African business, politics and lifestyle
Guinea tests Western influence in Africa
Whether Guinea’s absent junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara makes it back to his home country or not will be the latest test of Western powers’ dwindling influence in Africa.
Ex-colonial power France and the United States — desperate to avoid a failed state in a region which is already attracting the interest of narco-traffickers and other criminals — have both made it clear Camara should be kept well away.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Camara’s homecoming after treatment in Morocco following an assassination bid could spark an all-out civil war.
After talks with French and U.S. diplomats, caretaker junta leader Sekouba Konate announced last week that he would work with a prime minister from the opposition in a transition government that would hold democratic elections.
It all seemed to be going according to the script until Camara flew into Burkina Faso on Tuesday night, walking (with some help) and talking.
It seems Camara thought he was heading back to Conakry and was livid when he was told the Moroccan airplane had pitched up in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.
A delegation of Camara allies immediately flew out to fetch him, but headed into a row with Konate. Guinea-watchers have been told to look out for some kind of statement from Burkina’s President Blaise Compaore on what happens next.
At the very least, any return by Camara would deal a blow to the Franco-US strategy of hyping Konate and hoping that Guinea’s opposition could come up with a consensus prime minister.
But more broadly, it would be just the latest defiance of Western wishes on a continent where the economic clout of China seems to be having more and more weight.
U.S. and European sanctions on Niger’s President Mamadou Tandja have so far clearly failed to persuade the former colonel to step down from power as he was due to on Dec. 22.
Tandja continues to rule the desert state — illegally, according to the opposition — safe in the knowledge that France relies on Niger’s uranium for its nuclear power stations.
In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t a good idea of the West to give such a quick clean bill of health to Mauritania’ General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who won back IMF aid and NATO military support just over a year after deposing the incumbent in an August 2008 coup.
Camara has been heard citing Aziz’s case as a reason why he too can expect one day to shed his pariah image — although that is less likely after a U.N. report held him to blame for the Sept. 28 massacre of over 150 street protesters.
Is the West running out of strategies to deal with Africa?