Guinea: Big Brother or Big Bully?

28 March 2006 at 21:26 | 625 views

"Ahmad Sekou Toure and Mangeh Lansana Conte, gave asylum to Sierra Leonean leaders like Bandaelay Siaka Stevens, Joseph Saidu Momoh, Valentine Esaegrabo Strasser, Ahmad (Abayoumi) Tejan Kabbah, their cabinets and followers. Also because of the military prowess of Guinea in the sub region ,that country had always played the zone keeper role and where necessary had taken part in coup reversals or giving entrance legitimacy to de facto governments like that of Samuel Kaynon Doe and the NPRC junta in Sierra Leone."

By Gbakanda Kamara, Norway.

A geopolitical process started years ago in the days of the cold war, transformed by the covert assistance of powerful interest groups is today taking a dimension that needs some very serious and critical analysis.

This process seems operate on the egoistical and protectionist political philosophy of, "no permanent friend but permanent interest", in the geopolitical arena.

It is a process that has very far reaching implications on the sub region’s stability now and in the future in the sense that this sub- region, THE MANO RIVER BASIN COUNTRIES, are of global geo- political and geological strategic significance.

Also this analysis throws a little bit more light on the recent humanitarian crises in some of the countries in this sub -region whilst at the same time looking at the future from the past.

To begin with, it will be wise to look at the past especially the period when this region was colonized.

The history of this part of Africa, most of which is not properly recorded in history, is of great importance to the development of the sub region of West Africa and even Africa as a whole.

This consequence, from an historical point of view, in fact depicts that this sub- region be called THE SOURCE in the sense that the region which today is the border between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is the source of three very important rivers and also one of the reasons for the Berlin conference that partitioned Africa into all these geo-political units that today are some of the very reasons for Africa’s inability to begin to embark on very serious development processes.

In the last decade and a half this very sub- region saw some of the most gruesome of wars in recent times. The reason for the period and gruesome nature of these wars can be seen from the history of this region.

Since the days of the Trans -Sahara trade, this part of Africa had been a source of supply of gold, salt, slaves and spices. In fact some oral history has it that this region was known as "Thalaedougou" in the days of the Mali empire which extended well into this region. This word being a derivative of the predominant manding language group means LAND OF THE SUN, a literary explanation of the resourcefulness of this sub-region. This explains why present day countries in the sub region are predominantly populated by ethnic groups that are known for their involvement in trade like the Mandingos and fulas, two major groups that were the governing class of some of the major empires in West Africa.

This resourcefulness was, in the colonial period, a major reason for dispute between the colonialists and players like SAMOURY TOURE who traded with the whites in the Atlantic coastal towns such as Freetown. This trade route brought friction between Samoury and the French who had colonized the hinterlands of present day Guinea and most of West Africa. A very significant aspect of this friction that led to Samoury’s exile to Gabon was the accord between the French and the British after their collusion at WAIMA in present day Kailahun District. This was a direct result of the continued invasions of Samoury Toure in the heartlands of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

This accord gave all the rights to modern Sierra Leone to that part called the Kailahun District whilst the areas on latitude 10 degrees north from its confluence with the Scarces river was acceded to present day Guinea. A look at the maps of Sierra Leone tells this story as it can be seen that the eastern part has an indentation like an inland peninsula whilst the northern most part has an area of a straight line border on the 10 degree north line up to a point where it follows the river down to the coast.

This is was the border demarcation that both Sierra Leone and Guinea should have but alas the big brother role of Guinea is beginning to produce a counter scenario that may result in the two countries going to the international court at the Hague.

The question is why should it happen that way? The answer is in the historical or rather hysterical role of Guinea in the sub region’s geo-politics.

Since the days of the late Ahmad Sekou Toure, Guinea had been a power broker in the sub region. He was a true African revolutionary and pan Africanist who wanted a united states of Africa like his close friend and co president for years, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah who lived in Conakry after he was overthrown until his death.

Ahmad Sekou Toure and Mangeh Lansana Conte, gave asylum to Sierra Leonean leaders like Bandaelay Siaka Stevens, Joseph Saidu Momoh, Valentine Esaegrabo Strasser, Ahmad (Abayoumi) Tejan Kabbah, their cabinets and followers. Also because of the military prowess of Guinea in the sub region ,that country had always played the zone keeper role and where necessary had taken part in coup reversals or giving entrance legitimacy to de facto governments like that of Samuel Kaynon Doe and the NPRC junta in Sierra Leone.

In fact the records (covert and classified) have it that the first military intervention in Sierra Leone was from Guinea in 1968. The APC of Siaka Stevens ran to Guinea after the first military coup (spearheaded by brigadier David Lansana and executed by Captain Hinga Norman and Lieutenant Larry Boston) and counter coup. Siaka Stevens,being a former trade unionist had the support of Sekou Toure, also a former trade unionist and both being of Marxist orientation or pretending to be. Records have it that in the 13 months of rule of the NRC led by Colonel Andrew Juxon Smith, the APC got its youths supporters to acquire military training at a military base in Sunforniah in the west of Conakry. This force, later to be converted to the ISU and later SSD entered Sierra Leone from Guinea and along side elements in the army that were APC supporters, overthrew the NRC.

