DC Summit. Part IV. Trickle-down economics

This content of this blog breaks down into four parts:

  1. Trickle-down economics and the middle class
  2. The “Open Markets” Panel
  3. African Telecommunications
  4. Africa and the Internet

Agreements and disagreements emerged between the Summit’s host (President Obama) and guests (African participants) about trickle-down economics and the middle class.

1. Trickle-down economics

This is a critical point of disagreement. On one hand, on the “Open Markets” panel James Mwangi, president of Equity Bank declared:

« … Financial access [to digital communications services] for the low-income is essential to integrate them in economic transformation. If they are excluded, the economic gains don’t trickle down to that segment of the population. »

James Mwangi, Equity Bank Group
James Mwangi, Equity Bank Group, Nairobi

Mr. Mwangi has certainly good intentions. However, modern communications services are vital to all segments of society, from the wealthiest to the poorest. Next, he contends that if the poor have access, then “the economic gains” made by the rich, will drip down to them. This is a summary and mechanical transplantation trickle-down economics or theory to African development. But it sees only advantages and fails to acknowledge the negative aspects —or even dire consequences— of trickle-down economics.

Wikipedia’s defines trickle-down economics as a United States politics idea “that tax breaks or other economic benefits provided to businesses and upper income levels will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole.

We learn that it was humorist Will Rogers coined the expression during the Great Depression (1930 to mid-1940) when he declared:

“Money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.”

In reality, though, “millions lived in poverty” and President Franklin Roosevelt had to fight “for Social Security, and insurance for the unemployed, and a minimum wage.” His policies attenuated the impact of the Depression that ruined thousands.

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and the eponym movie featuring Henry Fonda, have captured the hardship that befell rural families entrapped in the Dust Bowl.

The Grapes of Wrath 1940

In the 1980s, conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey applied the Reaganomics label to “the economic policies promoted by U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s and still widely practiced. These policies are commonly associated with supply-side economics, referred to as trickle-down economics by political opponents and free market economics by political advocates.”

In the 21st century, the Occupy movement is an international protest movement against social and economic inequality, its primary goal being to make the economic and political relations in all societies less vertically hierarchical and more flatly distributed.

The movement staged marches around the USA. It condemned the control of the world economy by “large corporations and the global financial system … in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority, undermines democracy, and is unstable.”

Last but most importantly, in a major speech titled Economic Mobility

President Barack Obama observes that:

« But starting in the late ‘70s, [the] social compact began to unravel. … As a trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest, while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither. … When the music stopped, and the crisis hit, millions of families were stripped of whatever cushion they had left. »

Even more compelling arguments and irrefutable facts are laid out in  French economist Thomas Picketty’s important book: Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2014). He argues convincingly, in my opinion, that trickle-down economics, the middle class fate, etc. all have to do with the issue of distribution of wealth in society. On page 70 he writes:

« The history of the distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms. In particular, the reduction of inequality that took place in most developed countries between 1910 and 1950 was above all a consequence of war and of policies adopted to cope with the shocks of war. Similarly, the resurgence of inequality after 1980 is due largely to the political shifts of the past several decades, especially in regard to taxation and finance. »

On page 111 he insists:

« The history of income and wealth is always deeply political, chaotic, and unpredictable. How this history plays out depends on how societies view inequalities and what kinds of policies and institutions they adopt to measure and transform them.  »

Read Gillian Tett’s review of the book in his article “Anxiety In The Age Of Inequality”

The above references clearly suggest that the stewards of Africa’s economy, such Equity Bank’s president, should apply critical thinking to their development policies and projects. And the bottom line, here, is that trickle-down economics has not benefited America.

It is more disastrous for Africa. And it is bound to worsen the continent’s domestic issues and international standing.

Watch the Open Markets panel video

Read the articles “Africa On The Rise” and “Africa Emerges—but from what and into what?

2. The Middle Class

In the closing session of the US-Africa Summit, August 6, President Obama declared that: “Africa has one of this fastest growing middle class in the world.”

First, throughout his first term in office, Mr. Obama’s friendliest critics and political allies —from the Left and the Center of the political spectrum— lamented his consistent emphasis on the middle class. They were alarmed by what they described as the President’s omission —or neglect— of the poor. Since last year though, they admit that the White House has brought the plight of America’s downtrodden more into focus.

