Guinea: “Elections not a priority” for junta -civil society

APA - Conakry (Guinea)

In an interview with APA, Dr. Aliou Barry, Coordinator of the ‘Alliance Citoyenne pour la Transition’ (ACT) in Guinea, assesses the governance of the military that seized power by ousting Alpha Conde.

One year after the coup, what is your take on the transition in Guinea?

First of all, there is a need to distinguish between the moralization of public life, the fight against corruption, the rebuilding of the state and the improvement of justice. On the socio-economic level, there has been significant progress since the advent of the National Committee of the Rally for Development (CNRD), which was formed after the overthrow of Alpha Condé.

In Guinea, we have always talked about the fight against corruption without seeing the results. In 2003, as an expert in the field, I conducted the first national survey on corruption and governance. It is only now that concrete actions are being taken in this direction.

The CNRD is rapidly recovering embezzled funds. The will to break with the past is visible. Now, we can wonder about its sustainability. This tracking down of ill-gotten gains is a temporary measure, as it is not part of a structural strategy to fight corruption.

With regard to infrastructure, the improvement in the condition of roads is to be applauded. The transitional government has been able to find funding for projects that had been lying dormant in drawers in order to implement them. Efforts have also been made in the health and education sectors.

As for the social climate, it must be acknowledged that there is a little calmer, even if from time to time demonstrations are organized by political parties or civil society actors.

Overall, the climate is calmer, but we don’t know until when. Living conditions are becoming increasingly difficult. Poverty is palpable. I alerted some of the ministers I met. In addition, Guineans have the impression that money does not circulate in the country as it used to.

Politically, Guinea is in a stalemate. The dialogue, as desired by the CNRD, has been rejected by the political parties, which are calling for it to be inclusive. For the staffs of some political parties, it is not easy to discuss with the military when their leaders are being prosecuted for economic crimes.

So far, the parties taking part in the dialogue are not very representative. The same is true for some members of civil society, whose credibility is questionable. There is therefore important work to be done at this level. It will consist especially in inviting all Guineans to express themselves freely.

Today, we are a bit lost. Who is even leading this dialogue? Initially, it was the Minister of Territorial Administration, after the outgoing Prime Minister, Mohamed Béavogui, replaced by Dr. Bernard Goumou. Many questions remain unanswered. This makes political dialogue a bit hypothetical.

How did the military manage to break the thread of dialogue with part of the political class and civil society?

The junta came with its own agenda. It is notably the fight against corruption with the establishment of the Court of Repression of Economic and Financial Offences (CRIEF). This special court has reportedly pinned down some of the country’s heavyweight political party leaders.

Dialogue in this context is difficult. In addition, big names in the opposition have been evicted from their homes in what is known as the “State property affair.”

The leader of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), Cellou Dalein Diallo, was forced to leave his home, which he allegedly acquired illegally under the rule of President Lansana Conte. The said house was razed to make way for an elementary school. Sidya Toure of the ‘Union des Forces Republicaines’ (UFR) suffered the same fate.

The CNRD has still not reassured those who doubt its intentions. Nevertheless, the involvement of traditional and religious leaders in the dialogue could bring the different parties together.

The duration of the transition, set at three years, was rejected by ECOWAS, which demanded a six-month transition. Is the junta in a position to accede to this request?

It is difficult to say. Civil society has had to work on the issue. We had proposed a two-year period with a precise calendar and the actions to be taken during this period. But it turns out that elections are not the priority of the CNRD.

Currently, it is more a question of rebuilding the state with justice as the main pillar. The judiciary is the compass of the CNRD. That said, the junta has set a number of objectives that will take time. It is essentially a matter of building a real state and healing the nation’s wounds.

If, in addition, the military wants to conduct a general census of the population and housing, this is not possible in two years. The National Transitional Council (CNT), which acts as Parliament, has proposed a three-year term.

ECOWAS, for its part, may not bend. But what has the regional institution done to prevent Alpha Conde from seeking a third term? It failed in its duty and the former president was ousted a year after his re-election.

Some Guineans, though not many, argue that the junta should end Alpha Conde's term. Some members of civil society and the CNT prefer a three-year transition.

According to the position that seems to be the most widely held in public opinion, two years is more than enough time for the CNRD to complete the reforms already begun, but starting when? That is the complexity of the question.

 Is Guinea exposed to new sanctions if the CNRD maintains its position? If so, what would be the consequences for the Guinean economy?

There is of course a risk. It is preferable that we avoid this. Moreover, civil society is working on this because we live in a poor country with a lot of debt. In Guinea, inflation is at 13 percent these days.

The state is working to pay the domestic debt. That’s not bad!.. It is also renegotiating contracts in the mining sector. In fact, our country did not earn much from the exploitation of its immense mining resources.

Guinea does not benefit from the support of donors. As soon as there is a coup d’Etat, many partners suspend their support. Having worked in the National Assembly, I know that external funding is an important part of the state budget.

If it dries up, if ECOWAS imposes economic and other sanctions, and if we are unable to mobilize more domestic revenue, it will be very detrimental to the people. Sanctions against Guinea will have no effect on the junta. On the other hand, they will worsen the situation of the already highly vulnerable population.


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