Viewing cable 09CONAKRY340

09CONAKRY3402009-06-15 16:22:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 SECRET Embassy Conakry
DE RUEHRY #0340/01 1661622
P 151622Z JUN 09
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 CONAKRY 000340 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2019 
D D 
¶1.  (S) As we approach the six-month anniversary of the 
December 23 coup d'etat, it is a good time to step back and 
assess Guinea's evolution under the leadership of CNDD 
President Moussa Dadis Camara, and to discuss where the 
country might be headed over the coming year.  The below 
analysis reflects the thinking of the Embassy's reporting 
team.  It is by no means exhaustive, but will hopefully serve 
as a useful point of departure as we consider the way forward 
in terms of our bilateral relationship and policy.  This 
first part looks at the political and social context and then 
outlines what might be ahead in the months to come.  The 
second cable (septel) discusses the subsequent policy 
¶2.  (S) Despite the CNDD's repeated statements to the 
contrary, government actions to date suggest that the CNDD 
has a long-term agenda that does not include relinquishing 
power, although they may eventually agree to step aside and 
move into an "advisory" role in a post-election environment. 
In the meantime, it is increasingly evident that elections 
are unlikely to materialize before the end of the year.  The 
honeymoon period is drawing to a close and long-standing, 
unresolved economic and social complaints are once again 
beginning to rear their heads.  Many government operations, 
which were only borderline functional before, have come to a 
screeching halt while other newly defined operations are 
going forward at full speed without respect for rule of law. 
¶3.  (S) The country is governed by a core group of young 
military officers who are largely unqualified for the jobs 
they have taken on.  CNDD President Moussa Dadis Camara is 
the man in front for the time being, but available 
information suggests that members of his entourage may be 
pulling the strings.  Dadis himself is erratic and 
increasingly dictatorial.  Indications of corruption have 
already begun to emerge around some of his closest advisors 
while other key ministers pursue problematic policies that 
challenge basic human rights principles. 
¶4.  (S) The Guinean Armed Forces (GAF) have been a growing 
problem for years, but especially since the May 2008 military 
mutiny.  The GAF is undisciplined, unprofessional, and 
grossly overstaffed.  The previous government consistently 
acceded to military demands, not necessarily because Lansana 
Conte was a military general himself, but because civilian 
bureaucrats had no idea how to control the GAF, and were 
afraid of the consequences of attempting to interfere in 
military matters.  The military is Guinea's strongest 
national institution, and as such, it is no surprise that its 
officers are now running the country.  It should also 
therefore be no surprise that these officers are unlikely to 
quietly fade into the background just because civilian 
officials are elected. 
¶5.  (S) At the same time, Dadis and the CNDD enjoy 
significant popular support, although support for Dadis 
appears to be waning.  Despite the recent anti-Dadis 
sentiment, there is a tacit acceptance of, if not advocacy 
for, the need for a military-managed transition period.  The 
people have welcomed Dadis' crusade to "sanitize" the system, 
and many seem to think that the CNDD should take as long as 
he needs to accomplish that goal.  People do want elections, 
but they are in no hurry to head to the polls. 
¶6.  (S) Civil society organizations, labor unions and 
political parties (Les Forces Vives) have been unable to 
mount an effective civilian counterforce to the junta. 
Crippled by infighting and mutual distrust, these groups 
remain divided over political strategies and goals.  They all 
want elections, but they can't agree on when they should be 
held or what needs to be done first.  As they begin to 
realize that the current leadership may be settling in for 
the long haul, individuals seem to be looking more and more 
to advance their individual interests, at the expense of the 
common good. 
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¶7.  (S) Within civil society, Guinea's youths (aged 15 to 40) 
represent the single-most powerful, potential voice for 
change.  There is a generational shift in progress as Guinea 
moves away from the old leadership, which came of age during 
the Sekou Toure era.  Although literacy and education remain 
a problem, the internet has revolutionized many young 
people's access to information.  There are core groups of 
young intellectuals who are eager for change, well informed 
of what is happening both in Guinea and the outside world, 
and are willing to put their lives at risk.  Largely 
unemployed and unattached, these young people have little to 
lose.  At the same time, they are extremely vulnerable to 
manipulation, and lack cohesion amongst themselves. 
Political leaders, including former President Conte and the 
new CNDD leadership, have successfully used cash to buy 
support from one youth group or another.  Guinea's young 
people have been unable to pull together in a meaningful way 
to date, but if they could, they represent the best chance 
for a grassroots, pro-democracy movement. 