Read Julianne Malvaux’ article: “Obama. Fighting Poverty On Two Fronts

In the same “Economic Mobility” speech Obama argues that:

« The decades-long shifts in the economy have hurt all groups: poor and middle class; inner city and rural folks; men and women; and Americans of all races. And as a consequence, some of the social patterns that contribute to declining mobility that were once attributed to the urban poor — that’s a particular problem for the inner city: single-parent households or drug abuse — it turns out now we’re seeing that pop up everywhere. »

And he underscores that:

« The opportunity gap in America is now as much about class as it is about race, and that gap is growing. So if we’re going to take on growing inequality and try to improve upward mobility for all people, we’ve got to move beyond the false notion that this is an issue exclusively of minority concern. And we have to reject a politics that suggests any effort to address it in a meaningful way somehow pits the interests of a deserving middle class against those of an undeserving poor in search of handouts. »

The problem, however, is that the sociological strata typical of industrial countries do not exist in Africa. There —and despite claims to the contrary—, the middle class is so weak as to be non-existent. More than half a century after the Independence series of the 1960s,  Africa remains socioeconomically flatter than the other continents. Also, it is the least manufacturing and consumer region of the world. However, despite a widening gap between rich and poor, Africa is still heavily dependent on foreign hegemony: from old (i.e. Europe and America that, first enslaved it, and then colonized it) to new one, e.g. China. The latter can be no more benevolent and less selfish than the former. Having been unable or unwilling to assert a leadership conducive to consensus around common goals, the African middle class is more talk than reality.

As I reported in Part II (Democracy and Literacy) of this blog series, Frantz Fanon had foreseen the predicaments of the middle class aka petite bourgeoisie in Africa. Formulated half a century ago, his analysis still applies and rings truer than ever before.

Read the chapter “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness” in The Wretched Of The Earth.

Since becoming “independent” each African country has locked itself in a two-tiered layering in which the Westernized “elite” (i.e. the petite bourgeoisie decried by Fanon) holds the levers of political and economic power. It acts as the middle class. But, so far, its warped statesmanship has led the continent to a dead-end. An artificial appendage to an out-centered and extractive economy, it has neither roots—especially cultural—, nor roof.

And today, the issues of African development boil down to a persistent dilemma or a dual option:

  • Option 1. Adopt a trickle-down economics strategy that favors the “middle class” or petite bourgeoisie and that has not succeeded in improving the living conditions of the populations?
  • Option 2. Focus on the needs of the majority of the populations and be their humble servants, not their hurtful masters.

Top-down? Or Bottom-up?

That’s the question facing Africa.

To be continued. Next The “Open Markets” Panel

Tierno S. Bah

Opposition et Majorité. Bonnet Noir, Noir Bonnet

Cellou Dalen Diallo et président Alpha Condé à Conakry
Cellou Dalen Diallo et président Alpha Condé. Conakry, novembre 2014

Dans la rubrique “Détails”, également désignée “rubrique des chiens écrasés” en journalisme, une anecdote circule sur une altercation entre la garde présidentielle d’Alpha Condé  et le service de protection rapprochée de Cellou Dalen Diallo, leader de l’UFDG. Ni les organisateurs, ni les membres des deux corps, n’ont pu parer, préparer et s’épargner la (non)-application d’une simple règle d’étiquette et de protocole.

Le tiraillement a eu lieu ce Samedi 20 décembre, lors du Symposium consacré à la mémoire de Lansana Conté, le deuxième dictateur et destructeur de la Guinée.

Pour mémoire notons que:

