Monday, January 05, 2009

What's Behind the Military Coup in Guinea-Conakry?: Resource Exploitation and Imperialist Domination

What's Behind the Military Coup In Guinea-Conakry?: Resource Exploitation and Imperialist Domination

A recent seizure of power by junior military officers reflects decades of underdevelopment amid resource abundance

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

News Analysis

After years of political and economic turmoil, lower-ranking military officers in the West African nation of Guinea-Conakry took power on December 23 in the aftermath of the death of longtime western-backed dictator Lansana Conte. The coup appeared to have enjoyed support among some segments of the population in the capital of Conakry.

This is the second military coup that has taken place on the African continent since August, when military officers took power in Mauritania. Both Mauritania and Guinea were both former French colonies and have, since independence, moved closer politically and economically to the United States.

The coup leader is Captain Moussa Dadis Camara who announced the seizure of power on December 23. His predecessor, Lansana Conte, had come to power himself in a military coup in April of 1984, during the immediate aftermath of the sudden death of the nation's first leader, President Ahmed Sekou Toure, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG).

Conte, 74, who had fallen into bad health over the last several years, turned in his military uniform and ran for president in 1993. Amid allegations of vote rigging and repression of the opposition, Conte won the elections and continued to rule despite continuing controversy among civilian political parties as well as lower ranking elements within the Guinean military.

The first indications that a change of power was underway took place with a radio broadcast over Guinean national radio on December 23 which stated that the military had taken control of the national government and suspended the country's constitution. Immediately key leaders within the higher echelons of the military and the government were detained, while key regiments of the army moved into the streets to set up positions in strategic locations in the capital of Conakry.

In the statement read by the coup leader Capt. Camara, representing what he called the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), it said that: "At the time of celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence on 2 October, Guinea was ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world despite its abundant natural resources."

"Guinea could have been more prosperous. Unfortunately, history and men have decided otherwise," Capt. Camara continued.

According to Camara: "Embezzlement of public funds, general corruption, impunity established as a method of government and anarchy in the management of state affairs have eventually plunged our country into a catastrophic economic situation which is particularly tragic for the overwhelming majority of Guineans. All these woes have been worrying the population for a long time and have caused deep despair for the future."

Yet the widespread poverty, underdevelopment, corruption and poverty, did not begin in recent years. The entire reign of Lansana Conte has been marked by a deliberate repudiation of the founding principles of the Guinean state under the late President Ahmed Sekou Toure. In order to fully understand these developments that arose in Guinea in December, it is important to review the political history of Guinea within the context of the development of its political economy, particularly since its national independence a half-century ago.

Background to the Coup and the Betrayal of the Revolution

Guinea was set apart from other states in West Africa that were colonized by France, when in 1958, under the leadership of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), the people broke with the neo-colonialist scheme of de Gaulle who sought to keep all the former colonies within the political and economic framework of imperialist domination.

As a result of the growing mass agitation in the aftermath of World War II and the emergence of the armed revolutionary struggle for national independence in the North African colony of Algeria after 1954, the French colonial regime offered their subject territories in West Africa the option of becoming part of a semi-independent, neo-colonial federation or to strike out on their own as genuine independent nations.

Guinea, under the leadership of the PDG and it Secretary-General, Sekou Toure, voted a resounding "No" and on October 2, 1958 declared itself an independent state. In retaliation for this act of political defiance, the French colonial authorities withdraw all structural, monetary, material, political and diplomatic support for the transitional Guinean state.

The independence process in Guinea became a model for other liberation movements in Africa and other parts of the world. In a study of decolonization movements in West Africa, Guy De Lusignan, in his book entitled "French-Speaking Africa Since Independence", he notes that: "The Guinean venture was seen as a challenge to the rest of Africa and the Third World: a country starting without help, beginning everything from scratch, gathering together all the national effort within one strong nation-wide party that would reach out to and rouse everyone, even in the remotest bush village." (Lusignan, 1969, p. 180).

