Monday, February 26, 2007

[Guinean news] Conté agrees to consensus prime minister; unions to suspend general strike again

Guinean unions will again suspend the general strike after the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté agreed to name a prime minister from a list of names proposed by the labor organizations. His previous choice, Eugene Camara, was rejected by unions as too close to Conté.

According to Guinéenews, the unions proposed Mohamed Béavogui (of the International Fund for Agricultural Development), Saïdou Diallo (from the National Social Security Fund) and Lansana Kouyaté (former executive director of ECOWAS, the West African economic community).

The deal came shortly after the National Assembly took the unprecedented step of unanimously rejecting Conté's demand to extend martial law in the country.

Work in the country will resume on Tuesday February 27, according to unions who say that Conté has until March 2 to uphold his part of the deal.

The return to work was delayed by a day as unions observed a national day of commemoration for the over 100 people killed during the general strike.

Update: Guinéenews and the BBC World Service report that Conté has named former ECOWAS chief Lansana Kouyaté as the new prime minister.

[Discussion topic] 'Something must be done'... but what?

In response to the discussion topic posted earlier on what we can do to help Guineans, I received several suggestions that revolved around an information campaign of writing letters to legislators and other high-ranking officials. However, one thing lacking was specifics. I very much agree with the idea of an information campaign but before doing so, we must have a couple of concrete actions to ask officials to take. We can't ask officials to do something if we don't have any idea ourselves what they could do. So if anyone has any ideas about what concrete actions American officials could undertake to positively impact the situation, please post them below. I will compile the best suggestions into a future post.

-Brian Farenell
FOG Communications Director

Saturday, February 24, 2007

[Guinean news] National Assembly orders end to martial law

The Guinean National Assembly has rejected a request by Gen. Lansana Conté to extend martial law in the country. The unanimous move was an unprecedented rebuke of the head of state.

In the face of the astonishing vote by a body almost entirely controlled by Conté's allies, opposition leader Bâ Mamadou called for the naming of a 'government of public salvation.'

The Nigerian paper The Daily Trust of Abuja has its analysis of how Guinea imploded.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

[Discussion topic] How can we help Guineans?

The parent of a (now evacuated) volunteer recently asked how she can support the peaceful people of Guinea. We discussed this amongst the board members and had a few ideas but we want to hear what you think. I am opening up this entry to facilitate dialogue about what we can do from afar to support ordinary Guineans in their struggle to improve living conditions.

In offering your comments, please make it clear what 'we' you are referring to: PCVs/RPCVs, parents and Guineaphiles, Americans in general, FOG itself, etc.

Please leave your comments here. And feel free to respond to anyone else's comments. Or alternatively, you are free to email your thoughts to communications @ friendsofguinea.org

I will compile all the comments into a future entry. This discussion will also help give the board guidance in determining what actions FOG's board and/or members can take.

Thank you.

Brian Farenell
FOG Communications Director

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

[FOG news] Board of directors' statement on the future of Friends of Guinea

Dear Friends of Guinea members and Guineaphiles:

In the wake of the recent dramatic events that have occurred in the country as well as the Peace Corps' suspension of their program in Guinea, several members have inquired about the future role of Friends of Guinea (FOG).

The board of directors would like reassure everyone that regardless of what happens in Guinea or with the Peace Corps program in the country, FOG will continue to remain an active organization.

Our focus will certainly change if the Peace Corps is absent from Guinea for a sustained period of time. In the absence of PCVs on the ground, FOG's role will shift away from support to the volunteers and volunteer families and toward support of development projects (when things calm down enough for them to be feasible) and advocacy.

FOG's most important role is in its ability to foster community. We will continue to keep everyone informed of what's going on in Guinea, not only politically but socially and in the development sphere as well. We will continue to provide and expand opportunities for RPCVs and other Guineaphiles to interact with each other and discuss Peace Corps-, Guinea- and FOG-related issues.

We will advocate for the re-insertion of the Peace Corps into Guinea as soon as conditions make the situation safe for volunteers.

We always welcome feedback as to how FOG can better serve its members, particularly during this transition period that we hope is temporary. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them on this blog or email them to: communications @ friendsofguinea.org

Sincerely,
The Friends of Guinea board of directors

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

[PC Guinea news] Update from Peace Corps headquarters

Nicole Lewis of Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, DC passed along the following official information:

* On February 12, the U.S. Embassy issued an ordered departure of all U.S. Citizens from Guinea due to the ongoing strikes and civil unrest.

* As of February 12, the Peace Corps Guinea program has been temporarily suspended.

* PCVs will begin a transition conference on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 which will be completed by February 23, 2007.

* PCVs will be offered various options including a direct and immediate transfer, close of service, or a possible reinstatement, if the situation in Guinea improves.

* Since January 10, PCVs have been on standfast and were consolidated in Mali, near Bamako on January 26.

