The National Council for Democracy and Development (NCDD) rules Guinea since the early hours of December 23rd, 2008. A trained economist and former manager of the army’s fuel depot, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara chairs the Council and has been appointed the head of State. The 44-year president is now faced with pressing battles on both the external and domestic fronts.
Pressure from the external front
The African Union (AU) reacted to the Guinean coup d’Etat swiftly by suspending the country’s membership in the organization on December 29. On January 11, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) followed suite, pursuant to the zero-tolerance rule for coups in Africa. Given the political instability of post-colonial Africa, such a policy is commendable, especially if it serves as a deterrent to military coup plotters around the continent.
But that remains to be seen. So far, it has not prevented Mauritania’s army to depose a democratically elected president. However, the AU suspended Mauritania promptly ever since. Hence, Guinea’s punishment is only logical and fair.
However, despite the official ruling should not prevent close behind-the-scene contacts aimed at pushing for the return to civilian rule. In that regard, Guinean is particularly worthy of cautious treatment to prevent the country from sliding further into chaos.
In Mauritania, a duly elected head of State was deposed, whereas in Guinea, a rogue regime collapsed following the death of dictator Conté. The Constitution had been amended in 2001 to make him a president-for-life. Also, the Fundamental Law ruled that the head of the parliament would be designated as a caretaker president in the eventuality of incapacitation or death of the head of state. However, the 5-year term of the National Assembly expired last year. And its president, Aboubacar Sompare, became a de facto successor to Conte, not a de jure one. Captain Moussa Dadis have argued that loophole to justify, among other things, his bloodless coup. However, beyond those legalistic considerations lays the dire situation of Guinea. A country profoundly wounded by 50 years of dictatorship and authoritarian rule.
Nicknamed the Water house of West Africa and endowed with abundant natural resources (water, fertile land, livestock, timber, and minerals) Guinea is plagued by corruption and it ranks among the poorest countries in the world. Hence the dilemma faced by the international community. On one hand, it must apply a relentless until the army returns to the barracks. One the other hand, it cannot expect such a challenging outcome to happen by miracle. On the contrary, Guinea external partners should stay engaged and provided the required collaboration to the political parties, the unions and civic groups to usher in the advent of constitutional rule.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria has lived under military dictatorship for most of its existence. However, it has consistently responsive to the violent crises that have rocking post-colonial Africa. First, it overcame the Biafra secession in the mid-1960s. Then it played a leading role in peacekeeping and combat duties against the decade-long rebellions in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
It is therefore understandable that Abuja led the uncompromising ECOWAS voices against the Conakry putsch. They must apply a tactful yet relentless pressure on the NCDD to help achieve a smooth transition to civilian rule.
That said, Guinea’s suspension from the AU and ECOWAS, is a rebuttal to the backers of the Conakry coup: France, Senegal and Libya.
- On January 3rd President Nicolas Sarkozy of France dispatched State Secretary for Cooperation and Francophony, Alain Joyandet, to assess the situation in Conakry. Following two days of talks, the emissary announced that the French government would provide financial assistance to the struggling National Independent Electoral Commission. He added that France would also monitor the situation closely… But France has had a complicated history with the Government of Guinea. The relationship soured following Guinea’s overwhelming No vote in the September 28, 1958 referendum organized by General Charles de Gaulle, the founder of the current French 5th republic. Things improved only 1975 when President Giscard d’Estaing resumed diplomatic ties with Conakry, thanks in part to the tireless effort of former ambassador André Lewin. Ever since, France has reasserted its Guinea policy, as the former colonial power, a diplomatic ally and an economic partner. In 1976, anxious to accommodate the late president Sekou Toure, the French government banned Jean-Paul Alata’s Prison d’Afrique, a book denouncing the torture and the killings carried out at Camp Boiro. Despite the uproar, the measure was not immediately rescinded. French newspapers and authors condemned the cynicism of their government (See L’affaire Alata and Grain de sable). In 2000, the World Bank decided to stay out of the Garafiri electric dam project due to its negative impact on the environment. But President Jacques Chirac decided to back the investment. In short, France’s policy implements the principle that states are not guided by sentiments. Instead, they protect their assets and promote their interests.
- President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, does the opposite of France. Chairman Moussa Dadis earned his support by simply calling Daddy! Falling for Captain Camara’s reverence, he said that he could not throw stones at the NCDD. He went on to lend the junta his presidential plane on which General Mamadou Toto Camara, the NCDD’s 1st vice president toured neighboring Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Yet, Abdoulaye Wade faces a declining popularity at home. His fellow citizens accuse him of mismanagement, erratic behavior, human rights violations, and nepotism. And the journalist Souleymane Jules Diop has sued Wade’s family on embezzlement charges. As it turns out, President Wade’s democratic credentials are fading fast. The Guinean junta should be mindful of Senegal’s alarming evolution.
- Also on January 3rd, Colonel Muammar Khadafi, president of the Libyan Jammahiriya, who preceded Abdoulaye Wade for a stop-over at Conakry Gbessia airport. The simple mention of the colonel’s name creates some uneasiness. Persistent rumors see his hand and Burkina Faso’s Compaore behind the rebellions in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and elsewhere in West Africa. In reality, Khadafi’s impromptu visit to Conakry may have political as well as business reasons. Last year, former Prime minister Lansana Kouyate agreed to give ownership of two hotels in downtown Conakry to Libyan investors. The late president Conté voided the deal. Did the Supreme leader come to revive those lost contracts?
The above bilateral considerations matter little in the aftermath of the ECOWAS decision. The NCDD has lost an important battle in Abuja. Its hopes for official multilateral recognition have been dashed. It must now bear the brunt of the rejection and adjust to a delicate international context. What will it do next? Watch and see !
However, keep the pressure on !
Tierno S. Bah