News / Africa

Guinea Suffering From 'Gridlock Fatigue'

Anti-riot policemen deploy across Conakry to separate rival gang fighters, March 1, 2013.Anti-riot policemen deploy across Conakry to separate rival gang fighters, March 1, 2013.
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Anti-riot policemen deploy across Conakry to separate rival gang fighters, March 1, 2013.
Anti-riot policemen deploy across Conakry to separate rival gang fighters, March 1, 2013.
Nancy Palus
The political deadlock in Guinea shows little sign of easing, as the government and opposition trade accusations and violent street clashes once again eclipse all other agendas. On Monday, opposition leaders opted out of a meeting the government says was a bid to tackle disputes about much-delayed legislative elections.

The meeting came days after a clash involving opposition protesters, security forces and pro-government youths in the capital, Conakry, left at least three people dead and many more injured. Each political faction says the other is not serious about fixing the problem, and many citizens doubt the politicians can.

The government says it has launched a dialogue process that should lead to transparent legislative elections. Skeptical Guineans are watching and waiting.

The main opposition coalition, which sent a spokesperson to Monday’s meeting, denounced the government’s convening of a broad spectrum of political parties rather than having direct talks as the opposition has long demanded.

Charges, counter-charges

Mouctar Diallo, a former government minister and a member of the main opposition coalition, said the government is simply trying to cast an image of itself as an honest broker and buy time for its fraudulent agenda. He said President Alpha Condé and his party have never been open to meaningful dialogue.

The opposition says the government is bent on rigging the election and has laid out a list of demands, including changing the company selected to revise electoral lists.

The question among Guinea watchers is whether the opposition’s grievances are valid or simply the intransigence of political leaders whose followers have never accepted Condé as president. Some also question why the Condé government has not yet held elections and what is stopping it from reaching out to the opposition if it would help move things forward.

For its part, the government says the opposition has been unreasonable and must demonstrate a will to find common ground.

Government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara maintains the opposition has said that as long as the government does not cede to every last one of their demands, the demonstrations will continue. It is a stance, he said, that seems a bit extreme. It is time for all sides to be reasonable, he said, to show good faith and make an effort.

Citizens express frustration

Meanwhile one Guinea specialist in Conakry says a sort of “gridlock fatigue” has set in internally and among international actors.

Many Guinean citizens, regardless of their political leanings, say they are extremely tired of the deadlock and its impact.

Commerce has yet to return to normal following yet another cycle of violence in Conakry, where countless people depend on daily, menial trade to feed their families.

Aboubacar Sayon Fofana, a university student in Conakry, said no one wants to invest where there are street clashes every other day. He said he wants to get a decent job, get married and get on with his life, and that Guineans should not have to wait for politicians to get their act together.  

Abdourahamane Sano, former government minister and head of a national civil society coalition, said the space for moderate voices might be small in Guinea and these voices are not as widely heard as the politicians, but they are there.

He said, at the local level, people are talking and educating one another on keeping the peace - something not seen among the politicians. He said the political class appears bent on maintaining a combative approach, which he said is completely unacceptable.

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