Tuesday, May 29, 2007

[Guinean news] Top businessman named ruling party head

Mamadou Sylla, Guinea's richest business patron, was named as the new honorary president of the ruling PUP party.

Sylla is a close ally of the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté and is often referred to as 'the ruling party's banker.' Last year, he was subject to a serious corruption investigation and was engaged in open warfare with Conté's then-right hand man Fodé Bangoura. Sylla was arrested during the course of the investigation until Conté went in person to jail to free him.

The move to make Sylla honorary PUP president is sure to be controversial as Conté's action liberating him was the spark for the general strike and protests that rocked the country this January and February.

Friday, May 25, 2007

[Guinean news] US spends $4 million on 'good governance'; Parliamentary hearings on Hyperdynamics;

The US ambassador and Guinean foreign affairs minister recently signed an accord designed to promote democracy and good governance in Guinea. The subsidy was estimated at over US$4.7 million, which brings to over $22 million allocated by the US on "democratic governance," according to Ambassador Jackson McDonald. $200,000 of this money will be dedicated to the new National Independent Electoral Commission, reports Guinéenews.

The money is part of the USAID's "Faisons ensemble" ("Let's do it together") program.

Ambassador McDonald said, "The major challenge of Guinea is to create an environment of transparent management that will not only attract but maintain private investments, but also will also help avoid internal conflicts, such as recent events that occurred throughout the country."


The Guinean ministry of mines recommended that it renegotiate its contract with the US oil company Hyperdynamics.

Hyperdynamics is the only foreign oil company prospecting in Guinea, which produces no oil and so far has no proven viable reserves, notes Reuters.

Guinea's new national unity government said that while it wanted to honour deals with foreign investors, they too had a responsibility to help contribute more to development in a country where despite its mineral riches most of the population live in poverty.

"We are not prepared to give away the natural resources of this country. In this regard, I am happy to see that we are in step with the country's national assembly," said Mines Minister Ahmed Kanté, noting that the government wants to change aspects of the deal, not cancel it altogether.

The chairman and CEO of Hyperdynamics Kent Watts told Reuters, "I believe that there are factions in the national government that want to renegotiate the contract and that's not legal."

As reported on this blog previously, Watts recently created a self-described 'registered charitable organization' by the name American Friends of Guinea, which is not in any way affiliated with Friends of Guinea.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

[Guinean news] Trade unions hold conference; parliamentary inquiry into general strike deaths

Guinean trade unions are hosting a major international trade conference in Conakry yesterday and today.

The conference will address three main issues: economic and social development, governance and institutions, and human rights [and] will conclude its work by adopting a road map highlighting the demands of the trade union movement and Guinea's civil society for the long process of consolidating peace, democracy and development in Guinea, according to a press release from the International Trade Union Confederation.


The Guinean National Assembly has approved the creation of a commission of inquiry into the killing of civilians by security forces in June 2006 and during the general strike of January and February of this year. Channel Africa's Africa Rise and Shine radio program reported that the commission will comprise 19 members from diverse professions. Human rights groups welcomed the commission's creation but warned that the creation of previous parliamentary inquiries hadn't resulted in any significant follow up.

Monday, May 14, 2007

[Guinean news] Soldiers continue looting despite government concessions

The Guinean head of state, Gen. Lansana Conté, conceded one of the key demands of rioting soldiers by replacing the country's defense minister and the army chief on Saturday. However, troops continued to riot after the announcement. Soldiers apparently ransacked many shops and warehouses in Conakry, including offices of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Witnesses said men in army uniforms stole vehicles and looted cacao, rice and sugar, as well electrical equipment such as generators.

Witness also said soldiers were responsible for a raid on UNFPA’s stores, stealing stocks of condoms as well as computer equipment. UN facilities were also targeted during a civil uprising earlier this year when World Food Programme warehouses in several towns were looted
, according the IRIN news service.

The rioting suggest that the regime's control is slipping even further.

The army’s agenda is unclear and it is currently “very disorganised,” Elisabeth Cote, who represents the Washington-based election support NGO IFES in Guinea told IRIN. “It seems likely the army doesn’t want [President] Conte anymore,” she said .“[If so] it doesn’t take much organising and then one considers it a coup.”

The capital was reported to be calm on Sunday and Monday.

Update: Guinéenews reports that the raiding of the UN Population Fund's warehouses resulted in over $326,000 in losses.

Friday, May 11, 2007

[Guinean news] Soldiers paralyze the capital

On Friday, Guinean soldiers took to the streets of the capital Conakry, firing shots in the air, continuing military protests about pay and conditions that have hit several cities in recent weeks.

Shops and market stalls closed as people rushed to get home and pick their children up from school.

At the height of the stand-off, two government radio stations went off air.

There were also reports of disturbances in Kindia and Mamou in the east and Macenta in the south
, according to the BBC.

Though the British broadcaster also reports that soldiers have since returned to the barracks. Guinéenews adds that calm seemed to have returned to the capital by late Friday afternoon. This was after the head of state, Gen. Lansana Conté, reportedly agreed to meet with disaffected soldiers on Saturday.

[Query] Climate change research in Africa

Micah Schaffer asks:

Can anyone point me to some organizations that are doing interesting climate change research anywhere in Africa? A friend of mine is looking for sources for her own research.

Please contact Micah at micahschaffer @ yahoo.com if you can help.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

[Guinean news] More army pay riots... this time in Guéckédou

In recent weeks, rioting by disaffected soldiers has broken out in several Guinean cities. Today, there was violence in the southeastern border town of Guéckédou, with one person being killed.

The army claims that wages have been withheld since 1996, when an army mutiny-cum-attempted coup costs hundreds of lives, and wants the re-integration of troops who were sacked after the 1996 events.

On Wednesday, the military chief announced that all soldiers not promoted within the past five years would automatically be promoted one rank, reported the AFP news agency. But rioting in Guéckédou erupted to day nonetheless.

The streets of Gueckedou were immediately deserted and markets shut when the soldiers started rampaging across the town on Thursday.

The IRIN reports that these riots indicate just how fragile the Guinean government is.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

[Guinean news] Dancing women attacked

The BBC had a bizarre story on a backlash against a dance in Guinea.

Men in Conakry have begun attacking women who they accuse of doing the popular buttock-swinging Wolosso dance from Ivory Coast.

Teenagers wearing skirts or hipsters, associated with Wolosso, which partly expose their buttocks and midriff have been stripped naked and beaten up.

The attacks follow a performance by an Ivorian Wolosso group last week.

The provocative dance is considered by many in the mainly Muslim West African country to be pornographic.