Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Guinea - A Show Of Maturity

Kwabena Appiah

Kwabena Appiah, a Ghanaian resident in Conakry looks at the steps being traced by the new regime in Conakry
When the Guinean Armed Forces announced on April 3 that they had taken over the reins of government from the 'Parti Democratique de Guinée (PDG) 'provisionally' headed by Dr Lansana Beavogui, the world was taken by surprise even though the possibility was not entirely remote. Not only the conception but also the swiftness of the design to implement a coup was something that continues to be a point of interest to one's mind back to Ghana where a similar thing happened in 1966. The difference here is that all attention was on the funeral arrangements of the late President, Ahmed Sekou Touré, who had ruled Guinea with an iron hand for 26 years.

The political complexion of the new 32-man military committee of National Redress (MCNR) headed by Colonel Lansana Conte was difficult to piece together immediately after the take- over but the commitments of the committee were clearly spelt out in their first announcement on the now Radio Conakry which had immediately lost its Marxist terminology of the Voice of the Revolution': to put an end to years of bloody and ruthless dictatorship and to pave the way for true democracy in Guinea, a country which has only known a system of centralised power in the hands of one man and his feudal family and aided and abetted by the influence of the late President's dishonest comrades in arms whose hands were already stained in the blood of innocent citizens.

The remote causes for the military intervention are, however, many and varied: general misery and sufferings, despotism and brutality, absence of true democracy, economic mismanagement and corruption, the preponderance of the Touré family and tribalism, suppression of individual freedom and the attempt of the late President's colleagues to vie to perpetuate the status quo.

Military regimes are nothing new in black Africa but the new committee has immediately scored marks that many observers would welcome with a sigh of relief. Few days after taking over the reins of government Col. Lansana Conte ordered the return to work, released at least 1,000 political prisoners, gave his word for national reconciliation and ordered the re- opening of the airport to international traffic.

As a prelude to having a complete command of the situation the committee appealed to the people to give up including Dr Lansana Beavogui, the interim President before the coup, who was later believed to have sought political asylum in the Chinese Embassy in Conakry. What is admirable about the approach of the new committee is that not only did they appeal to the people not to take revenge on the Party men and the Touré family, but also did not characterize their take-over by military brutalities of which African soldiers are notorious. No doubt the committee is aware that nearly everyone helped to entrench Sekou Touré and his clique in power; there was widespread distrust between father and son, mother and daughter and husband and wife.


National reconciliation is a crusade set by the new military regime in Guinea. At least one member of every family (including even Dr Lansana Beavogui's) has been a victim of Sekou Touré's brutality and it would be preposterous to decide to settle personal scores, especially when the two million exiles and the Association of French wives are pressing for action in that direction. The committee has demonstrated a level-headedness unprecedented in the military history of black Africa.

When the AFRC government in Ghana under Flt-Lt. Jerry Rawlings decided to settle personal scores in 1979 and again in 1981 and thereafter, this aspect of national reconciliation was totally lost. The intelligentsia and the business community in Ghana have been systematically alienated to the detriment of Ghana and Ghanaians as a whole.

In Nigeria the brouhaha over the setting up of a military tribunal to try alleged corrupt politicians and the possibility of stiff sentences, including life imprisonment, has not brought much credit to the image of the country's military rulers.

As part of the initial procedure all meetings (including those of the Trades Union) were banned in Guinea, but again foresight and commitment to national objectives have been shown by the new regime - trade union activities have been defrozen in order that they may defend the rights of workers.

Guinean economy is an African scandal and tragedy due to the fact that the country is endowed with fertile land and rich mineral resources. Judging by this fact it is generally believed that Guinea should not have been one of the 25 poorest countries in the world and should have been richer than most African countries including the Ivory Coast. The real tragedy is that the country was ruled by a leader who was more seduced by absolute power and blind political dogmatism rather than economic pragmatism. It is therefore refreshing for Guinea and Africa in general, that Col. Lansana Conte should announce liberalisation of the economy and encourage private investment.

