Lansama Conte, Guinea’s president for 24 years, died on December 22, 2008. As a country located in western Africa map on digopaul.com, Guinea is still ruled by a military junta, and companies and military from an increasing number of states operate in the country. With the help of foreign mercenaries, President Camara is now preparing his special forces for ethnic warfare, while the conflicts surrounding concession rights to the country’s vast mineral deposits are easing.
Mineral extraction has played a key role in Guinea’s politics and history. Under the Contes regime, international financial institutions and donors were given free conditions for the formulation of Guinea’s economic and social policies. Today, despite enormous natural riches, Guinea is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. Towards the end of Conte’s reign, the military regime was in open conflict with several international companies on concession rights. The new military junta, which has been under severe European pressure since the coup, has aggravated this situation by assigning disputed licensing rights to new entrants, especially companies from China and Israel.
There were few who knew Moussa Dadis Camara, who was the captain of the defense, before the coup at the end of 2008. Since the Conte regime was despised by most, the laws of elections, anti-corruption and a review of the country’s mineral contracts gave Camara a respite to to consolidate its power after the coup. Camara took advantage of this opportunity to bring in mercenaries from Israel and South Africa to train militias of youth from their own ethnic group. To fund its position, Camara has provided disputed mineral licenses to companies from China and Israel. The unsettled situation that has arisen increases the danger that the country will be further destabilized and drawn into an ethnic civil war.
On September 28, 2009, about nine months after Camara’s coup, a peaceful demonstration drew 50,000 people to the capital Conakry’s national football stadium. The activists came to show their opposition to continued military rule and to demand that no military be able to stand for election in 2010. It was statements by Camara that he himself came to stand, which triggered the demonstration. Camara responded by deploying the military and its own security forces against the activists. The situation evolved into a tragedy, in which the military attacks especially women and politically active, as well as men from a particular ethnic background. The junta denies the events, which included public group rapes of women and girls with knives and guns – many were executed on the spot. The tragedy, which cost 157 lives, has shattered all illusions that Camara can contribute something positive for Guinea. Camara has been in exile since an attempted assault on December 3, 2009.
The military junta continues to persecute journalists and others who speak critically in the press. Organizers of demonstrations are systematically executed. The military junta has immunity from prosecution, but it does not stop the population from continuing to revolt. Guinea’s people want radical changes, such as access to clean drinking water and transition to civilian rule.
The raw material bauxite has played a key role in Guinea’s economic and political history. Historically, the internationally owned company has the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea extracted most of Guinea’s bauxite. The company is today the world’s largest exporter of bauxite. Guinea also has large deposits of gold, diamonds, iron and other minerals, and several global companies operate in the country. During Conte’s reign, the country’s economic policies were largely stretched beyond its borders. Among other things, donors demanded that public spending be cut to an absolute minimum. The policy, characterized by deregulation and privatization, has prioritized environmental protection and a public service offering. It has not been invested in agriculture or in the development of local industry and electricity. The result is a poverty trap – Guinea is now completely dependent on the world market and donors.
Several large multinational companies operate in Guinea, such as the multinational Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto was in conflict with the Conte regime over a gigantic iron deposit in Simandou, and Camara has now licensed an Israeli company to operate in the northern area of the disputed field. Camara has also signed a contract with China, which, following Conté’s play, will play a role in all the country’s mineral activities. The Russian company RUSAL is also in legal dispute with the junta over ownership of a bauxite mine in Kindia. The country’s first president, Sekou Toure (1959-1984), wanted to work on aluminum in Guinea, something “the international community” was never interested in. Guinea has in many ways been governed as a company, with the goal of exporting minerals out of the country in the cheapest way possible.
Illiteracy is widespread in the population and the regular school class has between 60 and 90 students. With 11 doctors per 100,000 population, expensive drugs and expensive medical treatment, a health care is out of reach for the vast majority. Less than half of the population has access to clean water – and four out of five live without access to sanitary conditions. Less than 10 percent of the population has access to electricity. In other words, Guinea’s social indicators are comparable to those of countries that have just emerged from a protracted war.
The population defies abuses and massacres to demand a transition to civilian rule and to establish a legal society. At the same time, the economy must have more legs to stand on, which can be difficult to achieve without pursuing a form of distribution policy and protectionism. Unfortunately, there are some who benefit from leaving the country without environmental protection, public services and a strong civil society. These same forces are now helping to drag the country into an ethnic war; the highly oligarchic international aluminum industry plays a key role. Guinea has every opportunity to create a diversified and strong economy, but then the power over economic policy must be transferred to the people.
Area: 245 857 km2 (31st largest)
Population: 9.8 million
Population density: 40 per km2
Urban population: 34 percent
Largest city: Conakry – approx. 1.5 million
GDP per capita: USD 505
Economic growth: 4 percent
HDI Position: 170