Characterizing the political atmosphere of the times in Guinea, the same above-mentioned author said that: "Around President Toure there was an integrated team, intelligent and selfless; responsible party members were few but earnest and hard-working. In the towns, in the bush, people were busy organising party cells and passing on slogans.

"Youth brigades built bridges, village women brought their crops, everyone toiled, with or without recompense, for the country's sake. As early as 1956, before independence, Sekou Toure, then a young trade-union leader and party dialectician, had argued that human investment, so easy to come by in Africa, could replace or at least supplement the financial investments from overseas."

At the same time the country was well-endowed with mineral resources and agricultural and hydro-electric potential. With a size of 95,000 square miles, the center of the country has the high ranges of the Fouta-Djallon which reach almost 5,000 feet. At this range four of the greatest African river spring: the Senegal, the Niger, the Gambia and the Konkoure. Another northern mountain range on the border with Liberia hold tremendous resources in in timber and minerals.

During the colonial period, the French considered Guinea as one of its most prosperous territories. There are gold and diamonds mines, iron ore and the largest bauxite deposits in the world. In the Kaloum area, near the capital of Conakry, iron ore mines have been exploited for decades. One of the most abundant bauxite deposits is to be found on the small island of Loos, which is opposite of Conakry. Other deposits are to be found in the Fria mines in the western region of the country.

In the early days of the Guinean Revolution, the country was assisted with a loan by the government of Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah. There was the creation of the Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union in 1960 which sought to set the pace for larger political and economic alliances among independent states in Africa.

Despite the country's break with the former French colonialists, during the early days of independence the mining sector was still dominated by several French-based firms. By the end of 1961, the French firm Societe des Bauxities du Midi was ordered to cease operations. The government began to work with the socialist counries of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

In fact, according to Lusignan, "Aid agreements with Eastern countries enabled Guinea to start on its industrial programmme--brick and cement factories, a light hydro-electric plant, printing works--but they worked, at the beginning especially, at a low capacity."

By 1962, Guinea would sign new mining agreements with a number of US and Candadian-based aluminun firms. Bauxite was utilized in the production of aluminum and therefore made Guinea a valued partner for the international mining industry.

Again Lusignan reports that: "an agreement related to the Boke scheme was signed with Harvey Aluminium for the building of three factories--one for bauxite, one for alumina, one for aluminium--a harbour and a railway line. The firm was also granted exploitation rights for the bauxite deposit of Kassa on Loos island.

"In 1965, Alcan Aluminium, a Canadian firm, joined Harvey Aluminium in the proposed exploitation of Guinea's bauxite. These arrangements were maintained through the mid-to-late 1960s when relations between Guinea and the United States became strained in the aftermath of the right-wing, US-backed coup against Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.

Nkrumah, who was overthrown with the backing of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on February 24, 1966, relocated in Guinea and was made co-president by Sekou Toure. By 1967-68, a new international consortium was created known as the Compagnie Bauxite de Guinee. The arrangements were that the Guinea government would control 49% of the firm and receive 65% of the profits.

However, despite the tremendous potential for economic development, Guinea remained an underdeleveloped country. The fact that it was virtually alone among the countries in West Africa that sought an independent course, it continued to be isolated from other countries in the region that followed a pro-western course of development.

The PDG government revealed numerous imperialist plots aimed at overthrowing the ruling party. During the 1960s the country declared itself committed to building a scientific socialist society and maintained alliances with the nations of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China. In 1970, there was an attempt to invade and overthrow the country that was backed by Portugal. Guinea had provided a rear-base for the armed struggle being wage by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which was fighting to destroy Portuguese colonialism in neighboring Guinea-Bissau.

President Toure made two trips to the United States in 1979 and 1982 in an effort to build closer ties with two successive administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
However, his death from a heart attack in a hospital in Cleveland in 1984 portended much for the future of the country.

