Will Guinea beat its fatalité?

Escaping the past has been a thirty-year journey, writes Paul Melly

The World Today Published 9 February 2017 Updated 24 November 2020 2 minute READ

Guinea: Masks, Music and Minerals
Bram Posthumus, Hurst, £25.00

Il n’y a aucune fatalité guinéenne – ‘Being Guinean is not a curse’. These words, from Sidya Touré, a reformist ex-prime minister, have sometimes felt like desperate optimism.

In few West African countries is the day-to-day unfolding of events right now still so powerfully shaped by an often shockingly brutal recent past. Ahmed Sékou Touré, who led Guinea to independence from France in 1958, went on to establish one of the most paranoid dictatorships in modern Africa, fostering an ambiance of fear and suspicion summed up in his insistence that ‘Everybody is a gendarme.’

More than three decades after his death, the scars left by his relentlessly repressive rule have yet to entirely fade away. The two military regimes that followed were more chaotic and almost as violent, if more randomly so.

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