In mineral-rich Guinea, can reform leader keep it together?

by ptinti

CS Monitor

In the oft-ignored West African nation, President Conde is pushing civil society norms as investors eye potential. But it is an uphill effort.

Conakry, Guinea: Ibrahim Bah is trying to tell the story of how military police knocked down his steel doors, shattered his shop windows and threatened him at gunpoint. But the soft-spoken father of four is no match for his more vocal neighbor, Aissatou Bah, who interrupts to tell her own story of alleged police abuse.

In the slums of Conakry, the impoverished capital city of the resource-rich West African nation of Guinea, citizens like Ibrahim and Aissatou are increasingly frustrated. Over the last three months, their neighborhood has been rocked by a string of political protests, looting sprees and violent police crackdowns.

Since May, at least 50 people have been killed and close to a hundred injured as political partisans have taken to the streets to clash with each other and with military police.

The uptick in Conakry’s violence, which coincides with political paralysis across the often-ignored nation, has prompted diplomats and international investors alike to wonder if Guinea’s most recent troubles are the natural growing pains of a young democracy coming out of years of authoritarian rule, or symptoms of a more critical condition that may include the early warning signs of a power struggle along ethnic lines.

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