Monday, April 30, 2007

[Guinean news] Unions warn government of threats; PM says country not ready for June elections

Last Monday, several hundred street traders ransacked and set fire to a police station in Kindia, in western Guinea.

The attack came after a local merchant claimed that about 15 armed police had barged into his home overnight Saturday, tied him up and raped his wife and daughter. They also allegedly stole property including money and gems, reported the French news agency AFP.

AFP also reported on warnings by the country's trade unions that certain elements of society were trying undermine the new consensus prime minister Lansana Kouyaté.

The unions warned Kouyaté that since his swearing in, "many actions have been undertaken and supported by people and structures dedicated to making [him] fail."

The memorandum cited "the exit of huge sums of money, from the accounts of the army or the presidency, in violation of the fiscal discipline that was put in place" adding that the new government's most important job was "the restoration of the authority of the state in both the interior and outside the country...."

Underlining that challenge, Kouyaté said the country was not ready for parliamentary elections scheduled for June.

"Territorial administration doesn't exist at the moment in the interior. Because of people's anger during the strike, many prefects and sub-prefects are currently in Conakry. Some are even persona non grata in the areas they govern," the prime minister told Reuters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

[Development news] UN to promote international road safety

As many RCPVs will remember, Guinea volunteers Jesse Thyne and Justin Bhansali were killed in a car accident near Pita, in central Guinea, back in 2000.

In response, many volunteers organized a memorial walk in their honor to bring attention to the issue of road safety. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in developing countries, with Africa the most affected.

According to a UN report, the economic costs of such deaths in Africa is $6.2 billion... which is equivalent to the combined gross domestic products of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and the Gambia.

The UN has recognized how serious an issue road safety is by creating an independent Commission for Global Road Safety. One of the commission's members, ex-Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, notes in this opinion piece that 1.2 million people are killed each year in road accidents, 200,000 of whom in Africa. The scourge is the leading killer globally of people 10-25 years old

Schumacher points out a recently issued UN report that recommends action to cut injuries in developing countries, including a $300m 10-year programme to develop road safety skills, a 10% minimum spend on safety in aid-funded road projects, and a UN ministerial conference.
Prompted by the Make Poverty History campaign, the G8 leaders of the major industrialised countries have committed themselves to doubling aid and improving Africa's road infrastructure. Fewer than 20% of roads in sub-Saharan Africa are paved, and the Commission for Africa recommended that at least 90,000 miles of new roads are needed. But roads built to transport goods as fast as possible, designed to the cheapest specification without safety in mind, will make the world's most dangerous road network worse. The roads built to make poverty history must be safe.

It recommended roundabouts be built whenever possible, since they are reportedly 70 times safer than intersections.

Friday, April 20, 2007

[FOG News] Reminder: American Friends of Guinea is NOT Friends of Guinea

I've noted on this blog on a couple of occasions on the apparent creation of a new non-governmental organization called American Friends of Guinea (AFG) and how it's NOT AFFILIATED IN ANY WAY with our group Friends of Guinea (FOG). AFG was created last year by the CEO of Hyperdynamics Corp. FOG was founded in 2000.

Some board members noticed a recent story regarding Hyperdynamics. After initiating a review of all natural resource exploitation contracts, the new Guinean government said it was withdrawing an agreement with the Texas-based corporation.

[T]he government said the fact the U.S. company had been given rights to explore one-third of Guinea's entire offshore acreage did not conform to international practice. The normal practice was to award smaller blocks, it added, according to Reuters.

The government added that the Hyperdynamics contract would be reviewed by legislators.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

[FOG news] Two ideas on how help Guineans

Two weeks ago, I posted a request asking for suggestions on ways RPCVs and other Guineaphiles can help Guineans.

I got a couple of responses. Mark Lynd*, who lived in Guinea implementing a USAID education project, wrote to tell of an organization he and his wife started.

He writes: School-to-School International is an effort to provide a more holistic type of support to kids in elementary schools. Since its founding in 2002, STS has been working in one country – Guinea (we intend to expand to others some day). I go there 3-4 times a year to work with our staff of 3 and 24 schools. We’re VERY SMALL – no big funding, just donations, small grants and contracts – but everything in Guinea is done by Guineans – we expats just provide assistance as we can.

We can always use support in a variety of ways – we do pen pal links with elementary schools in the US and Guinea , send books… Of course cash donations are always very much appreciated.

SIS's website is


RPCV Wayne Kleck writes:

I have been helping people informally by paying their costs to go to private schools, or to pay the costs of living in cities where they can attend Lycees. I am in the process of helping two members of my host family (Thiam) from Gbereire attend a private Uiniversity in Conakry. I keep in touch with these folks by phone and email. I send money by way of Western Union and have a network of friends who support the cause by sending money which I forward directly to these students. I have done this since before the strike and now am expanding my contributions to help even more. I am also in touch with the Fullbright Scholar who lived down the street from me in Kankan. She supports several other students in this same manner.

