Monday, June 18, 2007

Guinea Gets an "F"

Foreign Policy released its 2007 failed states report, and guess who made the list.

Of course, Guinea isn't the most spectacular failure of a country (that honor goes to Sudan). Guinea ranked 9th on the list, compared to 11th last year—a surprisingly small change considering the recent level of unrest that has racked the country. Then again, considering it was facing stiff competition from war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, so perhaps its position is about right.

The embarrassing result comes as the latest in a string of ignominious honors for a country so gifted in natural resources, water sources, and rich soil (another being Transparency International's corruption survey in which Guinea was named the 2nd most corrupt country in the world). The ranking also serves as another ringing indictment of Lansana Conté's nearly 25 year-old regime that has utterly failed to institute the smallest meaningful reform since assuming power.

One would hope that the government formed under newly appointed Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté will be given sufficient latitude by President Conté to institute the reforms Guineans so desperately need. Such optimism is tempered, however, by a recent interview with French television station, TV5, where an ever-stubborn Conté reaffirmed that "Il n'y a pas de transition ouverte. Je suis le chef, les autres sont mes subordonnés" ("There is no open transition. I am chief, the others are my subordinates"). He goes on to minimize the significance of the bloodiest protest Guinea has known during Conté's reign in January and February, in which more than 100 Guineans were killed by army and police actions:
"Quel est le pays qui n'a pas connu d'événements comme ça, d'événements douloureux ? [...] Ça arrive à tout le monde d'avoir des moments de difficultés, d'incompréhensions entre la population et le pouvoir"

("What country doesn't know events like this, painful events? [...] These sorts of difficulties, these misunderstandings between the population and the government happen to everyone.")
Lest there remained any doubt, Conté has made it clear: he's still captain of the S.S. Guinea, even as it sinks beneath his staggering corruption and intransigence.


Brian said...

I think it would be wrong to say Conté's regime "has utterly failed to institute the smallest meaningful reform since assuming power." The regime was actually quite transformative for the first ten or so years of power. I was there pretty much at the apex of things in the mid-90s. I would agree that sclerosis started to set in the late 90s and the country's been going backward for about a decade.

Nice blog. I'll have to book mark it.

bantara said...

In my description of Conté failing to enact the smallest reform, I meant to suggest that since making the transition from Touré's quasi-socialist/isolationist economics and foreign policy, Conté's government hasn't accomplished anything of consequence.

Upon rereading, I see that this description suggests that the transition from Touré's government to Conté's took place overnight. It was, in fact, a lengthy process that included creating a new constitution, opening Guinea to private foreign investment, and privatizing or shutting down the national societies Touré had created during his time in power.

I agree that these reforms, for the most part, ended in the mid-90s and the sclerosis, as you put it, set in shortly thereafter. I should have recognized this in my post.

Thanks for the clarification.

Zili said...

Great work.

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