Opposition leader Alpha Condé, who won the second round of the 2010 presidential elections, is faced with a country divided along ethnic lines and in need of infrastructure and money. Taking 52.5% after scoring just 18.3% in the first round, Condé will preside over one of West Africa’s least stable, poorest and most corrupt countries. The vote that concluded on 7 November was billed as the first democratic election since independence in 1958, but it did not bring the clean slate that had seemed likely at the outset.
There was violence in the streets that led to several deaths after former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, who had scored 44% in the first round, lost the second. The losing candidate accused the security forces of using extreme brutality and of targeting a single ethnic group. Condé owed his victory to an alliance between Guinea’s ethnic minorities to prevent the Peul ethnic group from controlling the presidency.
As The Africa Report went to press, Condé said that he planned to include Dalein Diallo in his government to ease tensions. However, Dalein Diallo had filed a legal challenge to the election results and showed a lukewarm reaction to Condé’s offer. Coming to power after Captain Moussa Dadis Camara’s military coup and the caretaker government of General Sékouba Konaté, Condé will have to deal with unruly national armed forces.
Reform of the security sector is a crucial task in 2011, but relations with the military will remain tense, as Guinea’s rank and file have a history of turning to violent protests to complain about pay and conditions. The new administration faces strong financial constraints on its capacity to enact reforms. The government has announced that cleaning up state finances, reviewing contracts in the mining sector and improving relations with international financial institutions will be among its priorities.
The IMF predicts that real GDP growth will be 3% in 2010, rising to 3.9% in 2011, with inflation remaining in the double digits. The extent of Guinea’s economic mismanagement means that the country’s recovery will take time. During the election, Condé said that he would conduct a review of contracts signed by the military junta that took power after the death of Lansana Conté in December 2008.
The stated goal is to renegotiate any contracts that are deemed to be contrary to the state’s interests. The biggest contract conflicts that remain to be resolved include the cancellation of Rio Tinto’s ownership of part of the Simandou iron-ore mine and questions on RUSAL’s ownership of the Friguia project. Other issues to be resolved include the fate of the multibillion-dollar resources-for-infrastructure deal with the opaque China International Fund.
In late 2010, it was unclear whether the new government would continue with controversial mining minister Mahmoud Thiam’s aggressive stance in relation to international mining companies. A decision on that front will determine whether mining firms will be obliged to follow up on plans to build new rail and port infrastructure to strengthen the country’s export capacity. Attracting more investment into the mining sector offers the best hope for stronger economic growth, but the length of time needed to get projects running means that it will take several years for new mines to begin production. Most companies will wait for the government to give clear indications of its policies and to announce its stance on the prospect of a new mining code before they decide to embark on new investments.