December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas and a very merry coup d'etat

It's only been eight days since my last entry but a lot has happened here in that time. For those of you who haven't been keeping up to speed, on Dec 23rd Lansana Conte died after twenty four years as president of Guinea. According to the constitution the president of the national assembly is the successor in the event of the death of the president. However, only a few hours after Conte died the military staged a coup d'etat, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the old government. The leader of the coup, Capt. Moussa Camara, is now the self-proclaimed president of Guinea.

In the time since the military took over all the volunteers in Conakry have been confined to the Peace Corps compound on lock down. So over the past few days we've basically been spending our time waiting and speculating about whether or not Peace Corps was going to be evacuated from the country. In the beginning it looked like it could go either way but now after a few days of playing wait and see it seems like the situation is stabilizing. When the new president was announced people took to the streets to cheer, apparently relieved that there would be a return to some sort of stable government. So, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we're going to be able to go back to our sites soon.

Anyone who's interested in reading more about what's going on here, BBC has been covering the situation really well. Here's a few stories they've run that give a good overview of the events of the last few days.

Due to the lock down we had to cancel our trip to Sierra Leone and all of the new volunteers had to stay at the training site for Christmas so we didn't get to meet them. It was a little disappointing having to change all of our holiday plans but at the same time it's been an interesting experience to see how everything has played out so far. After all, how many people can say that they've lived through a military coup?

Regardless of the change of plans we've still been making the best of our time here and it's been nice seeing everyone who made it into Conakry before the lock down was imposed. I've been having a great time hearing everyone's stories from their villages and I've also been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I didn't realize how much I missed cooking until I got back here. Cooking at site is really time and effort intensive so I hardly ever do it, opting instead to just eat all my meals with my host family at site. But since getting back to Conakary I've been cooking up a storm and having a great time doing it. So rest assured I'm still enjoying the holidays.

Anyways, I just wanted to let everyone know what was going on here and that I'm OK. A lot's been happening over the past few days and I'm sure a lot is yet to come. The new government is still forming itself but as always seems to be the case in Guinea we're just going to have to exercise a bit of patience and hopefully everything will work itself out.


Anonymous said...

Has Peace Corps made the 'if you bring back the constitution in a certain period of time' deal for PC to stay like in Fiji?

If the military government asks the natives to leave is that okay? So, the AU thinks coups are bad now and it should stop.

Jesse said...

Peace Corps isn't interfering in the politics of the transition. We serve at the invitation of the host country government and as long as the new government extends our invitation here we will continue our work in Guinea.

I'm not sure what you mean by "If the military government asks the natives to leave". Almost the entire population of Guinea was born in the country and trace their heritage back to one of the indigenous ethnic groups here. The government has absolutely no interest in asking any of the ethnic groups to leave the country. We're not talking about some type of colonial government here, the military coup was headed entirely by Guineans.

Yes, the AU and almost all other international organizations have condemned the coup and called for a return to the constitution. However, it seems like the new government has been largely recognized as legitimate in Guinea and it is very unlikely that it will relinquish its power anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Has the military government extended an invitation?

Is there a PC agreement in force?

Will PC honor AU, UN or US sanctions or continue to provide aid regardless of sanctions? The deadline for the AU is six months and the UN is one year for a constitution or return of the old one.

It seems obvious that the government wants it's citizens to stay regardless of ethnicity or political party.

I'm an RPCV and I'm researching policy. Peace Corp has no response except to say everyone's safe. They won't discuss the PC agreement with the civilian government and constitution or whether an agreement is in force.

I signed up for comments.