Saturday, June 23, 2007

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Guinean Prime Minister, Lansana Kouyaté, fulfilled one of his long-promised governmental reforms yesterday with the nominations of seven new governors and 30 new prefets for Guinea (out of a possible 33). The decree, signed by President Lansana Conté, effectively reverses almost all his previous governor and prefet appointments to date.

Aminata.com has a more detailed report available to read (in French) here.

Two initial observations on my part:
  1. The president's acquiescence is a positive sign that perhaps a smooth transition to democracy will be possible in Guinea, and that Kouyaté's government is, in fact, legitimate.
  2. While only one of the new governors and three of the 30 prefets nominated are women, this should be considered an improvement from the previous total of zero.
So, what does a prefet do, anyway? For those of you not familiar with the byzantine layers of complexity of French bureaucracy (which has been painstakingly maintained in Guinea even after its independence), he essentially functions as an administrator of an area comprising 100,000–500,000 people, coordinating various functions at a local level, as well as effecting policy edicts from Conakry. To the ordinary Guinean, however, a prefet is most recognized as the patron ("boss") in flowing boubous who lives in a mansion and swoops in and out of town in a shiny new SUV

Since independence, but especially during the reign of Conté, prefets have become known in Guinea as some of the largest perpetrators of the corruption and graft that has earned Guinea's ranking as most corrupt country in Africa. They often earned their positions through their connections to Conté or to the party.

During my time in the préfecture of Tougué, I got to know two prefets (who also happened to be my next door neighbors). The first, Mouctar Banti Diallo, was so embroiled in any number of scandals involving the re-routing of money destined to fund projects in my préfecture, that it became something of a town joke to cite him as the prime suspect in every theft, from missing cows to missing chalk. He eventually was sent to Pita (where he was run out of town for similar shenanigans during the January riots).

Banti's replacement, Boubacar Baldé, wasn't much better, getting the plum appointment after heading up Conté's reelection efforts (you know, the one where he got nearly 100% of the vote). He spent only a scant few months in Tougué before falling terminally ill and spending the next year in Dakar and dying back in August of last year. Incredibly, Conté hadn't named a successor until yesterday's decree.

The fact Kouyaté has, in one fell swoop, replaced almost every single one of these corrupt do-nothings, suggests that he, too, recognizes the inherent corruption at all levels of Conté's government, and understands the need for fresh blood and capable administration on a local level—to regain the confidence of the Guinean people, if nothing else.

44 comments:

Brian said...

There was never really any doubt in my mind that Kouyaté recognized the depth and breadth of the graft crisis. His two (sacked) predecessors did as well. The real question was whether he was going to have the freedom to actually do anything. That he was able to get these new people appointed is certainly a positive sign.

Anonymous said...

Guinea really cracks me up. I once spent an hour in transit at Conakry airport. What can happen in a hour in a transit lounge you might think. A door was slightly ajar near me and, just inside, there was a UNIFORM attempting, aggresively, to extort some cash from a couple who were to board my plane. They had passed through all of the checks were on the way to the boarding lounge when they were taken to one side because of a "small problem". So I opened the door WIDE for all to see and uniform changed his mind about the matter.

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