French Minister for Cooperation Brigitte Girardin has announced that France is prepared to give Guinea euro 1.1 million (US$1.45m) in bilateral aid in recognition of its “positive evolution” following the appointment of a new prime minister earlier this week.
Girardin said on Thursday that the appointment of Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate on Tuesday was an “encouraging sign”. The move ended two months of fighting between state security services and impoverished Guineans calling for President Lansana Conte’s resignation.
She lauded her personal relationship with Kouyate forged in Cote d'Ivoire, where they sat together on the international working group overseeing implementation of the country's peace process, and said that France would offer “all of its support” to him.
The funds promised by Girardin will be earmarked for putting toilets and clean running water in the poorest suburbs of the capital, Conakry, and for providing health services to Guineans.
Conte, an aging colonel who seized power in a coup in 1984 and has been returned to power in successive elections widely criticised by the international community, has just faced down two months of unprecedented popular demonstrations against him.
Although Guinea has not suffered a civil war like its neighbours Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, and has vast reserves of iron, bauxite and precious stones, Guineans are among the poorest people in the world.
Striking Guineans protesting runaway inflation that has put even basic necessities beyond the means of many people ground Conakry to a halt twice in 2006 in widely observed strikes.
Civil society leaders said President Conte failed to keep most of his promises meant to lower living costs and improve the quality of life for ordinary Guineans, resulting in January’s strike calling for a new government, and February’s strike when civil society united to call for Conte’s resignation.
Development officials have compared Guinea’s run-down public infrastructure to that found in post-conflict countries. The disintegration of the only road which links Guinea’s second largest city, Nzerekore, in the remote southeast to Conakry triggered a major protest in the 500,000-strong city in November.
In Conakry, a sprawling palm tree-fringed maze of shacks, gutted buildings and rutted tracks, things are not much better. Electricity is rarely on even in government buildings. Hunger, violent crime, diseases and unemployment are all soaring among ordinary cash-strapped Guineans.
The European Union froze its aid to Guinea in 2002 over concerns about the state of democracy in the country. It briefly restarted loans in late December last year, but froze its aid again when the government started cracking down on anti-government protestors in January. More than 100 people were confirmed killed by security services and hundreds of others were injured.
However, bilateral donors have kept up development assistance. France gave Guinea euro 9 million (US$11.8 million) in October to fund rice cultivation projects. China has donated rice and fertiliser to Guinea and contributed to major infrastructure projects.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged donors to get behind the new prime minister, Kouyate, saying economic cooperation with the new government will help with “consolidating the consensus reached” and promote development, better governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
The French minister’s announcement coincided with an announcement this week by the European Union’s development commissioner, Louis Michel, urging the EU’s 27 member states to coordinate better among themselves in foreign aid projects.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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