In the immediate aftermath of Toure's death, a military coup led by junior officers took place. Lansana Conte and Diara Traore took control of the state and subsequently abolished the PDG and other popular organs of the state. In 1985, a dispute between Traore and Conte brought about the removal of Traore from his position of leadership. Traore was lured back from exile and later tried and executed at the aegis of Conte. Conte ruled the country with an iron fist between 1984 until his recent death.

After the military coup against the PDG, the country moved closer to France and the United States. Despite this neo-colonial political orientation, Guinea remained underdeveloped and still dependent on the western mining companies for the generation of foreign exchange.

Over the last several months, there have been a series of strikes and rebellions in Guinea in response to the worsening global capitalist economic crisis. Conditions within the military and the police became acute with rising discontent over working conditions and pay. The death of Conte provided an opportunity for lower-ranking officers to seize power on December 23.

Lessons for the anti-capitalist movement

The fifty-year history of the post-colonial struggle in Guinea illustrates the difficulties in developing and sustaining an economic and political course aimed at genuine national independence and socialism. Even though the early years of the liberation movement brought about tremendous strides in the struggle for a non-capitalist path of development, the relative isolation of Guinea along with other anti-imperialist and pan-african states such as Ghana, created the conditions for imperialism to place a stranglehold on the efforts to build development strategies that would prove beneficial to the workers and peasants of these states.

During the 1980s, other African states, which had set out to extend the national democratic revolutions into a socialist- oriented phase, met with fierce resistance from the imperialist world. In addition, the decline and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies in eastern Europe further strengthened the imperialist camp.

Nonetheless, despite these set backs, in reality there is no way forward under imperialist domination in Africa as well as other former colonial, semi-colonial and currently neo-colonial states. With the deepening economic and political crises within the United States and the European Union member-states, even the facade of creating a consumer-based society allied with the west and capitalist Japan has become even more elusive.

Ultimately, the popular classes of workers and farmers must regroup to build revolutionary movements and parties that will effectively challenge imperialist domination and hegemony. Only when this movement takes root will there be the potential for real development and the elimination of poverty and economic exploitation.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. The author has been closely following the political and economic situation in Guinea over the last several months.

1 comment:

sober said...



Email :;;

Date: 6 January, 2009.


We, members, supporters and sympathisers of the charismatic Sierra Leone People’s Democratic League (PDL), in recognition and keeping with the inalienable principle of the rights of nations to self-independent rule, declare our total support for the CNDD (National Council for Democracy and Development ) government of His Excellency Moussa Dadis Camara in neighbouring Guinea. This declaration is necessary in line with PDL’s Pan-African solidarity; and to promote the peaceful, harmonious and fraternal relations between the Sierra Leonean people and our African brothers and sisters in Guinea.

The Sierra Leone People’s Democratic League (PDL) asserts that the only remedy to save Guinea from further destruction and devastation was the intervention of the CNDD government. Everyone knows, including the adversaries of President Moussa Dadis Camara and the CNDD, that the government of late President Lansana Conte was unable to make decisions to govern Guinea well. There was just an atmosphere of general decadence; absence of law and order; displacement of people and collapsed of cherished institutions like Parliament, the Judiciary, Election Commission, the Police, social and economic sectors. To the ordinary Guinean person, the Conte’s era was a nightmare as people had to grope in the dark wondering how to escape the horrible situation they faced under the decadent system.

The late dictator was guilty of abusing state power, and planning and executing silent coups by destroying the foundations of the Guinean Constitution ; imposing controversial presidential Decrees and terrorising the people politically and economically with the help of corrupt politicians and pliant institutions, including the Judiciary, Parliament, the Police, as well as shameless, unprincipled and evil-minded men and women who were ever ready to pawn the dignity of their fellow countrymen and women for ostentatious living.

It is an open truth that the former regime of the late dictator had all the opportunity but failed to grasp the true meaning of democracy, which is all about establishing viable institutions whereby the people of Guinea can act intelligently, to resolve their difficulties. Democracy under the Conte enclave was conceived as an alien concept which was not good for the Guinean people; and that the concept does not go beyond manipulating elections. The moral concerned to ensure a legitimate legislature where all problems affecting the lives of the people are tabled and discussed, and where budget allocations were supposed to fashion-out for the purpose of sustaining the institutional framework of the sister country was unfortunately absent.

