The Guinea Crisis

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Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the current head of state in Guinea was shot on Thursday, December 3, 2009 by his Camp aid Aboubakar Sidiki Diakite known as Toumba.  According to Radio France International, Captain Dadis sustained serious head injuries. His condition is presumed to be serious. He was evacuated to Morocco where he is receiving medical attention. Toumba,who allegedly shot Captain Dadis has not been arrested.

In December 2008, hours after the death of the long self-serving dictator, President Lansana Conte, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara proclaimed himself president, dissolved the constitution and replaced it with the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD in French acronym).  Since then the political situation has deteriorated.  Soon after taking over the power he promised to hold elections in which he was not going to be a contender, but today he says that it is his right as Guinean to run for the presidential office. On September 28, 2009, during an opposition rally in the main stadium of the capital Conakry, soldiers gunned down more than 150 people, wounded about 1,000 and raped several women in public, according to witness accounts and evidence.

Power Negotiations
Sanctions have been put in place against Guinea by the United States (US), the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and ECOWAS.  They consist of targeted travel restrictions, freezing of personal bank accounts of the Guinea leadership circle and arms embargoes.  The international community is calling President Moussa Dadis not to run in the 2010 presidential election as he had previously promised.  In the meantime, because his stepping down is not a likely outcome, the plan is to ask him to guide Guinea toward a multi-party democracy, as a way to put an end to the cycle of military rule. Furthermore, it is imperative that justice be served for the victims of the tragic event of September 28, 2009.   The United Nations inquiry commission is conducting an investigation into this tragedy.

The International Community Conflict of Interests
According to Al-Jazeera report, it is estimated that 13 million tons of Bauxite are shipped from Guinea to in North America and Europe annually.  It is used to make aluminum that is basic for manufacturing plane and car parts among other things. Despite the multilateral efforts to stabilize Guinea, some nations continue to do business with Guinea as usual.  It has been reported that China is involved in a $7 billion deal with Dadis regime.   Yet such a deal clearly represents a blow to the impact of the sanctions imposed on this regime and a way to help it survive any pressure to give up power.  China has done this in Sudan and is willing to do it in Guinea. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Chinese Ambassador to Guinea, Huo Zhengde denied any wrongdoing, saying that simply because Chinese, Australian, Russian and North American companies are doing business in Guinea, it does not mean they are therefore supporting the regime. Yet, in fact doing business with illegitimate governments has hurt Africa’s progress for decades now. It is wrong to transform Guineans’ hard times into a political or financial opportunity.  Unfortunately this is what developed and developing nations’ foreign policies toward Africa looks like.

U.S Policy Toward Guinea
On October 6, U.S Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton expressed her outrage over the massacre in these terms:   “[T]he indiscriminate killing and raping … by government troops was a vile violation of the rights of the people of that country.”  The Deputy Assistant Secretary of state, William Filzgerald, in a briefing on October 29, 2009 at the State Department, reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to pressure President Dadis and to hold him accountable for the September 28, 2009 massacre.  In the question-and-answer period, I asked Mr. Filzgerald what U.S interest would be in Guinea,.   He simply explained that the U.S is interested in a free and open society in Guinea, ready to provide health care to Guinean families, and to promote democracy, human rights and dignity.

However, in the light of current and past U.S policies in Africa, there are reasons to be skeptical about his answer.  The U.S has a stake in Guinea to fight the war on terror in North Africa.    In fact, several nations including Guinea’s neighbor Mali have received money to fight terrorism in North Africa, a plan that already burdens rather than benefits Malian people such as the Northerners Tuareg tribe. The Tuaregs have for decades been at war with the Malian government over territorial independence and better land that would accommodate their nomadic life style.  Now that the U.S has armed the Malian army, the Tuaregs’ resistance will be dealt with as terrorism.  It was the same approach the U.S used in the horn of Africa when it armed Ethiopia to attack Somalia under the same war on terror banner.  Today those two nations are more unstable than ever before. Additionally, the U.S has interest in Guinean Bauxite mining industry.   A North American company ALCOA operates in Guinea.  On its web site you read: “Alcoa is present in Guinea as a 45% shareholder of Halco Mining, a partnership which owns 51% of Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG). CBG, a partnership with the Government of Guinea, has exclusive rights to mine bauxite in Guinea’s Sangaredi Plateau.”

Africa Faith and Justice Network, aware of the danger that President Dadis Camara represents to Guineans and its neighboring nations, particularly Sierra Leone and Liberia, urges the Obama administration to review and expand its policies, now focused solely on U.S economic and strategic interests, to include strong support of civil society and development outreaches that concretely work towards good governance, national security on Guineans terms and protection of human and natural resources.  We ask that U.S do all in its power to prevent Guinea from becoming a war zone of economic, strategic and political interest between world’s powers. It is AFJN’s hope that the U.S will actively help the Guinean people, both its civil and military, overcome peacefully the challenge before them.

By Bahati Ntama Jacques, Policy Analyst

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