When Col. Conte said in an inter- view that there will be no executions or political trials of the former leaders, the international respect for the policies of the new regime was enhanced, and it is expected that other military regimes in Africa would learn from this gesture of maturity. It is also wished that Flt-Lt. Jerry Rawlings (Ghana) and Dr Samuel Doe (Liberia) would learn that public executions of people do not solve either social or economic problems. What is required is a civilised form of trial for other charges, as hinted by Col. Conte in his interview, in a proper court as opposed to kangaroo ones.

All military regimes promise return to democracy but in reality do not deliver the goods, and their subsequent thirst for absolute power corrupts them absolutely. Acheampong (Ghana), Lamisana (Upper Volta), Mobutu (Zaire), Eyadema (Togo) and many others offer good examples. Already Col. Conte has been appointed President and Col. Diallo Traore as Prime Minister thus legitimising the government in Conakry.


The committee has hinted that elections for the return to democracy will depend on how quickly tribalism, sectarianism and regionalism are removed. They conclude that "we will retain power until those scourges vanish". This is where the temptation comes in and the world would be watching with keen interest.

Even in the face of opposition to the revolutionary ideals of the late President, the Committee have been sincere enough to recognise the historical and political dimension of the Sekou Touré in his foreign policy with special reference to the liberation struggle in Africa even though that policy was pursued at great expense, both material and human, to Guinea. This attitude of the Committee would normally give an indication that it would necessarily change a policy merely because it was made by the late President. But it is hoped that attention would be paid more to national problems rather than international issues. It is no accident that the late Sekou Touré and the late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana were great friends.

Speculations are rife that since there has been a breakdown of the established army command in Guinea there could be the possibility of friction within the armed forces. But judging by the popular response of Guineans who have suffered brutal oppression under the late Sekou Touré for 26 years, observers believe that opposition to the present inclination by any disgruntled army officers is not likely to receive public support. However, the committee should be aware that 'African' memory is indeed short and that every government is fragile, including Biya's in Cameroon. Besides, human beings are by nature selfish and that some people would miss Sekou Touré for the benefits and advantages they enjoyed prior to the change of government. Such an awareness would be beneficial to the new regime which appears to have learnt from the past mistakes of other military regimes in Africa.


Guinea has already invested in the forthcoming OAU conference which was to have been held in Conakry in two months' time but the magnitude of the task ahead for the new regime might be enough for the OAU secretariat and the Military Committee of National Redress to reconsider the decision.

What is expected of the new regime in Conakry is continued pragmatism and maturity, national reconciliation, liberalisation and democratisation in all levels of life and a clear manifestation of honest commitment to national problems.

The late President is a symbol of African dignity but a perfect embodiment of brutal dictatorship. He has a historical dimension but failed to utilise the immense natural resources to alleviate the hardships of his people. Beneath his apparent strength he was psychologically weak but he has a place in African political history. Lastly, he has introduced more problems for Guinean posterity but the new regime has goodwill enough to salvage the nation.


Ghana Democratic Movement invites all Ghanaians to a super monster rally to launch the UK branch of the Movement on Saturday the 14th April 1984, at Woodberry Down Boys Club, Green Lanes, N4 at 3pm prompt.

The fight to restore true democracy to Ghana must continue. Stand up and be counted in the struggle to free mother Ghana from the clutches of anarchy, Cubanism and Libyanism.

In the process, some have lost their lives, some their reputation and freedom.

Can this go on forever? There is an answer to this.

Come in your numbers to listen to Guest Speaker Mr J. H. Mensah Former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in the Second Republic

Nearest Tube: Manor House Station, Picadilly Line Buses: 19, 171, 29, 221 253, 279, 259 and 141

Any enquiries to the secretary: 185 Walter Saville Tower, Colchester Road, London E17 Tel: 01-444 3501

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