  • L’ONG Human Rights Watch résume le règne infernal du Général Conté en une formule, frappante et appropriée : “Enracinement de l’impunité et Edification d’un Etat criminel
  • Conté figure sur la liste des cinq dictateurs trafiquants de drogue
  • Le film documentaire de Gilles Nivet “Cona’Cris. La révolution orpheline” implique personnellement Lansana Conté dans la corruption crapuleuse, la paupérisation galopante et le massacre impuni de manifestants pacifiques en 2006, 2007
  • Conté prépara le coup d’Etat contre son régime ! Pour lui, les militaires étant supérieurs aux civils, un officier devait le remplacer à sa mort. L’état-major inter-armes s’étant opposé à la désignation du Capitaine Ousmane Conté comme successeur de son père, Lansana mit en place l’option Moussa Dadis Camara. Avec Lieutenant Pivi “Coplan” Togba, celui-ci avait été actif dans les répressions de 2006 et 2007. Henriette Conté exécuta donc les instructions reçues et informa prioritairement Capitaine Moussa Dadis Camara du décès de son mari. Le futur chef du CNDD put ainsi prendre les devants et s’emparer des commandes de l’Etat. Entre autres mesures, il ordonna au président de la Cour suprême, Lamine Sidimé, de se cacher. Aboubacar Somparé, président de l’Assemblée nationale rechercha ce dernier en vain. Il voulait faire constater la vacance du pouvoir et organiser la cérémonie de prestation du serment pour assurer l’intérim de la présidence. Il se considérait en effet comme le dauphin légal et le successeur désigné par la Constitution. En réalité, le mandat du parlement avait expiré deux ans auparavant. Somparé dirigeait donc une institution juridiquement caduque, périmée. …
  • La classe politique honore la mémoire du perpétrateur et ignore, injustement, les victimes, qui furent criblées de balles par les tueurs de Conté. Seulement en  Guinée peut-on, sans scrupule, afficher tant de cruauté et d’indifférence pour le sacrifice des citoyens morts pour l’avènement de la démocratie.
  • La justice américaine a saisi les biens, mal acquis et illicites, de  Mamadie Touré, la 4e femme de Lansana Conté. Sa liberté de mouvement est contrôlée en que témoin du FBI. Elle doit continuer de témoigner dans l’enquête  et les procès dirigés par Preet Bharara, procureur de la république pour le District du Sud, à New York, dans le scandale de corruption pour l’octroi de licenses d’exploitation du gisement de fer du Simandou.

Lire Frenchman Cilins Gets Two Years

Les lambeaux du parti de Conté —et de Somparé Aboubacar—, le PUP, récolta 0.6 % au premier tour de l’élection présidentielle en 2010. Le chiffre souligne  l’effondrement de la machine à propagande qui empoisonna davantage le climat et la culture politiques en Guinée, de 1991 à 2008.

Aujourd’hui, la mascarade continue, au nom de Lansana Conté et autour de son legs catastrophique. A cet égard, il est particulièrement révélateur que l’opposition et la majorité se retrouvent dans le même camp.

Mais pour un début de changement réel, il faudra nécessairement que la classe politique —toutes obédiences confondues — se démarque des tyrans et de modèles de gouvernance qui ont ruiné la Guinée.

Sinon, comme l’avait dit Elhadj Abdoulaye Porédaka Diallo en 1984, l’investiture d’un président (actuel et futur) revient à enfiler la même sale tunique, maculée de sang et retournée, selon le cas, à l’envers ou à l’endroit.

La Guinée, l’Afrique et l’opinion internationale n’en sont —et ne seront— pas dupes. C’est, comme dit le proverbe, bonnet noir et noir bonnet.

Ce jeu cynique est peut-être avantageux pour des partis à la recherche d’électeurs. Mais il indique que la Guinée est prisonnière de la banalisation du crime et de la normalisation  de l’impunité (passée et présente). Consacré à un dirigeant ignare et brutal, égoiste et létal, le symposium marque un pas en arrière de plus pour le pays.

Tierno S. Bah

Tribute to David Du Bois (1932-1983). Part 1

This tribute to Victor David Du Bois acknowledges the pioneering work by an American Fulbright student about the fledgling Republic of Guinea. In 1962 he presented his Ph.D. thesis entitled The independence movement in Guinea: a study in African nationalism to the Faculty of Princeton University, Department of Political Science, international law and relations. In the following decades he published articles and wrote book reviews dealing with Guinea.
Located at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, the Amistad Research Center holds the Papers of Victor Du Bois “anthropologist, educator, political scientist, and art collector”, for the period 1957-1970. The Center is the nation’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive independent archive specializing in the history of African Americans and other Ethnic Minorities. An exhibition named “Empowered Women: Fannie Lou Hamer, Clarie Collins Harvey, and the Mississippi Freedom Movement”  is on display from September 16 to December 19, 2014. The show commemorates “the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and Freedom Summer.” It “highlights the participation of women in the Civil Rights Movement by drawing on the papers of Mississippi activists Fannie Lou Hamer and Clarie Collins Harvey.