Ever since in 2003, the Sierra Leone People’s Democratic League (PDL) warned that Guinea was sliding towards abysmal collapse. We warned also that, the international community to take serious measures to force the Administration the late dictator to do everything to repair the damages the corrupt, lawless and belligerent rule inflicted on the Guinean people. We sensed that the absence of basic constitutional provisions for the separation of powers, for the independence of the judiciary ; for a legitimate and functional Parliament and for the strict adherence to constitutionalism in the national and public life, President Conte and his henchmen grab all powers in their own hands leaving the Guinean people marginalised, isolated and dehumanised.

Big political gurus and henchmen of the anti-Guinea system questioned the logic of our concerned, which they misconstrued as attempt by foreigners to undermine the authority of the late oppressor. As a matter of fact, no one in the international community had the courage to speak against President Conte’s fascist dictatorship rule in Guinea. Instead, most foreign diplomats in the regions were only concerned with proceeds out of the loot from Guinea’s natural resources, because they knew the victims of the Conte’s cancerous leadership were not Europeans, or Americans or Asians, but Africans whose dignity was subjected to activities of foreign criminal adventurism on the continent.

The 24 years rule of President Lansana Conte was at best can be described as the era Guinean lost its dignity. The era in which the country saw the collapse of basic institutions needed to run a country for the benefit of its sovereign people. And the era in which elected Parliamentarians became power unto themselves, handled Guinea’s affairs for their own self-aggrandisement, and allowed social vices and degeneracy to eat deeply into the fabric of the Guinean society.

We knew the time was overdue for the old guards to give way for renovations and innovations into Guinea’s national body politics. Based on this fact, we suggested the formation of a Transitional Government of Inclusion (TGI) to fill the leadership vacuum that was already been created by the inability of the government to deliver stability and stop the ruthless and merciless exploitation of the Guinean people and natural resources. We proudly stand as the only Pan-African organ in Sierra Leone, and in deed in the West African sub-region to have seen and warned about the dark clouds hanging over our neighbours.

However, in spite the acceleration of the repressive rule in defiance of our early warning, various civil strives and unrests in recent years in Guinea vindicated PDL’s conviction that the only antidote to Guinea’s artificial nightmares did not lie in the political manipulative mechanism and brutal leadership exhibited by the late President Lansana Conte. The policing system for instance was rotten with a reckless, incompetent and irresponsible domestic command structure. Instead of enforcing law and order, the late dictator(s Policemen became notorious in the trade of using brute force and gun powder to intimidate the public and to deal ruthlessly with any peaceful protest.

At the time the late dictator’s Police turned into a daylight madness, which institution was in place to safeguard democracy and defend the human rights of the people? When President Conte had transformed Guinea’s judiciary into a tool of oppression and for protecting drug barons and other dangerous criminals, who was trusted to be the guardian of law in that country? Who was in the international community that came-out and condemned the brutal misrule of late President Lansana Conte? We demand answers especially from our foreign friends in the region who pretend they love Guinea and the Guinean people more than the CNDD.

The CNDD just came at a time when a liberator was needed to save the Guinean people and the entire region from crises very akin to the brutal wars fought in Liberia and Sierra Leone. President Moussa Dadis Camara intervention should therefore be justified on the basis that, the CNDD came to put Guinea back on track. We welcome the CNDD’s declared willingness to work with Guinea’s neighbours and the wider international community to consolidate the current peace, stability and harmony in the region; put in place institutions that are urgently needed to combat corruption, lift the living standards of Guinea’s poor people and prepare the country for proper constitutional order through credible, democratic and transparent transition program.

