Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The second famous NON in Guinean history?

Guineans returned to work today after a long and bloody general strike which ended only when the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté agreed to name a prime minister from a list submitted by trade unions. But some wonder if the appointment of Lansana Kouyaté, a former head of the West African economic community ECOWAS, is anything other than a temporary measure.

On the upside, Kouyaté should in theory have a fair degree of support. The unions presumably think well of him since he was on a list of candidates they proposed. And Kouyaté once served in the Guinean diplomatic corps and was named Guinean ambassador to several Arab countries and to the United Nations by Conté himself.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen if Prime Minister Kouyaté will actually be given a free hand in running the government. His two predecessors in the post, François Lonseny Fall and Cellou Dalein Diallo, also tried to reform the Guinean bureaucracy and sclerotic state institutions. Both faced heavy resistance from the mafia surrounding Conté that controls the country's economy.

Fall resigned in disgust while Diallo was sacked and fled the country amidst reported death threats.

In the midst of the normally rubber stamp Guinean National Assembly's unprecedented slap in the face to a head of state in rejecting Gen. Conté's demand to prolong martial law, Guinéenews reports on rumors that deputies of the ruling PUP party are under attack from the party barons and other internal divisions within the presidential movement.

Legislators defended themselves, claiming that they closer to the people than government officials.

Guinéenews also reported that deputies were reportedly fearful of mass popular vengeance had they voted to prolong the hugely unpopular and bloody martial law.

The sight also reported that many PUP deputies feel like "the shame of the party" and that the party appartus views them with condescension.

It is hardly surprising that these internal divisions would manifest themselves in a time of heavy tension. The party, which is almost always referred to as 'the presidential movement' by the Guinean press, was formed around the person of Gen. Conté when he transformed the government from a formal military regime to the facade of democracy.

When Sékou Touré, who became the country's first head of state, made a speech denouncing the economic community proposed France's Gen. de Gaulle and demanding the colony's independence, it became the first and most famous NON that now all Guinean schoolchildren are taught about. One wonders if the deputies' NON to Gen. Conté will become the second.

It may be wildly optimistic. In reality, Guinea's problems can not begin to be addressed until Conté's out of office and, just as crucially, his cabal out of power. But one hopes the deputies' action was a step in that direction.

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