Part One

The thesis of Victor Du Bois points to the clouds darkening the country’s horizon already in 1959-60. In 1965 he authored a series of papers  titled “Guinea: The Decline of the Guinean Revolution.” Subsequent developments confirmed Du Bois’ early predictions.
Today, Guinea is a failed state, as materialized by the explosion of the Ebola epidemics. Applauding Dr Greg Spencer’s humanitarian work in Guinea, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center institutional reminded the world that Ebola hit “desperately under-served populations.” Indeed, through 60 years of dictatorship, Guineans have been forsaken by the successive regimes. Du Bois correctly diagnosed the situation and he laid the culprit on the first leader when he  wrote:

« No one is more responsible for the present chaos than the President of the Republic. For all his admitted qualities as a shrewd and loquacious politician and a militant African nationalist, Sékou Touré has been, and is, a monumentally inept Chief of State. He has ruled Guinea by whim and impulse, using his country as a laboratory to try out experiments of social and economic development whose grave implications he only vaguely understands, and whose negative results he is insensible to, even when they inflict severe hardship on his people.»

Guinea became “sovereign” more than a century after Liberia. In 1958, it was the first French colony to gain “independence.” Yet, with Sierra Leone, these neighboring countries epitomize the failure of the post-colonial state. They suffered the plight of dictatorship and state terrorism, or the ravages of civil war and genocidal politics. In the process the population have become disenfranchised and left to fend for themselves alone. Compounding the poverty induced by a subsistence economy, the authorities let citizens languish and wither in illiteracy and ignorance. Worse, they neglect or compromise  the education system. Meanwhile, corruption, oppression, repression and impunity are rampant. Depending on foreign handouts, the “national elites” think that the foreign exploitation of mining resources will  bring about miraculous development and easy prosperity!…
From 1958 to today, that’s exactly what Sékou Touré and his four successors (Lansana Conté, Moussa Dadis Camara, Sékouba Konaté, Alpha Condé) have done to Guinea,

Du Bois’ thesis was not perfect. None is. Did he plan to review and improve it for publishing?  We may not know because, unfortunately, he died at the age of 51. But his work still reads as  a descriptive, informative and analytical opus.
After a brief evocation of the challenges Bois faced in his fieldwork,  I point out, in this first part, a couple of misses and lift an ambiguity about the Fuuta-Jalon. Next, in the second and final part, I highlight the author’s foresight and insights.

Challenges

Du Bois lists the obstacles of his field research in Guinea. For instance, he found “certain peculiar difficulties”  in some primary sources. The official materials proved “in many ways unsatisfactory”. And, oddly,  he lamented about “the ungrammatical French in which many of the documents were written!”

His research was bound up by the state of publishing and knowledge at the time of writing. Hence Du Bois peruses George P. Murdock’s compilation  Africa. Its Peoples and Their Culture History. Dedicated “To Americans of African Descent” the volume is now  disputed in academic and library circles. However, I don’t think it should be discarded altogether.…  Integrated with other data sources and knowledge bases, its content has its place on my webAfriqa network and its fairly Google-ranked online library.

Open Source technologies and platforms allow the processing and distribution of massive amounts of data, information —  written and audiovisual. The “pope of African oral tradition”, Amadou Hampâté Bâ called passionately for the preservation of Africa’s cultural heritage. Unfortunately,  ethnological and anthropological training and research have considerably receded in recent decades. And Africa’s is lagging in the digital revolution, in spite of the efficiencies and unique opportunities it represents for documenting the continent’s history, climate, environment, fauna, flora, etc.

Misses and errors

 The Coniagui

Twice, the thesis misplaces the habitat of the Coniagui people. They are successively mentioned as inhabitants of Guinée-Maritime and  Guinée Forestière. Actually, they live in the sous-préfecture of Youkounkoun (Koundara) in northern Fuuta-Jalon and on both sides of the Guinea-Senegal border. Read Monique de Lestrange, Les Coniagui et les Bassari (Guinée française).
Undoubtedly, Cardinal Robert Sarah is the most distinguished and very honorable son of the Coniagui.

Read Cardinal Sarah président du Conseil Pontifical

Danseurs traditionnels Unyèy (Koniaguis)
Danseurs traditionnels Unyèy (Koniaguis). Source: M. Huet & Fodeba Keita. Les Hommes de la Danse

Cardinal Sarah holds a unique record: to each of Guinea’s first three dictators he courageously told the truth. Thus, one after the other, he reminded  Sékou Touré and Lansana Conté that absolute power corrupts absolutely. With Sekou Touré, Mgr. Sarah’s move was risky and bold, given the dictator’s repressive reflex and murderous instinct. After all, Mgr. Raymond Tchidimbo had been tortured and jailed nearly 8 years at Camp Boiro. He was the predecessor of Robert Sarah and the first Archbishop of Conakry.