It should be obvious to the international community by now that the huge and worldwide wave of solidarity and sympathy with the Guinean people behind the CNDD is growing by the passing day with public statements welcoming President Moussa Dadis Camara as the God-sent Moses to restore the lost dignity of the people, and re-establish the will of law in Guinea. It should also be obvious to the international community that no amount of political intimidation, isolation, incitement, threats or ridiculous propaganda is helpful in Guinea’s current situation. The CNDD empathises with the suffering, pains, traumas, tribulations and misery the Guinean people went through in the last 24 years of Conte’s misrule.

Within the framework of peaceful co-existence, political stability, regional security, freedom and dignity, the foundations and pillars upon which the CNDD is erected, we, in the Sierra Leone People’s Democratic League (PDL) wholeheartedly declare our un-flinched support for President Moussa Dadis Camara. We move also to expose and defend the CNDD government against outside misrepresentation, threats, intimidation or any attempt by individual or group of individuals who may be planning to cause disruption to peace and harmony.

We call upon the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma in Freetown to raise its voice with courage in solidarity and support for its counterpart CNDD government in Guinea, led by President Moussa Dadis Camara. Proxy Policy of isolation towards our neighbours through sanctions or other anti-people’s Guinea motivated decisions would have serious impact across the region, with threats to the fragile peace and baby democracies in our countries.

Sierra Leone strong support for, and good working relationship with its neighbours in Guinea is necessary and most warranting for regional peace and security, as well as for Sierra Leone’s national security and economic interests. I twill also assure our neighbours of Sierra Leone’s goodwill.

We take the opportunity to call upon the international community, the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Conference, African Union, Organisation of American States, Economic Community of West African States, Association of South East Asian Nations and individual countries worldwide that love and defend peace and freedom to have a second look at events in Guinea and do a good service to humanity, by rallying support behind the CNDD government. The international community must send a clear message of support for the CNDD, to promote peace, stability and development of democratic institutions in the region.

We challenge the Guinean Security-the National Army, Navy, Air Force, Presidential Guard Force, Gendarme, the Police and Secret Services to preserve Guinea’s values, traditions and beliefs, and to remain ever vigilant against infiltrators within and without. We challenge the Guinean security to rise beyond the tribal line to overcome the past and rally firmly and loyally behind the CNDD, to restore Guinea to its rightful place in the international community of free and proud nations.

We believe the Guinean security are trusted, patriotic and competent to consolidate the current peace and stability, and defending the state, national institutions, the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Guinea against rogues.

This statement is incomplete without calling upon Political Parties and their leaders, and all stakeholders and entire population to welcome the CNDD as a « Daniel who has come to do justice to the Guinean nation ». The CNDD has come with a mission to make a difference and to dedicate itself totally to the advancement of the vital interests of the Guinean people, inspired by the spirit of love, patriotism and national belonging.

The CNDD’s commitment to return Guinea to constitutional order as early as practicable becomes an acid test for all Guineans to work together with their new leaders for a peaceful and democratic transition. We call all Guineans, poor or rich to rally behind President Moussa Dadis Camara’s slogan of « Guinea first », and we warn detractors to avoid actions that are capable of disturbing peace and threatening security. We know that these detractors, local and foreign were onetime apologists and proxies of the very former reactionary government of the late dictator, which perpetrated heinous crimes against the Guinean nation.

As always, we wish to assure once again all African compatriots in Guinea our continued support for peace, stability and progress in their country. We will continue to pray to the Great God to Protect and Guide the CNDD in all its undertakings. Wishing great success to President Moussa Dadis Camara for a New Guinea out of the ashes out the old, corrupt, narcotic, anti-peoples, reactionary, fascist and decadent system

Long live the republic of Sierra Leone!

Long live the Republic of Guinea!

Long Live Sierra Leone-Guinea Solidarity!


Amadu Bailor Bah

PDL Secretary for Foreign affairs and International Solidarity.

Sierra Leone People’s Democratic League (PDL) is affiliate of the Green Charter International (GCI), for peace, democracy, human rights, rule of law, freedom and dignity.