Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Guinean political situation remains on the brink

The political situation in Guinea remains in flux. The sacking of reformist prime minister Cellou Dalien Diallo appears to be merely the start of what could become a prolonged succession crisis. The fact that the prime minister was given increased powers via a presidential decree only hours before he was fired has been described as an unprecedented failure of the control that has characterised [Gen. Lansana Conté's] rule by Reuters.

"One expects the unexpected in Guinea, but we have never before seen such inconsistency in a short space of time," said Richard Reeve, West Africa specialist at London-based think-tank Chatham House.

"What happened was surprising in terms of information chaos ... (and) remarkable because it sidestepped the people assumed to have political power."

An International Crisis Group report notes that while Guinean civil society and the political parties have taken the first step toward setting a new national agenda, average citizens still suffer under the combined weight of hunger, lack of electricity and water, decrepit communications infrastructure and lack of health and education services.

A successful general strike last month over low wages and high prices marked the first serious union agitation in Guinea in four decades. Despite this, the unions deplored Diallo's sacking as 'incomprehensible, indescribable and worrying.'

An All Africa column wondered 'Guinea: Is There a Captain Onboard?'

There is widespread fear that the nation is being held hostage by an unidentified group of individuals motivated by personal gain.

Though many believe that this has been the case for at least a decade.

In addition, there is rising concern that the political imbroglio unfolding in this nation, once regarded as an oasis of calm against the civil wars in neighboring countries, could lead to uncertain and dangerous scenarios.

Jean-Marie Doré, leader of the smaller opposition UPG party, has called for Conté's removal as head of state and for him to be replaced by his constitutional successor, National Assembly.president Aboubacar Sompaoré. Since Sompaoré is also the leader of Conté's ruling PUP party, this might be the only way to resolve Guinea's political paralysis short of a military coup.


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