Tiala Gobaye Mountaye, pioneer member of the PDG-RDA party
Tiala Gobaye Mountaye, pioneer member of the PDG-RDA party

As for Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, Cardinal Sarah flew specially from Rome with a special message for the head of the 2008-2010 military junta. Three times during their meeting at the Camp Alfa Yaya barracks he told him: “Do not kill!” Dadis nodded at each utterance of the injunction. It was in August 2009. A month later, the same captain sent his troops massacred hundreds of peaceful and joyful protesters at the sports stadium. The military and miicia also raped dozens of women in broad daylight. Political parties had gathered theirsupporters to voice their opposition to Dadis’ plan to confiscate power. Upon taking over in 2008, he had pledged to be a caretaker and transitional head of state.

Besides Cardinal Sarah’s domestic and international standing, the other notable Coniagui individuals are:

  • Tiala Gobaye Mountaye
    Pioneer member of the Parti démocratique de Guinée-Rassemblement démocratique africain (PDG-RDA) in the late 1940s. He became an active political leader and held provincial administrative functions. A close ally to Saifoulaye Diallo, he ended up in Camp Boiro. Exhausted and aging he lives in Labe and  gives personal and press interviews. In 2004 I had a productive conversation with him during which he shared with me postcards and  a letter Saifoulaye wrote him in 1956, while staying in Paris as one of the three deputies of French Guinea to the National Assembly  (Palais Bourbon).
  • The late Dorank Assifat Diassény. He was my classmate at the Faculté des Sciences Sociales (Kwame Krumah class, 1972). In January 1970 we were arrested and incarcerated 4 months at the infamous Escaliers 32 of the Camp Alpha Yaya military barracks. With nine other members of the student body (Conseil d’Administration), we had written a speech denouncing the failings of the revolution in presence of Sékou Touré. The “Supreme Responsable of the Revolution” had invited us to participate in the second session of the National Council of the Revolution. With the audacity and the “foolishness” of the 20-something generation, we criticized publicly the contradictions and the demagoguery of party leaders and the shortcomings of the education system. Sékou Touré did not take it kindly. He reacted with  anger and he accused us of being manipulated —he was wrong— and that leaders of the May 1968 movement in Paris (Daniel Cohn-Bendit, et al) had written our speech. He was wrong again. In reality, as the first education and cultural affairs secretary — Assifat came second in that function — I and others had drafted, discussed and agreed on the final version of the speech. We were up until 4am that night in December 1969 on the second floor (engineering)  of the main building of the Institute. In 1971, Prime minister Lansana Beavogui told the graduating Soundiata Keita class that some members of the government wanted dead by firing squad, under the pretext of an  attempted evasion on our part.… Perhaps, Sékou Touré, himself, had that idea but was dissuaded by others! Assifat, other fellows and myself we taught at the university for a decade before we started branching out. Upon  heading the chair of the philosophy, he became director of Press Bureau at the Presidency of the Republic during the final years of Sékou Touré. Later on, he became a decade-long cabinet member in successive governments under Lansana Conté. His appointments ranged from junior portfolios (youth and sports) to senior, sensitive and lucrative positions (energy, territorial administration and decentralization, defense). But he remained welcoming even at the peak of his rise. When I visited him in 2002 at his sprawling, landscaped and developed property —with some five villas— at the foot of the impressive Mount Maneah (Coyah), he proudly shared with me that the Sose populations in the neighborhood call his compound ministriyah,i.e., the minister’s place, in the local language (Sosokui)…
    I never figured out though why him and the now Cardinal let Tiala Gobaye live old, destitute and lonely in Labe.
Dorank Assifat Diasseny
Dorank Assifat Diasseny

Présence Africaine published a review of Assifat’s study  “Les fondements philosophiques de la problématique culturelle et politique de Cheikh Anta Diop.” (1989/1-2. N° 149-150)

Samory Touré

But contrary to Du Bois’ statement, Samory was not “betrayed by one of his own people.” His domestic and external policies did him in.
Internally, his rule became intolerant and repressive in response to the threat posed  by colonial troops. In previous negotiations he had sent his eldest son, Djaoulen-Karamo, as a goodwill ambassador to Paris. But later on, the Emperor ordered the execution of the son after he felt betrayed by the excessive French sympathy of Djaoulen-Karamo.

