The World Today for September 14, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

GUINEA

The Price of Democracy

The lives of Guineans and the wallets of industries everywhere were thrown into disarray after a recent coup in the small Western African country of Guinea.

After gunfire erupted in the capital of Conakry, Guinean Army Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who is affiliated with a group called the National Rally and Development Committee, appeared on TV on Sep. 5 to announce that 83-year-old President Alpha Conde was under arrest, CNN reported.

Formerly an opposition leader and human rights professor who billed himself as “Guinea’s Mandela” – an allusion to the South African freedom fighter – Conde assumed office in 2010, replacing a military junta that had ruled the country for the previous two years. Last year, he controversially won a third term in office after altering the constitution to allow him to run.

He failed to live up to his promises to root out corruption and improve the country’s economy, however. Many of his constituents thought he allowed foreign mining companies to exert too much influence in the country and pollute the environment with impunity.

“Alpha Conde is one of the politicians who worked over 40 years for democracy in Guinea,” human rights expert Alioune Tine told Reuters. “Once in power, he totally destroyed it.”

Critics might question whether Doumbouya will do any better. The European Union is threatening to sanction him and other Guinean officers who allegedly committed human rights violations under Conde, the BBC wrote.

As the world waits to see how the country’s new government will rule, manufacturers around the globe are hoping Doumbouya doesn’t crack down on their operations in the country.

Guinea possesses the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, a source of aluminum, noted CNBC. Bauxite prices spiked after news of the coup spread through boardrooms around the globe. The country also has one of the largest untapped iron deposits.

“The uncertainty in Guinea could put cost pressure on the value chain for anything that contains primary aluminum,” Australian bauxite analyst Alan Clark told the Washington Post. “The consumer pays more.”

Those natural resources could certainly uplift impoverished Guineans, but mining them requires costly infrastructure that the country can hardly afford to build and maintain but which multinational corporations can finance.

It’s no surprise, then, that Doumbouya and his allies have sought to reassure international mining companies they would honor all the contracts that Conde’s government had signed with them, Bloomberg reported.

As some things change, other things won’t – even if some think they should.

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