Saturday, February 28, 2015


Also known as Guinea-Conakry, so that it does not get confused with its neighbour Guinea-Bissau or the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, which is much, much further south and east across the Bay of Guinea.

How is it possible that a country which contains some of the richest mineral mines and quarries in the world, is also one of the world’s poorest countries? To which the answer is usually obvious: corrupt, bullying leaders who have expropriated (that's a euphemism for "stolen") the wealth to themselves, and who keep the people passive by brute force. And is that answer correct in this case? Yes, sadly it is. So correct, that Guinea’s alpha males do not only beat up their own people, but have been implicated in several regional conflicts as well, notably Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.

A French colony until 1958, it started independent life as the Wassoulou Empire under President Ahmed Sekou Toure, an Islamic state attached to Moscow, using the tried-and-tested methodology of Stalin to maintain power for twenty-six years – thousands disappeared, thousands more were tortured, executed, banished. After Toure came military rule and the abandonment of socialism, but no change in the methodology of power, and no change in the level of poverty either. Lansana Conte ruled as a civilian, but when half a million refugees poured in from those three neighbouring wars that I mentioned, and then Conte died, the military took over by name (the name is junta) for two years, before establishing the current political system, in which around twenty different ethnic groups appear to get on very harmoniously with each other, until elections are called, at which time politicians stir up inter-ethnic hatreds, violence ensues, people get elected and don’t need the rhetoric any longer, and the ethnic groups go back to living harmoniously again; until the next elections.

All of which suggests zero marks; but in fact some marks may shortly be forthcoming. Twice recently, in 2010 and again in 2013, Guinea has held free and competitive democratic Presidential and Legislative elections, both of them regarded as respectable by international observers, electing Alpha Conde as President for a five year term, with a multi-party National Assembly, and for the first time in its history an all-civilian Cabinet.

English people reading this will know that, long before decimalisation, longer even before the Euro, British coinage included the Guinea, which was a gold coin worth twenty-one shillings, which is a shilling more than a pound (you'll see why I've mentioned that oddity in just a second). It was called a Guinea because the gold for the original coin was mined in Guinea, in 1663 to be precise, at which time a Guinea was a one-pound coin, only the price of gold tends to fluctuate, and by the turn of the 19th century it had fluctuated up to a full thirty shillings, which makes economic management problematic. In 1816 Britain adopted the Gold Standard, fixing the Guinea at twenty-one shillings, and then abandoning the coin altogether. The Arabs also had a one-pound coin, whose source was also Guinea, and therefore known in Arabic as الجنيه el-Genēh, by which name it still functions to this day in Egypt, and elsewhere in lands that once belonged to the Ottoman Empire, one hundred Qirsh being one Geneh.

Marks For: 21 shillings

Marks Against: 28 years of tyranny

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment