Saturday, July 15, 2006

Guinea approves private radio stations but still on the verge of implosion

Guinea doesn't seem to be short of news lately.

On the good side, the government finally approved the licenses of three private radio stations: 'Soleil FM', 'Liberté FM' et 'Nostalgie FM.' This according to the country's information minister Boubacar Sylla. Guinea will become the last country in the sub-region to have private broadcasters, despite having nominal multipartyism and many private newspapers for over a decade. The ministry has not yet decided on frequencies for the new stations. The government is also reportedly in negotiations with Radio France Internationale on running an FM relay in the country of the Paris-based outfit.

However, with the country still reeling from the nine-day general strike last month, the political situation has just gotten even more tense. One of the country's opposition leaders has called head of state Gen. Lansana Conté 'unfit to govern.' Jean-Marie Doré, head of the country's third most prominent opposition party, has demanded that Conté either resign or be removed from office. According to Article 34 of the Guinean Constitution (original French here), the president of the Republic can be removed by the Supreme Court for medical reasons upon the request of the National Assembly.

Since both the legislative and judicial bodies are packed with Conté allies and appointees, this is almost inconceivable... unless there is pressure on them from some unelected forces.

The power vacuum in the country continues to cause more and more problems in an increasingly sclerotic state. The International Crisis Group describes the 'fundamental decrepitude, verging on anarchy, at the centre of a government incapable of taking decisions,'

Further aggravating the succession issue is the deep fractures in Conté's PUP party. The PUP is usually described in the Guinean media as the 'presidential movement' rather than a party. And this gives some clues as to the divisions within the organization. It was founded around the person of Gen. Conté, who'd been military leader for about a decade at that time. The 'presidential movement' has little ideological foundations so it's not surprising that it's falling apart as the 'president' at the heart of the movement fades away.

If Conté dies or is removed, his constitutional successor is Aboubacar Sompaoré, who is both head of the National Assembly and of the PUP. However, he is reportedly opposed by the PUP's main financial backer businessman El Hadj Mamadou Sylla and by the movement's hardliners. It's also unclear the position of Fodé Bangoura, Conté's most prominent advisor who is seen by many as the de facto head of state because of the general's health. And there are certainly questions as to if the Guinean military, deeply divided itself, will respect any constitutional transition.

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