A detour to Guinea

“Guinea does not attract but retains”, confided Sylla, one of these young people met in the commune of Ratoma in Conakry. Unlike Dakar, the cornice of beaches at Conakry does not attract tourists who wander in the region. However, the hospitality of the Guinean population and the enchantment offered by the diversity of cultures that coexist in the country, come to offset this forgetfulness of Mother Nature. Like all young people in the world, these young Guineans are overflowing with questions about the injustices they experience on a daily basis, sometimes at the risk of becoming radicalized in violent actions against their government. Citizen mobilizations on the streets of Conakry and the interior of the country on the transparency of electoral processes, the non-cumulation of mandates, corruption, expensive living, housing problems, unemployment, often repressed by the authorities, serve more and more forum for the expression of a desperate youth on his future in Guinea. A youth that has found salvation for several decades by settling in various other African countries or by migrating to other continents farthest from Guinea.

In a country rich in minerals, forests, streams and soil fertility, youth find themselves helpless in the face of the choices of the rulers who are misunderstood and somewhat out of step with the needs of citizens. Government choices that respond more to the wishes of foreign countries and transnational corporations, as revealed by the recent Bolloré case. According to these young people, the transition to power is seen as a boon to get rich as soon as possible because “the time is so short in the skin of a Chief”. What about those who really want to work for the country. “Often, we do not like them, those who take positions to really bring change are quickly ejected”, Tidiane tells me between two power offsets. The latter does not understand how in a country called the “Water Tower of Africa” ​​where take sources two of the largest rivers of the African continent, we can not generate electricity to run the country. The same feeling that other young people on the continent, who see every day their intelligence and commitment to “An internationally respected Africa” ​​undermined by a corrupt elite and compromised by its allegiance to an international system predatory to the detriment of populations.  

The surprise came to me from the pan-Africanist aspirations of these young people. Against all odds, this youth sees federalism at the continental level and a strong Chinese state as a possible solution to the governance and leadership ills afflicting Africa. “Africa will be united or will not be”, said Soumah in response to a comment.Far from the hollow words often heard in political arenas by African leaders who are more concerned with preserving their power in their country than with genuine integration on the continent, these young people express this pan-Africanist commitment on a daily basis by working to create solidarities, and trans-African actions, via social networks, to bring about changes on the continent. With their limited means, they go through forums dedicated to youth in the region, meeting other young people to build this new elite who can write African “success stories”. If the mobility of Guineans on the African continent in the context of commercial activities is well known, that of young people related to their pan-African commitment seems quite new and is according to their statements in the continuity of the work of Ahmed Sékou Touré, this pan-African union leader to whom Guinea owes its independence.

It should also be noted that Conakry is one of those historic capitals, which it is a pleasure to browse to discover the history of Pan-Africanism. The remains of the exile, in this country, of the Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah and Cape Verdian Amilcar Cabral, still recall the welcome reserved by this city to African leaders committed to the emancipation of the continent in the 60s. in the boom years of African independence, if Algiers was considered the “Mecca” of African revolutionaries who were followers of the armed struggle for independence, Conakry was a place of pilgrimage for the pan-Africanist intelligentsia. Heirs of this glorious past, young Guineans crossed, as much in the associative meetings as in the bars strewn with the crossroads of Conakry, do not cease to share the dream left by the father of their independence which mobilized the country against the French colonial power.

60 years later and for many more years, the “NO” from Guinea to the France of General De Gaule marks the spirits. By rejecting the proposal of a Franco-African community and calling for the immediate departure of the French colonizers from Guinea, the Guineans have written in gold letters their name in the history of resistance to imperialism. Following the « NO » of the Guineans, we will see France finally abandon the idea of the Franco-African community to opt for the granting of an independence of facade to its colonies by maintaining financial settlement via the CFA Franc and the military cooperation with its military bases. In retaliation, however, to the African country that dared to challenge the French power, all means will be deployed by the city to harm the young Guinean state. 

In the image of what it did in Haiti in the nineteenth century, France will organize a series of economic sabotage actions, political plots and an unprecedented diplomatic war that will plunge Guinea into misery and generate the first waves of departure of Guinean migrants. From Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, she orchestrated the destabilization of the country by introducing “fake notes” of Guinean francs. At the same time internationally, it will play its part to weaken the actions of international organizations towards Guinea. This cocktail of actions gave birth to a social crisis and fueled internal disputes repressed authoritatively by the Guinean regime of the time. Faced with the former colonial power, Ahmed Sékou Touré appealed for pan-African solidarity. His vision of an African federal state led him to invite people from all over the continent to Guinea, offering them political positions or the possibility of developing projects in the country. In recognition of the passion for African integration, demonstrated by Sekou Touré, his African peers, at the creation of the Organization of African Unity, they elected the Guinean, Diallo Telli as his first Secretary General.

Despite the tragic events of the Guinean emancipation struggle of the French colonial power and the abdication that sees Guinea return to the French fold in the early 1980s, the Guinean people do not hesitate to have a certain moment of its history says « NO » to France. “Certainly until then we are suffering the consequences of NO”, said Aïssata, a young fulani girl from Fouta. She certainly did not know the Sekou Toure period, being born after her death but she is nevertheless bruised by the absence of a leader of her caliber, to fight against the mafia liberalism installed since the military dictatorship which replaced the father of independence. For her, the biggest pan-African challenge of the hour remains the liberation of the continent from these “pseudo”elites in the pay of Paris and Washington who run African countries and institutions. And who give reason to Frantz Fanon: “Black skin, white masks”.

(Written by Samir ABI, Permanent Secretary of West African Observatory on Migrations)

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