¶8.  (S) In some ways, Guinea has become marginally more 
stable since the coup.  Before Conte's death, people were 
anticipating a transition, but that transition was undefined, 
and people were afraid of what might develop.  Now that the 
initial scramble for power has been peacefully overcome, 
people can see the shape of the transition and are largely 
comfortable with it.  In the same way, the prospect of 
elections may be frightening.  No one knows who might win the 
election and what kind of power structure might emerge as a 
result.  This political unknown is particularly frightening 
to many because of the ethnocentric nature of the political 
parties.  In the past, Guineans have proven to be extremely 
conflict adverse.  As such, they seem to be in no hurry to 
rush towards another undefined transition.  The current 
system is one that they know well - despite its many flaws, 
citizens know how to work that system.  For many, democracy 
represents the unknown. 
¶9.  (S) When looking at the political situation in Guinea and 
the USG policy response, it is also important to step back 
and look at the question of regional stability.  Guinea has 
long been one of the most politically stable countries in a 
region devastated by civil conflicts.  Towards the end of the 
Conte regime, ECOWAS nations and other international partners 
started watching Guinea closely, concerned that the country 
would fall apart and subsequently cause the rest of the 
region to destabilize.  If Guinea were to implode, it is 
likely that its immediate neighbors would experience some 
spillover effects given how big and well equipped the Guinean 
military is.  This perspective is important to keep in mind 
especially when looking at how ECOWAS countries may be 
formulating their foreign policies towards Guinea.  As 
mentioned above, some might argue that the installation of 
the military junta has actually brought Guinea more 
stability.  Like some Guineans, ECOWAS neighbors may also be 
unwilling to push quickly for another transition.  Senegal's 
approach has been inconsistent with that of ECOWAS since the 
beginning, and we are already beginning to see indications of 
the same out of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Burkina 
¶10.  (S) On the economic front, much of the population lives 
on less than $1 a day and lacks regular access to electricity 
and clean water.  The GoG is facing a significant budget 
crunch in the face of declining mining revenues and mounting 
debt service payments.  Despite this "official" lack of 
national funds, the CNDD seems to be able to put their hands 
on large stacks of cash whenever they need it.  The GoG 
continues to meet its debt obligations and pay government 
salaries, but most ministries lack operational funds.  Recent 
and pending economic policy decisions on the part of the CNDD 
may have devastating long-term effects.  Contacts within the 
international community have said that the GoG may be 
approaching a financial crisis point.  We have yet to see it 
materialize, but it may be looming on the horizon. 
¶11.  (S) The United States continues to be viewed favorably 
by most Guineans despite having taken what many Guineans view 
as a unrealistic and unfair policy position in reaction to 
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the coup.  During routine meetings, Guinean contacts will 
often mention their appreciation of the USG's assistance 
during the Liberian and Sierra Leonian civil wars.  At that 
time, the USG provided highly valued military training to 
elite Guinean forces, commonly called "Rangers."  These 
forces were instrumental in Guinea's successful repulsion of 
neighboring rebel forces from Guinean territory.  Bilateral 
relations aside, Guineans generally like Americans and have 
great respect for the United States and its democracy.  At 
the same time, as the economic and political situation 
deteriorates and our policy position remains constant, these 
sentiments could quickly change.  There is already a 
perception that the USG is abandoning Guinea in its hour of 
need.  If the situation worsens, this perception could become 
¶12.  (S) Given these realities, it seems that there are 
several possible scenarios before us, which are not mutually 
¶13.  (S) The only groups currently pushing for elections 
before the end of 2009 are the international community and 
its International Contact Group on Guinea (ICG-G), and 
political parties.  Most everyone else agrees that elections 
are critical, but are not committed to a short timeline. 
They are more focused on a broader transition agenda that 
includes everything from constitutional and electoral code 
reform to support for Dadis' crusade to "sanitize" the 
government.  Dadis and the CNDD have publicly committed to 
holding legislative elections in October and presidential 
elections in December, but few people seem to believe that 
the elections will actually take place. 
¶14.  (S) The GoG is already off schedule in terms of the 
election timeline proposed by Les Force Vives.  Technical 
difficulties persist.  The voter registration campaign is 
incomplete and people are beginning to challenge its 
accuracy.  The rainy season is upon us, which will severely 
limit electoral preparations through early September, at 
which point, the month-long observation of Ramadan will 
commence.  In addition, longstanding financial challenges 
have not been resolved.  Time is short, political will is 
questionable, and there is much to be done.  Despite these 
obstacles, the donor community remains convinced that it is 
still technically possible to hold elections before the end 
of the year. 
¶15.  (S) These factors indicate that it is increasingly 
likely that the GoG will push presidential elections into 
2010, and probably legislative elections as well.  Some 
contacts have reported that members of the CNDD are seeking 
to push elections to the end of 2010, a full two years after 
the coup.  Within the civilian sector, there currently seems 
to be some support for this plan.  However, most contacts 
have emphasized that they would be unwilling to accept a 
transition period that lasts more than two years.  There is 
also a good chance that even if the country organizes 
legislative elections in 2009 or 2010, there may be a 
significant delay between legislative and presidential 
elections, which would ultimately prolong the CNDD's control 
over the state. 