Read Ibrahima Khalil Fofana’s excellent account of the conflict between father and son

It turned out that Djaoulen-Karamo was right: Samory’s army was no match to the French war machine. After a string of military defeats, he decided to evade engagements with the French troops. He abandoned the territory of his original Empire and began an eastward march of conquest. Practicing scorched-the-earth methods, he left a trail of misery behind and mounting opposition to his reign.

Du Bois’s thesis was prepared nearly six years before the release of Yves Person’s  encyclopedic Samori. Une révolution dyula (1968). — The table of contents alone counts some 11 pages. Otherwise, Du Bois would have probably acknowledged Person’s finding that Samori ruled successively two Empires. The first existed between 1861 and 1893. It was contained mostly  in today’s eastern and southeastern Guinea. The second Empire lasted from 1894 to the end, in 1898. It was situated outside Guinea, and  in today’s centtal Cote d’Ivoire and southern Burkina Faso.

It was during his forced migration that attacked two of his prominent neighboring rulers. First, he defeated Tieba, king of Kenedugu (Mali). However, his campaign against Babemba, king of Sikasso (also in Mali), was a war of attrition. The fortified town proved an impregnable citadel. And it inflicted heavy losses on Samori. Kemè Brèma, the Emperor’s junior brother, head of the armies and commander of the elite cavalry, was killed at Sikasso. Samori was forced to lift the siege and to move on into unknown lands and hostile populations.

Samori’s victor, Captain Gouraud, provides an account of the arrest and long escort, on foot and horse-mounted, to the French headquarters in Kati (Mali).

Fuuta-Jalon: Islam, nationhood, education, literacy, literature

(Next)

Saifoulaye Diallo

(Next)

 To be continued…

Tierno S. Bah

Guinea: bulwark or betrayal?

My reaction to Peter Pham’s article “Trouble looming in Guinea, and why that matters” is threefold. It consists in a disagreement, an objection and an erratum.

Disagreement: a betrayal rather than a bulwark

The myth of Guinea as a bulwark of peace goes on. In reality history shows that the post-colonial police and terrorist state waged war against the elites and the populations. First, Sékou Touré decimated the former at Camp Boiro. He also launched heinous and genocidal attacks against the Fulɓe, resulting in the death of Telli Diallo —among other falsely accused officials— from starvation in prison. Overall, though, Amnesty International puts at 50,000 the number of victims who died in Guinea’s Gulag, which was scattered around the country. Fleeing the regime, more than 2 million exiles sought refuge in neighboring countries, mainly in Côte d’Ivoire and in Senegal.
Lansana  Conté (1984-2008) applied the same divide and rule strategy. He incited Soussou against Malinke in 1985 with his  despicable “Wo fatara,” i.e. “You have done well.” after his thugs ransacked Malinke properties, brutalized or killed their owners, whom they accused of supporting the (failed) coup d’Etat of former Prime Minister Diarra Traoré.

In 1990 General Lansana Conté pitted Forestiers against Malinke, provoking violent incidents that left thousands  of  dead and wounded among Mande in southeastern Guinea.

Externally, instead of urging peace, Lansana Conté meddled in the Sierra Leone and Liberia civil wars. He sided with some warring factions against others, thereby compounding the suffering of internally displaced, asylum seekers and  refugees camps dwellers.

General Conté didn’t expect counter-attacks —nor did he care about them. But the blow-backs happened and they caught his armed forces unprepared. Also, they  found the border towns  exposed. Forecariah, Kissidougou, Macenta and Gueckedou faced rebel incursions, with human casualties and property destruction. Gueckedou —Ebola’s Ground Zero— sustained heavier damages under Guinean artillery pounding. To flush out infiltrated Liberian and Sierra Leone rebels, Conté nearly razed the town to the ground.

In his dying years, Conté handpicked Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara as his  successor. The move was illegal and illegitimate. But the junior officer had proven the cold-blooded killer that Conté wanted. He had been criminally involved in the 2006-2007 bloody repressions that claimed the lives of hundred of civilian protesters against Conté’s dictatorship.

Dadis’ murderous penchant was displayed to the world on Sept. 28, 2009 at the Conakry sports stadium. That fateful day the head of the military junta ordered his troops and ethnic militia to repress a peaceful and joyful mass meeting . There the army and its sidekicks gunned down and hacked to death hundreds of unarmed people. And they raped scores of women in broad daylight.

