Monday, September 25, 2006

Guinean elites fight over who will captain the Titanic

If you were to believe the word on the street, Guinea's strongman Lansana Conté has been 'on the verge of death since the late 90s. His constitutional successor is Aboubacar Somparé, president both of the National Assembly and of Conté's PUP party. Whether that constitutional succession will be respected following his death (and no one assumes that Conté will leave office any other way) is an open question. A military junta, led by Conté himself, quickly seized power following the death of Guinea's only other head of state.

While le général-président remains ailing but very much alive, his fragile state means that internecene power struggles are rife. Guinéenews reports (in French) on the tug of war between Mamadou Sylla and Fodé Bangoura, two of Conté's closest allies.

Sylla is the richest and most influential businessman in the country. He is known as 'the PUP's moneyman' and 'the boss of bosses.' Bangoura is officially the minister of state in charge of presidential affairs but given Conté's illness and the vacancy in the prime minister's office, he is generally seen as de facto running the government.

Guinéenews cited local media reports indicating that Bangoura is essentially using state machinery to attack Sylla, accusing him of owing huge sums in back taxes. Perhaps Bangoura took a cue from Russia's Vladimir Putin in sicing the taxman on a political opponent.

While the political elites continue their petty squabbles over who will captain the Titanic, the misery for ordinary Guineans continues to skyrocket. As Guinéenews concludes: these struggles paralyze the government while the priority of Guineans is the fight against poverty.


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