Thursday, May 11, 2006

Instability in Guinea quantified

Foreign Policy magazine issued it annual Failed States Index. The ranking takes into account factors like demographic pressure, external intervention, human rights, factionialized elites, economy and more than half a dozen other factors. Not surprisingly, the worst part of the list was dominated by countries at war: Sudan, the DR Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Iraq were judged the four most failed states in the world.

But what's interesting is to look at the states who are not (yet) suffering from or recovering from armed conflict. The two most unstable African countries by this standard are Zimbabwe (#4) and Guinea (#11).

Zimbabwe's troubles are well-chronicled by the international media; Guinea's less so. And since Guinea is the African country I'm most familiar with, I'm going to take a closer look at FP's analysis of the country.

I've written many times about how the political situation is basically paralyzed as everyone waits for the ailing head of state, Gen. Lansana Conté, to die. I've bemoaned the dysfunction of the decaying, sclerotic Guinean state and the high-level obstruction faced by any reformist prime minister or cabinet official who tries to tackle this scourge. Not surprisingly, the two categories in which Guinea scores worst on the FP index are delegitimization of state and public services. How discredited are Guinean public institutions? Guinea scores worse on delegitimization of state than Iraq or the DR Congo, two countries synonymous in the public's mind with chaos and a non-existent state.

Guinea also scored poorly in the category of factionalized elites. This is also not surprising since each of the main political parties are generally seen as the provenance of a particular ethnic group. The powerful military has become ethnically polarized as well; many fear what this will mean when Conté finally does die.

In the mid-90s, Guinea housed half a million refugees from neighboring countries, a demographic crunch which caused serious problems particularly in the southeastern part of the country. While Guinea doesn't score particularly well in any category, FP's rating underlines the easing of the refugee crisis since the apparent resolution of the Liberian and Sierra Leonian civil wars. Guinea also has less demographic pressure than most African countries.


At 3:58 PM, Blogger Fontaine said...

Should Somalia even be included in the Failed States Index? It's not exactly a state anymore -- more like a chunk of land pinned against the ocean by several other countries.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Koranteng said...

Let's think this through a little. There are 2 interesting questions 1. what happens after the man dies and 2. what do we do while we wait.

Unlike say Houphouet-Boigny or even Eyadema, there is no designated successor. This can be a blessing, if you had a Konan Bedie as the successor, someone groomed for 20 years for that role, someone who turned out to be... well we all know how close Cote D'Ivoire is to the precipice today. To take another example, Eyadema the second, the jury is still out, he is indeed different from the father, perhaps more willing to talk but as I speak, togolese refugees are dripping into ghana...

On the other hand... consider South Africa in 1993-94, some calm, boring lawyer types (Mandela, Mbeki, Ramaphosa etc) had a long plan in mind and the will, charisma and organization to stick to it...

So some open questions... who is on the horizon? how organized are they? are they talking? are they organizing? Are people even thinking about the day after or is it too difficult to just get on with things on a day-to-day basis?

I wish I knew, but this is part of I hope to explore, what to do after things fall apart...

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Koranteng: ideally, the constitutional succession would be followed. Since the constitutional successor, the National Assembly president, is also the head of Conté's party, there is hope for a smooth transition. But would Aboubacar Sompaoré have the authority to keep the military at bay? Would Lansana Conté's barons permit Sompaoré to organize elections that he might lose if the opposition unified?

Further, you cite the case of South Africa. That transition was planned rather than as the result of a death.A nd sadly, there's no one in the Guinean political class with anywhere near the gravitas as the ones you mentioned. The main leaders are all seen as ethnic candidates except for the ruling party leaders who many support to keep their bureaucratic jobs. And the main opposition leaders vacilitate between unity and division because none of them really have much of an ideology to speak of. Other than calling for 'democracy' like every other opposition party in the world.


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