* Volunteers participated in an In Service Training (IST) in Mali. PC Guinea staff attended the IST and supported the Volunteers along with an OSS officer from Washington, D.C., and the sub-regional programming and training coordinator from Senegal.

* During this time, the PC/Guinea Country Director and his staff, PC staff in Mali, and staff in D.C. were constantly monitoring the situation in Guinea to evaluate when the PCVs may return to Guinea.

* Families are encouraged to contact Peace Corps' Office of Special Services with any questions or concerns they may have. Special Services maintains a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week duty system. The telephone number during standard office hours is 1-800-424-8580, Extension 1470; the after hours number is 202-638-2574. The Office of Special Services can also be contacted via e-mail at ossdutyofficer@peacecorps.gov

Monday, February 19, 2007

[Guinean news] Curfew eased; hundreds of opposition members arrested

The BBC is one of several news outlets to report that the curfew in Guinea has been eased. People will be banned from the streets from 6:00 PM until 6:00 AM, which is quite a bit shorter than when it was first ordered. However under martial law, public gatherings are still illegal and the army has unrestricted power to search people's homes.

On Saturday, union leaders declared they would not negotiate until the draconian martial law was lifted. A high-ranking official in the CNTG union told Guinéenews that there was nothing to negotiate except how the government would apply the accord agreed upon on January 27.

Over the weekend, some 300 opposition members were reportedly arrested throughout the country and thrown into military detention centers.

Even Pope Benedict XVI has weighed in to the Guinea crisis calling on the regime to "respect of human and civil rights."

ECOWAS, the West African economic community, has dispatched high-ranking mission to Guinea. The mission included ECOWAS chairman Dr. Mohammed ibn-Chambas and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who spent eight years as Nigeria's military dictator and was a close ally of Lansana Conté.

The United Nations recently authorized another nearly $2.5 million to be spent on humanitarian operations particularly in more remote parts of Guinea.

The Daily Mail and Guardian of South Africa has a good summary of the crisis in Guinea and its origins.

Friday, February 16, 2007

[Blog news] Brief hiatus

I will be traveling out of town for a few days. I likely will be unable to blog during that time but will return on Monday February 19. I know many people are following closely the events in Guinea, so a few news sources you may wish to check during this hiatus are...

-BBC News: Africa section

-Guinéenews (in French)

-AllAfrica.com: Guinea page

-Google News (Do a search for 'Guinea' and/or 'Conakry')


Brian Farenell
Communications Director

Thursday, February 15, 2007

[FOG news] Election time!

Dear Friends of Guinea members
It's election time again!

Every year, the following positions for Friends of Guinea's board are up for election: membership director, communications director, advocacy director, financial director, projects director and secretary.

We have candidates for a few of those positions but we really need volunteers for the following positions:

-Advocacy director

-Communications director


The advocacy director follows issues relating to the Peace Corps, to Guinea and to international development and keeps the membership informed of key concerns.

The communications director is responsible for any communications that might occur with outside organizations, such as other Friends of * organizations. The communications director is also the point person for the newsletter coordinator, web admin and blogmaster


If you have questions about or want to know more about advocacy or communications, please contact me Brian Farenell at communications @ friendsofguinea.org as I have served in both positions.

Nominations will be accepted through Wednesday February 28. Ballots will be emailed to all FOG members on March 1. Elections will be during the period of March 1-15. And new officers will start on shortly thereafter, though outgoing officers will remain available in the beginning to assist with the transition period.

If you are a member of FOG and would like to volunteer for one of these positions or have any other questions, please contact Elections Coordinator Woody Collahan at fogelections2007 @ yahoo.com

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

[NGO/Guinean news] ICG report on situation in Guinea

Friends of Guinea's newsletter editor Woody Collahan pointed out that the International Crisis Group has issued a new report on the situation in Guinea. The full report is available only in French but a comprehensive summary in English is available on the ICG's website.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

[Guinean news] Media activity halted on first full day of martial law, many Americans to be evacuated

In the first full day of martial law, Guinéenews notes that its reporting from Guinea is being seriously hampered as all cybercafés in Conakry have been shut down. It added that its "volunteer correspondents in Conakry who risk their lives to send dispatches can not work at this moment."

Radio France Internationale's FM broadcasting in Conakry has also been off the air.

Under the martial law decree ordered by the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté, Guineans are not allowed to leave their homes except between 4:00-8:00 PM. Even the Guinean Red Cross, which runs the country's only ambulance service, is grounded by the decree.

Despite martial law and the absolute power it gives to the army:

-A World Food Program warehouse in Kankan was looted and 450 metric tons of food stolen. In this time when Guineans are in an even more desperate situation because of the general strike and crackdown against it, the WFP was forced to temporarily suspend operations in Guinea;

-Gangs of machete-wielding young people prowled the streets of Conakry and its suburbs. Opposition leader Bâ Mamadou said, "Hooligans have taken control in a number of neighborhoods of the capital" and encouraged local communities to form crisis committees to address the situation;

-Unrest has spread to an elite military unit and many suspect this is related to the widespread assumption that Conté has called in mercenaries from the neighboring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. This is generally interpreted to be a lack of confidence in the Guinean military. Though Conté has reportedly made a number of promotions within the army in recent days to secure their support.