¶16.  (S) Information from other contacts indicates that 
members of the CNDD may be actively strategizing as to how 
they can permanently maintain their grip on power.  Despite 
the stated commitments of Les Forces Vives, the CNDD may very 
well end up doing so with the tacit support of the 
population, eventually legitimized through elections.  Many 
Guineans generally do not trust the system in place, nor the 
potential political candidates.  If the CNDD is able to start 
addressing basic needs, such as electricity and water, the 
population may be willing to let them stay.  The Conte regime 
started out much the same way and people eventually accepted 
the "transition" as the new republic.  Through apathy and 
lack of cohesion, Guinea may ultimately slouch towards a 
"third" republic with the CNDD at the helm. 
¶17.  (S) As it becomes clear to the population that the 
transition is likely to slide into 2010, the potential for 
civil unrest is likely to increase.  Following in the 
footsteps of former GoG leaders, Dadis is already making 
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grandiose promises to the population, such as those for 
better access to water and electricity, and an improved 
security environment.  And like his predecessors, Dadis is 
going to find it very difficult to fulfill these promises due 
to the country's bureaucratic and fiscal reality.  If 
frustrations mount, people may decide to take to the streets 
in protest. 
¶18.  (S) The prompt settlement of the recent taxi strike 
indicates that Dadis has started down a similarly dangerous 
path.  Towards the end of the Conte regime, group after group 
of supplicants lined up to demand that their concerns, most 
of which were primarily financial, were addressed.  The GoG 
responded by throwing cash at them along with promises for 
long-term solutions.  Dadis essentially did the same thing 
with the taxi drivers, and the next groups are already 
starting to line up.  If Dadis is unable to deliver long-term 
solutions or a satisfactory amount of cash, he may face labor 
strikes or public protests, which often turn violent. 
¶19.  (S) Civil unrest is nothing new in Guinea.  There is a 
possibility that widespread popular discontent could lead to 
a nationwide movement such as that of early 2007, but it is 
more likely that we will see sporadic, short-lived 
demonstrations as different groups independently seek to 
advance their own interests.  Guineans are very sensitive to 
the fact that more than 100 people were killed in 2007 by the 
same military that is now running the country.  For them to 
risk those casualties again, there would need to be a 
nationwide movement with a clearly defined goal.  To date, 
such a goal has not been articulated, and even when things 
continued to deteriorate under Conte, civil society leaders 
were not able to effectively organize themselves.  At the 
same time, it would be dangerous to discount the possibility 
of a spontaneous uprising that quickly evolves into a more 
organized mass movement.  Either way, we expect to see more 
¶20.  (S) The CNDD is divided within itself and its membership 
seems to change daily.  Indeed, it is difficult to even get a 
clear reading on just who is on the CNDD.  Some CNDD members 
support the idea of a relatively short transition leading to 
elections, but others seem to be actively strategizing as to 
how they can permanently maintain their hold on power.  Dadis 
is caught in the middle and is in way over his head. 
Available information suggests that although he is the 
central authority, he is not a real decision maker.  Rather, 
it seems that he relies heavily on his circle of advisors, 
particularly Sekouba Konate (Vice President and Minister of 
Defense), who may often give him conflicting advice.  If 
Dadis starts to look like he is moving towards elections as 
he says he is going to do, those with a more permanent agenda 
in mind might start thinking about bringing in someone else 
to head the CNDD. 
¶21.  (S) In addition, Dadis' erratic behavior and the 
embarrassingly public dressingdown he has given some of his 
ministers, including generals who were previously his 
superiors, may encourage sedition.  It has been said that 
Dadis is president simply because he made it to the 
microphone first.  Embassy has begun to hear indications of a 
possible counter-coup movement, which suggests that this 
potential scenario is becoming more plausible. 
¶22.  (S)  The above discussion highlights the continued 
uncertainty of Guinea's political transition.  There are a 
multitude of players and factors to consider and while the 
current trajectory seems fairly evident, the situation could 
change overnight.  Six months post-coup, Embassy anticipates 
that elections will likely be pushed into 2010 and that 
popular discontent may continue to manifest itself in 
small-scale demonstrations and labor strikes.  Embassy is 
also concerned about the possibility of a counter-coup, which 
will continue to be a concern as long as this transition 
period lasts.  Oddly enough, this trajectory is not that much 
different from the one we were looking at about the same time 
last year:  delayed elections, civil unrest, and the 
possibility of military intervention.  The main difference is 
that the military is now in charge, which has significantly 
modified our policy approach.  A discussion of policy 
implications follows septel.