Friday, December 17, 2004

New Guinean PM appointed, but to what effect?

The Guinean leader Gen. Lansana Conté has finally appointed a new prime minister after an eight-month gap. The previous head of government, François Fall, submitted his shock resignation in April protesting that his political and economic reforms were being blocked, complaining that the head of state vetoed everything.

According to Fall, Conté had blocked efforts to reform the economy, tackle growing corruption, renegotiate Guinea's external debt, launch a new dialogue with the European Union and clean up the justice system. Fall went into exile in France to guarantee his safety before announcing he was standing down and the government did not actually acknowledge his defection.

There is little to suggest that Fall's succesor, former fisheries minister Cellou Dalien Diallo, will have any more success in modernizing the crubmling Guinean state. Too many entrenched interests, those linked to Conté and his entourage, control the economy.

But rising social discontent in the country makes reform all the more urgent. This year alone, there have been strikes and riots about a shortage of rice, unpaid salaries, skyrocketing electricity bills and living conditions for university students.

But the political situation is in suspended animation as all main actors are waiting for le général-président, who's 70 and can't walk unassisted, to die. There is no obvious successor to the man who's ruled with an iron fist for twenty years.

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