I support two Lycee students in Kankan (one originally from Kissidougou, one from Gueckedou). I also send periodic contributions to a student in Kindia, and have been informally sending assistance to my host family in Gbereire for illnesses, funerals, etc... ( I served my first year in Falessade, only 50 km. away from Dubreka. My third year was spent in Kankan working for WFP).


I am in the process of establishing a 501(c)(3) through an organization in Austin, TX, but will not complete the process until I establish a contact in Guinea to distribute the funds. Now that the strike is over and things are stabilizing, I am once again pursuing a local NGO in Kankan to accept the funds and distribute them. I hope PC will be back there soon to oversee this process. Until I get this up and running. My friends are still willing to contribute without the tax deduction, but I figure I can get much more money to help folks in Guinea if the Americans have the added incentive of a tax deduction.

After more than three years in Guinea, I am reluctant to trust ANY organization to distribute funds directly to those who need it. But I am making progress in getting something set up. Meanwhile, I send money directly to these students. I am not concerned that they waste the money as I send just enough to pay tuition and daily expenses. They, of course share their money with family and continue to live a very basic existence. Most of the students I am helping have assisted me in projects I implemented while in Guinea, so they know about my demands for transparence, honesty, and accountability.

If you hear of any news of how to get funds distributed in a better manner, please keep me posted. The main problem with my 'direct' system is the high cost of using Western Union or moneygram. Thanks to good broadband internet service in Korea, I am able to manage all of this from Busan.

Keep me posted on what you know and feel free to give my email address* to anyone interested in improving methods of getting assistance to Guineans in need.

*-Note: if you are interested in contacting Wayne or Mark, please email me at communications @

Got any more ideas? Let me know, either by leaving them in the comments section of this entry or by sending me an email at communications @

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

[Guinean news] Plane crashes into state broadcasting house

Yesterday, a Guinean military jet crashed into a building in Conakry housing the RTG, Guinea's state-run radio and TV stations. It was during routine military exercises

Amazingly, there were no serious casualties, only "some slight injuries in the panic that followed the collision (involving) broken glass," according to Guinea's communications minister.

Apparently, the RTG building is located just across the street from the US embassy in Conakry. An embassy spokesman said no one was hurt at the US mission and the embassy building not damaged.

Reuters reports that the crash sparked clashes between angry crowds and the police. Reportedly, some of the youths suspected the plane crash was an attempt to undermine the new government of Lansana Kouyate, named last month as consensus prime minister under a deal to end the general strike.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

[FOG news] Helping Guineans: organizations and ideas

As I posted on the blog recently, I am trying to compile a list of suggestions on ways RPCVs and other Guineaphiles can help Guineans. While the general strike may be over, the living and economic conditions remain extremely difficult.

So as part of my research, does anyone know of any international organizations (besides the Peace Corps) who've left Guinea? Or of any that are still there? If you've heard anything, please let me know. You can either email me anything you've heard at:

communications @

Or simply leave a comment on this blog entry.

Additionally, if you've organized any fundraisers recently to help Guineans and would like to share details, please email me a little writeup. (And for this part, email is preferable so I can give this their own entries). I know there's a lot of energy and good will out there, but I think some people are at loss to know how specifically they can help. And I was hoping by sharing what some have done, others may get ideas.

-Brian Farenell
FOG Communications Director

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

[Guinean news] 60 dead after boat capsizes; 'Blood aluminium'

-Many news organizations reported on the boat capsizement off the coast of Guinea that caused at least 60 deaths. The accident happened off the coast of Conakry with a vessel that had left the western city of Forécariah. The tragedy happened days after a bridge collapse near Guéckédou cost 65 lives.

-A press freedom watchdog organization complained of the brutal assault of a Guinean private journalist by security forces. Abdallah Baldé, a reporter with the private Conakry newspaper "Guinée-News" (apparently not to be confused with the website, was apparently taking photographs of the first couple when he was attacked and beaten by Gen. Lansana Conté's private presidential guard and the head of state's supporters. Baldé said when it was clear that [he] was from the private press, the presidential guard attacked him and seized the camera. ran a piece authored by the vice-president of the International Crisis Group. The piece, entitled Blood Aluminum, explores revenues from Guinea's exportation of bauxite (used to make aluminum) is used by the regime to buy loyalty from its security forces in repressing its population. Disappointingly, the part on bauxite exports only constitutes one paragraph of an article whose primary content is background information on the situation in Guinea. But it's still worth a read.