The successors of Dadis —Sékouba Konaté and Alpha Condé— resorted to the same brutal methods in 2010-2011. They triggered  inter-ethnic tensions that led to civil strife and to  expulsions of Fulɓe residents from Mande towns and villages.…

As we can see,  only superficially can Guinea  be been as a bastion of peace or a beacon of harmony. Otherwise,  historically the country has always endured the plight of war between the state and the populations.

The successive leaders of the republic have  shunned democracy and imposed dictatorship.…

Consequently, Guinea is today a cauldron of corruption, poverty, misery, oppression, repression, arbitrary arrests, torture, death and  impunity.
On the outside it is simmering with injustice. At its core, the embers of frustration, resentment, despair and hopelessness have been burning for more than six decades. And violence flares up any time, from anywhere.
Last year security forces killed nearly 60 participants in peaceful political rallies.
Add to that record, the killings and destruction in July 2013 in Koulé and in NZérékoré,
More recently, last September  in Womé (Nzérékoré), villagers murdered. 8 members of an official Ebola delegation.

Together, the senseless communal attacks (Koulé) and the criminal act (Womé) express the deep distrust and the marked disjunction between the people and a state that has betrayed them all along.

Conventional thinking and boilerplate writing often result in  recommendations to multilateral organizations and to the state of Guinea as ways and means for tackling the latest crisis. However, the question is: Does Guinea still have (or is) a state? That’s the question?
I could be wrong. But the way I see it, the state has long ceased to exist in Guinea, even in its most basic form and minimal  functions. Instead, a jungle has taken over the country. It imposes force and violence and leaves no place for the rule of law and justice.

Objection: renters, not owners

The article does not name those called the “owners” of mining fields. This may be a slip of the pen (lapsus calami). Actually, BSGR, Rio Tinto, Rusal, Vale, etc. do not own the mines where they plan extract bauxite or iron. They are only the investors and renters. They hold contracts granted by the Government. But the Guinean people is  the real owner of those resources.
Alas, corruption  is so rampant that Guinean negotiators  only look out for handouts and crumbs for themselves.  Once they pocket the meager, ill-gotten proceeds from investors, they do not give a hoot about the miserable daily fate of the citizens. Examples:

  • In 2007, Lansana Conté obtained $20 millions in exchange for the Friguia bauxite mine and alumina plant. In reality, the asset was valued $700 millions on the market.
  • In 2009-10, Beny Steinmetz’ BSGR allegedly spent $150 millions to secure the contract for the Simandou iron ore deposit. He later sold 51 percent of the project to Vale (Brazil) in a deal valued at $2.5 billion.
    Sudanese telecoms billionaire Mo Ibrahim didn’t mince his words: “the Guineans who did that deal”, he said, “were idiots, or criminals, or both?”

Read Poverty in Guinea as mine wrangle stalls bonanza

Erratum

Linguistically, “the third-place finisher,” Sidya Touré, is “a
a member of third-largest ethnic group”, i.e., the Soussou (Sose, proper). But he is ethnically a Jakanke, a branch of the Mande civilization cluster or culture area.
His language, Jakanka, belongs in the same Mande-tan subgroup as Maninka. But Sosokui and Jalonka are members of the Mande-fu subgroup. The two subgroups derive their names from how they say 10 in their base-five numbering system;  in Jalunka and Sosokui it’s the word fu, in Maninkakan and Jakanka, it’s tan.

Tierno S. Bah

TIME’s choice for Person of the Year 2014

Time Person of the Year 2014. The Ebola Fighters
Yesterday, Time Magazine announced the winner of the much-anticipated Person of the Year award. The  2014 recipients are the Ebola Fighters. As Time puts it: “They risked and persisted, sacrificed and saved.”

TIME’s Tribute to the Ebola Fighters

Explaining why the Ebola Fighters won this year’s recognition, Editor Nancy Gibbs quotes this proverb:

« Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero’s heart. »

Congratulations to all:

  • Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Bi- and multilateral institutions
  • Officials and private citizens
  • Civilian teams and military brigades
  • Rich and poor
  • Financial donors and field workers
  • Heath care specialists and non-technical volunteers
  • Paid and non-paid participants
  • Known and unknown contributors
  • Famous and anonymous players

Your commitment and sacrifice will win the war against the epidemics caused by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

Tierno S. Bah