Guinea’s unions on Thursday welcomed the creation of a new government after weeks of violent unrest but the opposition was sceptical that it heralded a new dawn for Africa’s most corrupt country.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate named a government containing no minister from the previous administration and composed mostly of unknown technocrats aligned to no political party.
Kouyate was inaugurated on March 1 in line with a deal secured by the country’s powerful trade unions, replacing Eugene Camara whose appointment sparked widespread unrest and a bloody crackdown claiming 113 lives.
The new government faces the task of addressing Guinea’s deep-rooted economic and social problems after anger among its 9.4 million people erupted in January against the ailing President Lansana Conte.
Trade unions received two positions in the new administration.
The main union association said it welcomed the new government, saying it “took into account the profound aspirations of the unions which had asked for profound changes in the structure of the government and in its make-up.”
Union official Abdoulaye Sow welcomed “the sacking of all those who took part … in the mismanagement of public assets.”
The ruling Unity and Progress Party (PUP) was “satisfied and confident” and “proud of the new government which reconciles Guineans,” secretary general Sekou Konate said.
But the opposition, which was not involved in setting up the new government and which obtained no ministerial posts, attacked the lack of experience of many of the new government.
Opposition leader Mamadou Ba predicted the new government would fail, saying the prime minister “is surrounded by young managers who are certainly dynamic, but totally inexperienced.”
“They are going to get bogged down … while immediate reforms are needed,” he said.
Former prime minister Sidya Toure and head of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR), another opposition party, welcomed the fact that “the old guard has disappeared” but said the new administration “will find it hard to get off the ground.”
He said that Guinea, which according to global watchdog Transparency International is Africa’s most corrupt country, was still beset with poor governance and that powerful clans still controlled much of the administration.
Despite vast mineral resources, including bauxite, used to produce aluminium, the former French colony is rated among the world’s 20 poverty-stricken countries.
Late on Wednesday, Kouyate, the new prime minister, paid tribute to those killed during the recent political unrest, saying “their blood must serve as seeds of our hope.”
He also pledged on national television a “radical break with old practices.”