Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Social situation in Guinea degrades -- Botswanan universal education promise

The political sclerosis in Guinea (Conakry) continues. The country's body politic is basically paralyzed due to the ill-health of the head of state, Gen. Lansana Conté. The opposition is rudderless. The ruling party and the government are essentially waiting for the long ailing general to die before figuring out how succession will work. And apparently they're not doing much else as social conditions in the country continue to degrade.

Earlier this year, riots broke out in the capital Conakry to protest an explosion in the price of rice, the country's main food staple. Though this was further aggravated when people learned that some local government officials were stealing rice. The World Bank halted cooperation with the country; many other partners quit much earlier.

In recent months, there have been protests by agronomy students against living conditions and unpaid railway workers from the now liquidated state rail company.

Then last week, residents of the central Guinea town of Pita rioted against a rise in electricity prices. Troops were called in and one protester was killed and five others wounded, according to AFP.

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When a country like Senegal or Kenya shrugs off one-party rule and "goes democratic," it's easy to assume that such gains are permanent. This story from Ghana should remind of the danger of complacency. The Ghanaian Chronicle reports that Seven persons, mainly ex-military officers of the disbanded 64 Infantry Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces were arrested over the weekend by a combined team of Police and officers of state security for allegedly plotting to overthrow the current government.

President John Kufour is seeking a second term in elections scheduled for next month.

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Fresh off his party's convincing general election win last month, Botswanan President Festus Mogae has promised universal education for the southern African country. He added that that his government was committed to ensuring better education by ensuring that opportunities for tertiary education are improved through the expansion of the University of Botswana, the building of a second university, whose curriculum would focus on science and technology, as well as a medical school, according to the Gaborone weekly The Reporter.

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