The International Labor Organization has called for an end to the 'senseless violence' in Guinea. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealed for calm and said that he "regrets the failure to implement the agreement reached on 27 January, which has triggered the resumption of the crisis and threatens to plunge the country into generalized instability."

A spokesman for the US embassy in Senegal's capital Dakar said that a transport plane was being sent to Guinea to airlift private citizens and the family of embassy staff from the country. He stated that the action did not constitute a full evacuation.

Monday, February 12, 2007

[Guinean news] State of siege declared in Guinea but insurrection continues

Guinea's embattled head of state Gen. Lansana Conté has declared the country to be in a state of siege for the next two weeks and ordered the army to restore order by any means necessary, according to Guinéenews. The military has been given all the powers of the police. The decree ordered that all electronic communications were being monitored by authorities. All vehicle traffic has been banned with foot traffic only allowed between 4:00-6:00 PM.

The brand new Radio Liberté FM, one of the first private broadcasters in the country, has reportedly seen its offices ransacked by the presidential guard. The two employees, who were running a call-in program where opinions were running against the Guinean leader, were taken away by the red berets.

Two other private radio stations have suspended all programming as ordered by the presidential guard.

Armored tanks have been seen on the streets of the capital.

At least seven people have been killed in the Conakry commune of Ratoma.

A BBC reporter notes that protesters have ransacked a police station in the southern town of Guekedou and demonstrators are also out on the streets of other towns. The labor union collective insists that it is no longer about who happens to be prime minister. They claim their sole objective now is Conté's departure.

One of the more intriguing stories comes from COSA and ENCO 5, in the Conakry suburbs. Mobs there have attacked suspected members of the former Liberian rebel movement ULIMO. Lansana Conté had backed that faction during that country's 1989-97 civil war and some accuse the general of calling in the militiamen to help put down the general strike. Yet members of the Guinean army have sided with the residents, who provided the soldiers with food and drink. Apparently young soldiers at the Alpha Yaya military camp were angry that only a handful of their colleagues were rewarded during the latest round of promotions. Internal divisions inside the Guinean military are one of the reasons many observers fear a messy transition to the post-Conté era. This analysis from AllAfrica.com has other interesting speculation as well.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

[Guinean news] Analysis of situation in Guinea

Global Voices has a long analysis of the situation in Guinea from many different quarters.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

[Guinean news] Protests resume; more marchers shot dead; Guinea in 'virtual insurrection'

Today, residents of Conakry erected barricades to protest the appointment to the prime ministership of Eugene Camara, a close ally of head of state Gen. Lansana Conté.

At least eight protesters were shot dead (12 according to AFP) by insecurity forces, several in the western city of Kindia.

A soldier was burned alive by a mob in the northeastern city of Kankan.

Several major airlines have cancelled flights to Conakry.

One high ranking government official warned that, "We risk having to declare a state of emergency because the situation has virtually turned into an insurrection."

Friday, February 09, 2007

[Guinean news] Prime minister named but unions unimpressed. General strike to resume?

According to Guinéenews, Guinean head of state Gen. Lansana Conté has named Eugene Camara as the country's new prime minister and head of government.

The announcement occurred as the powerful labor unions' alliance threatened to re-launch a general strike if a new prime minister was not named by Monday February 12.

The BBC warned that even if a new prime minister was named, a lot would depend on whether the unions accepted the impartiality of the choice. Camara is the current minister for presidential affairs.

The BBC also reported that students rioted in the cities of Dinguaraiye and Coyah.


Update: A union spokesman told Guinéenews that "It's incredible. Really, it's an insult to the Guinean people" and that he'd wait until a meeting of the unions' collective before determing what further action to take.

Another major union also rejected the choice of Camara and invited "citizens to mobilize today more than before to call for change."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

[PCV news] PCV blogger on the evacuation

PCV Camilo Forero shares his thoughts on the volunteer evacuation to Mali.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

[Guinean news] Unions threaten to re-start general strike

While the general strike has been suspended, uncertainty continues to reign in Guinea.

Last week, the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté signed a decree defining the expanded powers of the post of prime minister. This was in accordance with agreement between the regime and the unions that ended the 18-day general strike in which 59 people were killed.

Conté agreed to name as prime minister 'a high-ranking competent civilian, with integrity.'

However the head of state has not yet actually named anyone to fill the post in the week and a half since the end of the labor action.

This has not gone unnoticed by the unions. The labor collective has threatened re-start mass protests if a new prime minister is not named by February 12.

[Guinean history] Radio documentary on Sékou Touré

The Radio France Internationale program Archives d'Afrique has a three part documentary on reign of Sékou Touré, Guinea's first head of state.

Note: the audio for this will be available for a limited time.