Rassemblement Guineen à l'Etranger (RGE), headed by Siradiou Diallo. Most observers reckon that Toure's greatest danger comes from internal friction between different family clans over the badly needed economic reforms. Important decisions on this score are expected after the OAU summit together with a thorough cabinet reshuffle.