Guinea mirrors the post-colonial history of Africa

Saturday March 04 2023
People celebrate in Conakry after coup

People celebrate in the streets of Conakry on September 5, 2021 with members of Guinea's armed forces after the arrest of former president Alpha Conde following a coup d’état. PHOTO | CELLOU BINANI | AFP


Last year, after yet another coup in Burkina Faso, this column decried the endless cycle of megalomania in Africa.

Successive civilian or military regimes all promise an end to thievery and despotism, only to perpetuate or, quite often, escalate the vices.

The victims are the people who endure the hellish indignities of poverty, which is a direct result of plunder of national resources by those in power. When they protest, they are jailed or killed.

When a new regime takes over — through the ballot or bullet — it vows a new dawn of prosperity and freedom. Soon, however, the populace is back on the streets dodging police bullets. Poverty and death remain constants in their lives.

Killing of protesters

The recent killing of protesters in Guinea proves the persistence of this reality. Guinea became independent from France in 1958, with Sekou Toure as president. He adopted African socialism for his internal policies and pan-Africanism for foreign policy. 


I have never understood, in terms of laws, application and policy, the meaning of these two ideological ideas.

Former Tanzanian politician, A.M. Babu, imprisoned by Nyerere, dismissed African socialism as a romantic and imprudent notion. On its part, pan-Africanism is a coalition of vague ideas about the political unity of Africa and a cultural nationalism heavily influenced by the negritude philosophy of Sedar Senghor.

We do not know how these two vague ideas manifested in Toure’s domestic and foreign policies. What we know is that his regime was one of the most ruthless in the world. After his death in 1984, Guinea was ruled by a succession of despotic regimes.

First democratic polls

In 2010, Alpha Conde, an academic and long-time opposition politician, was elected in the first democratic elections. He pledged an end to despotism and thievery.

But the two vices persisted. Protests were brutally suppressed. Conde then changed the constitution to run for a third term. After countrywide demonstrations, he was removed from power by the army.

The junta pledged a quick return to civilian rule once they had removed gross mismanagement and thievery. But nothing changed. Last year, street protests were brutally suppressed.

Opposition figures claim that tens of people were killed and scores of others maimed in the most recent protests.

Ecowas, the regional economic bloc, has insisted that the junta organise elections as soon as possible. Should that happen, a civilian government will take over. It will breathe fire and brimstone about a new dawn for Guinea. But a year or so down the line, the new regime will shoot and jail those who will protest continued thievery and despotism.

To break this cycle in Africa will require a cultural shift in our governance, a more assertive African Union divested of ownership by presidents, an international community that will demand the same standard of accountability from African leaders as they demand from governments elsewhere, renewed African intellectual activism divested of hackneyed demagoguery.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator