‘Baghdad’ and ‘Gaza’ in Guinea

The Wall Street Journal

In Conakry, where taps run dry and electricity is an exception, democratic visions have yet to benefit restless youth.

Conakry, Guinea: The demonstrations here in the capital of this small Western African nation might start in “Baghdad.” But they often spread quickly to “Gaza,” “Tora Bora” and even “les Balkans.”

“It’s like that here,” says Oumar, a self-described human-rights activist who ran over to me when he saw my camera. Choking on tear gas, he pauses to take deep, methodical breaths through a water-soaked cloth. Oumar, in his early 20s, explains to me that local youths have unofficially renamed certain slums in Guinea’s capital after famous global hotspots. “We are the resistance and we will never let them run this place,” he says.

By “them,” Oumar is referring to the government of Alpha Condé, who in 2010 became the first elected president of Guinea, a resource-rich nation that has been plagued by more than 50 years of authoritarian mismanagement and outside interference.

But for Oumar, a member of the Fulani ethnic group, “them” is also a catchall term for non-Fulani, who represent more than half of Guinea’s population. Non-Fulani like Mr. Condé make up much of the current government.

Since May political partisans, referred to locally as “militants,” have clashed with each other and with military police over issues ranging from legislative elections to the provision of basic goods and services. At least 50 have been killed and approximately 100 injured. To say that the violence is ethnically motivated would be inaccurate, but to claim that the underlying animosities are purely political would be incomplete.

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