Guinea’s Alpha Conde attacked

President Alpha Conde, Guinea’s first elected president since independence, appears to have survived a coup attempt in the early hours of Tuesday. Mr. Conde’s residence was hit by rocket fire in what appears to have been a coup attempt.

The latest turn of events makes one wonder if Paul Collier’s rather crazy unorthodox proposals might be worth a shot. [Collier, among other recommendations, proposes an international guarantee of sorts that democratically-elected governments that remain true to proper governance will be protected from the army and other armed thugs that might want to overthrow them.]

I believe that local horse-trading should always be given a chance before the internationals fly in to impose agreements on feuding factions. But when local factions have fought each other to a stalemate – as is the case in Chad, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia – it might be time for the international community to provide a helping hand. Millions of civilians should not be left to suffer simply because a few men cannot strike a stable deal. The interventions will be nuanced and complicated and messy – so I can’t spell out the terms here – but simply sitting back and watching is not an option.

Simply stated, the men with guns in Guinea are irresponsible.

Guinea is also a budding narco-state. I would not be surprised if the latest attack on the president is linked to the emerging drug problem in west Africa. It is common knowledge that the son of the immediate former president of Guinea, Ousmane Conte, has/had ties with the drug trade. President Joao Vieira of Guinea-Bissau and the country’s top military officer were killed in 2009 in what was rumored to be a drug-related feud.

Mr. Conde was elected in a run off with 52% of the vote. Two years earlier in 2008 the army carried out a coup following the death of the country’s second president, the late Lansana Conte. Mr. Conte himself came to power in a coup following the death of Guinea’s firebrand founding president Sekou Toure. Many hailed the generals’ decision to return to the barracks in 2010 as a new turn in Guinean politics. They were wrong.

The BBC reports that a former army chief, Nouhou Thiam, has been arrested in relation to the Tuesday morning attack.

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5 thoughts on “Guinea’s Alpha Conde attacked

  1. Can you be more specific about what you think Collier’s proposals might accomplish in this case? FWIW, I think your point about the growing power of drug traffickers and their allies in the military and government is the big one here, and I don’t see how foreign governments are going to credibly outbid that “mafia.”

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  2. The problem with west African armies is that when the wars ended their cash flows from illegal trade in timber, diamonds, gold, etc dried up. Given that their states are broke, drug trafficking provides a lucrative substitute. The international community can guarantee to keep the officers and generals happy in exchange for their cutting ties with the Latin American drug lords.

    The drug trade through west Africa cannot continue without implicit consent from authorities. Unlike in America where land smuggling is easier, the logistics of shipping or flying drug through west Africa require much greater coordination with local bigwigs.

    These local bigwigs can be given alternative sources of income.

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  3. Maybe I’m too cynical, but I see moral hazard around the bend on that path. If foreign governments did try to buy those local bigwigs off, it would set them up to play a nice double game. They could dangle the threat of non-cooperation to squeeze incrementally more money out of the donor countries, or (more likely, I would think) they could just play both sides as long as possible for maximum profit. Even if many chose to cooperate, the temptation for a few to split away from the program would be strong. Without strong local enforcement, I’d think it would all fall apart pretty quickly.

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  4. True. In order to guarantee success an arrangement that gives amnesty to past offenders but punishes future ones must be in place. Following the such an agreement military officials involved in the drug trade would have to be liable to arrest and extradition to the destination countries of the drugs.

    Any deal would necessarily need to have a big stick accompanying the carrots.

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  5. Pingback: Elite political instability continues in Guinea-Bissau « Opalo's weblog

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