QUEENS, New York — Guinea is a country in West Africa with a population of approximately 13 million people. About 36% of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day and about 44% of the nation lives below the national poverty line. One of the world’s most impoverished countries, Guinea ranks 178th out of 189 countries on the 2020 Human Development Index, demonstrating the poor quality of life Guineans endure. On September 5, 2021, general political and economic dissatisfaction among the population motivated the military to conduct a coup d’état, removing Guinean President Alpha Condé from power. Improving quality of life in Guinea by addressing poverty and restoring confidence in the democratic process may help the country move forward after Guinea’s coup d’état.
Guinea’s 2021 Coup d’état
On September 5, 2021, the Guinean military arrested President Alpha Condé and Colonel Mamady Doumbouya assumed power as military leader of the country. The colonel pointed to “poverty and endemic corruption” as major justifications for the ousting of President Condé. Following the coup d’état, celebrations erupted in the streets of the capital as young Guineans kissed soldiers, grateful for the removal of what they perceived to be a corrupt president. The military junta stated that it would work on formulating a new constitution and interim government; however, it has disclosed little about plans to set this in motion.
The joy evident in the streets of Guinea’s capital after the military removed President Condé from power revealed the extent of people’s dissatisfaction with the Guinean government. One source of this dissatisfaction is political in nature. In 2020, Condé assumed a third term as president after constructing a new constitution the same year that allowed him to serve more than the standard two terms as president. Following the controversial re-election, many people in Guinea accused the president of corruption and power-hoarding at a time when Guineans, particularly young Guinean people, crave change.
Another source of dissatisfaction is economic in nature. Although the country’s economy has benefited numerically from President Condé’s acceleration of mining operations and exports, economic growth on a national scale fails to trickle down to every citizen. Rural communities, in particular, suffer as mining operations expand at the expense of their human rights.
About 71% of Guinea’s impoverished are farmers who practice subsistence farming. Mining companies expropriate land from farmers “without adequate compensation,” pushing farmers further into poverty. Additionally, mining damages water sources in rural communities, meaning women must “walk longer distances” and wait for longer durations of time to obtain “water from alternative sources.” Finally, mining activities disseminate dust into the air and fields, leading to potential health consequences for the rural inhabitants and the environment.
This rapid expansion of mining has produced frustrations among local communities who are spiraling deeper into poverty, especially young people. As the rate of population growth increases, young people constitute a larger portion of society and often find themselves lacking opportunities, struggling to maintain their livelihoods and intensely competing for resources. In 2017, “thousands of young people” gathered to protest against and impede the mining operations that threaten their human rights.
Implications of the Coup d’état
While Guinea’s coup d’état provides the Guinean people with hope that their political and economic conditions may improve, the military’s assumption of power could potentially make things worse for the Guinean people.
Aside from international disapproval of an unconstitutional takeover, because Guinea no longer has a legitimate head of state, its economy may suffer as a result. International condemnation of the takeover means countries, such as the United States, may “limit” aid to Guinea. Foreign companies and investors might also “reconsider their presence” in a country rife with political uncertainties and instability. Guinea’s mining industry already suffered extensively from the COVID-19 pandemic. The withdrawal of foreign companies from the nation could result in a compounded, negative effect on the nation’s economy.
One final implication of Guinea’s coup d’état is political. The coup’s seizure of power may decrease Guinean trust in democratic elections to deliver the leaders that citizens desire and grant ordinary people the authority to remove leaders who fail to deliver on their commitments.
A Trend of Power Grabs in Africa
Guinea’s coup d’état provides further evidence of a trend of power grabs sweeping across Africa. In a little over a year, coup attempts have occurred in Niger, Chad, Mali, and now, Guinea. The international community would do well to continue to support the impoverished people of these countries in order to help them rise out of poverty. However, the world should not neglect the importance of also addressing fraudulent and corrupt elections that provide fertile ground for coup activity. Failure to promote legitimate democracy in a region quickly declining in political rights and civil liberties would not only negatively impact the impoverished but also the entire population of these countries.
While it is important to keep the potential implications of Guinea’s coup d’état in mind while discussing the future of Guinea’s impoverished, it is also important to remember the current efforts to help alleviate their conditions.
Most recently, USAID partnered with the Anglo Gold Ashanti mining company in Guinea to fund the Siguiri Agricultural Development Activity, which seeks to provide opportunities for those in rural communities whose livelihoods were negatively impacted by extensive mining operations in the Siguiri area.
The World Bank is assisting Guinea in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens the country’s economic standing. In 2020, the World Bank’s Guinea Integrated Agricultural Development Project provided funds “to protect agricultural households” and the jobs of farmers amid the pandemic. Additionally, the Guinea Urban Water Project supported the Guinean Water Company with more than $1 million to purchase “essential water treatment equipment and chemical products.” The project also sought to install 500 stations for handwashing and provided sanitation supplies to more than 120,000 vulnerable people.
With the help of aid from the international community, lower-income countries can achieve economic growth and political stability, benefiting all people, especially the most disadvantaged citizens.
– Savannah Algu