Posted by: bklunk | February 16, 2007

Think This Through

So, Guinea is next West African state to experience recent problems. Guinea is a African state that is sandwiched between Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire. It also shares borders
with Libera and Sierra Leone. In recent weeks President Lansana Conte has created policies that have yet again damaged the domestic economy.
Conte has only been the 2nd president since the nation’s independence 50 years ago, he’s had the position for 23 years. Conte’s mismanagement of the economy has angered the Guinean population and many organisations have demanded his resignation. People had had enough and
demonstrations began last weekend to protest against Conte’s presidentcy. Conte reacted with violence, sending in the military to halt all demonstrations, killing at least 100 people. As a result of the chaos and violence, Conte instigated an 18 hour Marshall Law, citizens are only able to leave their homes between 12pm and 6pm. The nation is at unrest and like its neighbours of Sierra Leone and Liberia, war may be imminent if violence is not resolved.

Last May, President Conte reshuffled parliament and remolved the prime ministre from office, vesting all state powers in himself, Guniea became and is now, a military authoritarian regime. Guineans are visibly upset at the current state of their nation, and their anger is only met with violence and murder. The African Union, United Nations and various other organisations have condemned the president’s recent behaviour, but little or no action is taken to intervene and actually take care of the situation. The AU released a statement asking for Conte to restore normalcy and regularity to the nation.

Well, normalcy is not needed, justice is needed. Conte has
economically ruined his country and destroyed the current generations’ employment opportunities. While disposing him may not be the best idea, can the AU take a stronger stance against his policies? Would they? It seems like the AU is pretty weak, it rarely intervenes in a states’ affairs (which may be a good thing) but does little to promote human rights and justice, an integral part of its mission. The AU could simply become more active, instead of offering vague statements while sipping coffee in Cannes, France. A major crisis if unfolding in Guinea, will the world and the AU turn a blind eye and allow a decades long civil war to destory the nation, similar to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Somalia? If action is not taken to restore and/or create peace, war seems imminent.

read on at

Assuming we want the AU to be more assertive in situations like the one discussed in this post, what is our diagnosis for why it is not already responding more assertively? Is it just hypocricy or is something more systemic at work?

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  1. I think it is very important for the AU to become more involved in situations such as that which is presently occurring in Guinea, and I do not see why they do not take action. One would assume that the tragedies in other African states in the past would motivate the AU to respond quickly and attempt to pacify the situation. My first guess as to why the AU does not play a bigger role in these situations is that they would like to see the governments of African states and their peoples work out problems on their own, without outside involvement or military occupation. Secondly, it is possible that they AU does not have much real power over situations like these. The numerous and pressing crises across Africa may be spreading AU influence very thin. A third possibility is that members of the AU have political, monetary, and social ties to the oppressive African leaders, and it would be against their interest to take a stance that reflects negatively on people like President Conte. Whatever the case may be, I hope that the AU will stand up and defend the African people who are being oppressed and killed for expressing their political beliefs and asserting their civil rights.

  2. I believe the AU could become powerful enough to help better Guinea’s economy if everyone came together. I believe an outside source would need to help as well, such as the United Nations or another strong country. The question is though, would anyone outside come help?

    Like the war between the US and Iraq, we are promoting democracy and trying to start a democratic government there. It is thought there may be underlying benefits such as trying to gain their oil, but if this is not the case, maybe America would help Guinea start a good government base too. Others such as the United Nations could do this too.

    I read an article about Turkmenistan’s recent conditions, and while reading your commentary it reminded me of them. They are also surrounded by countries with forms of government that could potentially hurt them. Russia lies to the North and China to the East, both which have strong forms of communist government. Even though Turkmenistan’s leaders are voted in like in a democracy, their government is very corrupt. Their recently lost president had led since 1991 when Turkmenistan had became an independent nation from Russia. However, he did not want what was best for his country. He closed many libraries, cut back on education, allowed people to only read certain books and wouldn’t let many people leave or enter the country. I guess now that he’s gone, maybe we’ll see some improvement for Turkmenistan, or maybe we won’t. Guinea could look to their status for examples.

    Turkmenistan’s president wouldn’t allow anyone into the country that would potentially help his people or change the publics’ minds to want something else. It was not mentioned that Turkmenistan had anyone who wanted to rebel against his absurd rulings. However, in Guinea, It sounds like the UN is able to enter and potentially help.

    I say if the UN is able to get into Guinea and help the AU, they could become strong enough and gain enough support from the Guinea people to overturn the current government. I believe like you said though, what would happen if the current leadership is thrown out? Hopefully a new leader would get in who actually cared about the Guinea people and would not get sucked into the control and wealth.

  3. I agree that the AU should step in and do something. I also agree that the UN should monitor the situation. Unfortunately, it will be a while before the UN will be able to do anything, because as far as we know, there is no systemic genocide. It’s hard to sit back and watch something that you don’t agree with taking place. At the same time, the UN knows it has to respect Guinea’s sovereignty. I think that the line between necessary intervention and overstepping sovereignty boundaries has always been a blurry one.

    In her comments, Alicia asked why the AU is not doing anything. I think that it’s hard to remember just how big Africa is, and just how many countries in Africa need the help of the AU. As with any group, they have limited resources and limited manpower. It’s entirely possible that their services are being exhausted in Darfur. Despite pleading for more assistance, including that of the UN, the Sundanese government is insisting that the AU can handle it internally. Alicia also makes a good point when she questions how much power the AU holds. In instances of warring factions in a civil war situation, it’s entirely possible that the AU’s authority is incredibly diminished. At the same time, I think the AU needs to be given a chance to react to the current situation, before the UN steps in.

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