Guinea turned 50
The year 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France. In honour of the occasion, a colleague wrote the following words: ‘We prefer liberty in poverty to slavery in riches’.
For this ideal the Republic of Guinea fought and gained independence from French colonial rule. But during the next five decades, true liberty has proved elusive, as political, socioeconomic and spiritual poverty has gnawed at the fabric of individual and national life.
From independence in 1958, Ahmed Sékou Touré, President of Guinea, unleashed a murderous communist dictatorship that lasted for 26 years and left the population timid and docile. By the time he died in 1984, he had used a combination of superstition, preventive detention and political murders to quench the drive of his people and make them dependent on handouts for subsistence.
When Lansana Conté took over from Touré, he opened up the country to liberal capitalism, but that only allowed an elite few to plunder the wealth of the nation to the detriment of most of the population.
His frail and deteriorating health worsened an already terrible situation as his entourage fought each other for position before his eventual demise in 2008. It was disappointing that he could not be present at the golden jubilee celebrations, his only participation being a radio broadcast in a faltering voice, on the eve of the anniversary.
Today the nation is in a very difficult economic position. Many families can barely afford a meal a day. In the last three years, trade union leaders have organised more than five successful nationwide labour strikes, the last of which turned violent and ended up in a state of emergency for several weeks.
There have been other strike actions by particular groups, including teachers, students, doctors, police and even the armed forces! Security is virtually absent. Bandits and security personnel alike openly rob the innocent of their labour’s reward. Most nights are dark in most places; power supply has been at a mere 30 per cent capacity, at peak, for the past six years.
The economic situation has encouraged many young people to dabble in nefarious activities. Many young girls practise one form of prostitution or another. Families have broken up over a plate of rice or a loaf of bread.
Education and health are no-go areas. Many children of school-going age roam the streets because their parents can hardly feed them, let alone pay their paltry school fees. Admission to tertiary schools is based 80 per cent on bribes and 20 per cent on qualification.
Universities are overpopulated, while students sleep in semi-completed shacks and study under street lights. The most effective section of the hospital is the mortuary. Doctors’ strikes have been mostly because of the lack of facilities and medication.
Statistics show that while 90 per cent claim to be Muslims, less than 1 per cent write evangelical Christian next to their names, including nominal churchgoers.
Over the last 50 years the country has lived out a foundational struggle for self-rule and liberty even at the cost of survival and dignity. Yet the real need of this massively endowed nation – still boasting much of the earth’s bauxite deposit – is for true and unconditional liberty that is found through faith in Christ.
As Guinea has just turned the corner on 50, her only hope remains the Prince of peace, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, even the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can bring true liberty, without any strings attached.
Yet Romans 10:14-15 is emphatic: ‘How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
‘And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things’.
David and Billie Blessing
The authors are missionaries with Pioneers Guinea