About a year after there was an attempt by the force commander (himself part of the force that infiltrated from Guinea in 68) and some others wantED to oust the APC. Siaka Stevens got ready military air and ground support from Sekou Toure and for over a year Guinean troops were stationed in Freetown next to Stevens’ residence at King Harman road in Freetown.Mangeh Lansana Conte by then a captain, did some time with these troops in Freetown.

When the true wig party of William Tolbert was overthrown by the military junta led by Samuel Doe, Sekou Toure was one of the first to give entrance legitimacy to the Doe regime.This was because Toure saw Tolbert as a stooge of the west. However Stevens in Sierra Leone was embittered because Tolbert was his friend and business partner. They had a joint venture fishing project (Sierra Fisheries which was the first Joint Venture Fishing Company in partnership with the Messurado fishing company of the Tolbert family) and a diamond exporting business headed by Jemil Sahid Mohamed.

Even though Stevens was not happy aboutthe Doe coup he had to swallow the bitter pill because he had a military pact with Guinea and wanted protection as he had a lot of enemies at home and the SLPP was on his back


By then he had intelligence reports of the training of youths somewhere in North Africa to come and overthrow him by rebellion. When these rebels, RUF, left that North African country by ship he got classified report from a European country that a ship called Sliver Sea was heading for Sierra Leone with militarily trained Sierra Leoneans and mercenaries. He reacted by sacking some members of the national military force that were suspected of being involved with this group.

Then in 1984 Sekou Toure died and in 1985 Stevens gave training and logistical support to dissident Liberians to go and overthrow DOE. This was the beginning of the NPFL, in Freetown, and the destabilization of the sub region. Guinea could not support this action but sat on the fence as they had intelligence that this group had international support and Mangeh Conte, just taking over in Guinea, wanted support from the international community.

This invasion failed and later in 1987 Taylor was to come to Freetown again seeking support from Momoh who had taken over from Stevens in November 1985. Alongside this event ,as reliable intelligence have it, the RUF had come to Sierra Leone covertly BUT COULD NOT LAUNGH THEIR WAR from within as some of their covert sponsors were with the Momoh APC.

Reports also have it that the RUF did actually made moves to get Guinea to give them a launching pad but Conte refused as he did not want to offend his benefactors in the West. However some members of his regime and big business men saw the economic advantages and worked covertly with the RUF.This was part of the confessions of the four RUF FUNCTIONARIES (MAMI ISATA AND THREE MEN) captured by the NPRC in 1994.

The rest came in place when Taylor launched his war in December 1989 with the help of the core RUF fighters and Burkinabe mercenaries. The RUF saw a chance to enter Sierra Leone and so fought alongside Taylor’s recruits till Gbanga WHERE THEY SPLIT UP AND MOVED TO THE WEST OF LIBERIA ARONUD VOINJAMA.

Guinea by then had started benefiting from the loot of the war in Liberia as a large influx of refugees and Guineans returning home started to flow in to that country. They took along a lot of vehicles and they had a ready welcome as by then Conakry and other main towns were mushrooming. Also the economic effects of a war enriching the few that took risks to do business had started to pay dividends in Guinea. Diamonds, coffee, cacao and other valuable goods passed through that country alongside Liberia’s eastern neighbor La Cote d’ Ivoire.

The wars became economic issues for a lot of people and much covert support came in from different angles in these two countries. Then came the idea of a west African intervention force,ECOMOG.Guinea was quick to volunteer as it offered an economic angle for them.

After some time peace accords were formulated but the economic forces did not want peace. So they covertly continued to support the rebel forces in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. These machinations and counter machinations prolonged the wars and made them more devastating as the war theatre became an economic free for all (feed your self) issue.

In the process governments and leaderships had to subject their safety to Guinea and Guinea saw itself as a factor in west Africa to the extent that they openly supported some of the warring factions like THE EXLIED KABBAH GOVERNMENT and LURD by giving them a base and some tactical support. Reports have it that all the air raids during the AFRC/RUF interregnum were done directly from Gbessia airport in Conakry.

The psychological effect of this whole scenario was that the Guinean authorities became so confident in their military might that now they feel they can control the sub region as governments in place in the two countries owed some allegiance to them for having helped to return them to power. Also on the social side of it Guineans and some people in these war torn countries have formed relationships through marriages( a lot of Liberian and Sierra Leonean women got married during the wars to Guineans including Guinean military personnel) and business partnerships. Some in very high places(ABAYOUMI) have even built houses at Lambahyne in Conakry to which they hope to retire in the next 24-30 months.

So if today there is friction between Guinea and Sierra Leone for Yenga in the east and Kalangba in the north it is because Guinea and Guineans look upon themselves as big brothers for Liberians and Sierra Leoneans especially with the historical origins of some Liberians(konyakas) and Sierra Leoneans (Mandingoes and Fulas) from that country.

However not withstanding that Guinea must be made to respect international laws and should move out of those areas of Sierra Leonean territory they presently occupy. Even though as the saying goes Sierra Leone’s politicians HAD SOLD HER BIRTHRIGHTS FOR COCO YEBEH yet Mangeh Conte must respect the Territorial integrity of Sierra Leone FOR THE SAKE OF PEACEFUL REGIONAL COEXISTENCE AND THE FURTHERANCE OF THE IDEALS OF THE MANO RIVER UNION .

Photo: President Lansana Conte of Guinea