The Camara-led government in Guinea has appointed a civilian Prime Minister – Kabine Komara, a banker in the African Export-Import Bank. He apparently was put forward as a suggested Prime Minister by the opposition and unions in last year’s protests. Since, as I mentioned in my last post on the subject, this follows a consultation with opposition and union groups on who to appoint, it seems reasonable to suppose that this guy was their pick.
The new government have done two other things. They’ve forced a lot of older generals into retirement, and they’ve announced an intention to renegotiate all of the state’s mining contracts. Since the previous government structure had endured for about 24 years, and since most of the prominent coup members are quite young, the first of these clearly indicates that part of what’s going on is just a new generation of elites forcing the older generation out – which is what you’d expect in such an ossified political system.
The renegotiation could be a good policy. Best case scenario, they turn a mineral endowment that has up to now enriched the elite and left the masses poor into something that really benefits the country through infrastructure, higher wages, better working conditions, better public services, better environmental protections, etc. Worst case scenario, they turn it into something that benefits a new, younger, elite, instead of the old one. I fear the worst-case scenario is more likely.
Internationally, they’ve received a moderate response from the African Union, who have on the one hand suspended Guinea’s membership, and on the other hand decided not to implement any further sanctions. The issue that seems to be emerging is about the timing of elections: the AU, the Guinean oppoition, and many foreign powers, seem to be saying, essentially “hold an election fairly soon and we’ll do business with you”. ‘Fairly soon’ means different things, but tends to be between the 2 months that the constitution prescribes, and the 2 years that Camara has proposed. Some people say 1 year, some 8 months, some 6 months.
Again, the best case scenario would be that some time over the next year, after re-ordering the electoral machinery to whatever extent that’s necessary, and held to account by pressures both external and internal, the new government holds a fair election, which is won by someone associated with the civilian opposition, not with the military or the old regime.
And again, a perhaps more likely scenario would be that the generals delay and put off the election indefinitely, or rig it when it happens, and use any disorder that springs up in protest as a pretext for further delays.
But actually, I’m not too sure about that. Perhaps this is just me being optimistic, but this may end up being a success for the African Union, which has been trying to engineer a push towards electoral governments (despite the ongoing bloodpaths and dictatorships which the continent is littered with). It would be easy to dismiss the whole affair as ‘more of the same’ – as I said before, just one more flavour of bullshit after the three that Guinea has already tasted.
But things do change, the future can be unlike the past. It wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility for either forces in the African Union or within Guinea’s civil society to step onto the stage and push things forward.
Of course, the best political solution would be anarchist communism. But I can recognise that that’s not a real prospect in Guinea at the moment. Radical feminist revolution would be great too (from reading the various news stories, one would think that Guinea was a single-sex society: every single named individual I’ve seen has been male), as would a society united against animal slaughter. But again – not a prospect. And trying to implement that top-down by governmental decree is – well, a very confused idea, with a bad history. What there is the prospect of is the development of a representative democracy with a social-democratic programme based on a re-orientation of the earnings off bauxite and diamonds to make it serve the people. That is unlikely to materialise, but it is a possibility.