Not many Afrophiles shed tears when Lansana Conté, Guinea-Conakry’s long-time strongman, died. But the military coup that followed his demise promised to pile more hardship upon one of the world’s poorest countries. The African Union – rightly – has refused to recognize military governments, which should push those governments to conduct elections sooner, rather than later… but which seems to further disconnect and isolate governments from the family of nations.
Shortly after seizing power, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara pledged to return the country to civilian rule within 60 days. He extended the timelines, promising free elections by the end of 2010, but assured citizens that this move wasn’t intended to let military officers consolidate power – instead, no one in his ruling council would run for office. Surprisingly approximately no one, that decision has been reversed, and council members have been announcing their intention to run for President. When Dadis, the coup leader, began hinting that he would run for President, many Guineans had enough. Up to 50,000 people participated in a banned protest today, which was savagely put down by military forces, who killed dozens of people. (BBC reports “at least 58”, while Bloomberg reports at least 69.) Blogger Oumar of Konngol Afrik pins blame for the violence on the “red berets”, an elite corps of Presidential guards who he reports were involved in violence against the public in 2006 and 2007.
There’s not a ton of citizen media to supplement the wire service reports. Global Voices, covering the coup earlier this year, leaned on MINSA – Missionary International News Service Agency – which reported on demonstrations in Labé last week, and today reports on demonstrators waiting in fear to be arrested at their homes. I suspect we’ll have a roundup of blogger voices as those reports come in.
What’s been interesting for me, in the short term, is watching the few comments mentioning #Guinea on Twitter are focusing on media coverage. Nasser Weddady, outreach director for HAMSA and well-known MENA activist, offered this tweet a couple of hours ago: “In plain English: screw #Polanski, I am more interested in what’s happening in #Guinea than that fugitive pervert.” It’s been retweeted several times, reflecting either a frustration at media coverage, or simply that lack of any other news out of Guinea at this point.
I enjoyed this article in Workers World (not exactly my usual read, but totally worthwhile in this case) by Abayomi Azikiwe of Pan-African News Wire. Azikiwe’s analysis focuses on Guinea’s past as part of a Ghana/Mali/Guinea socialist alliance that sought to develop independently of western (and particularly French) influence. While his recipe for a worker’s revolution sounds like a poor one to my unrepentant capitalist ears, his story of how Guinea could have emerged as a major power based on its mineral wealth is a sad, familiar, important and insufficiently understood story.