There are moments in a country’s history when we must collectively question the efficacy of the solutions we have proposed, the means we have deployed and the results we have been getting. Such a time has now come. Guinea can no longer continue to operate as it has for too long. Poverty is on the rise, public health is virtually inexistent, unemployment has reached intolerable levels and the gap between rich and poor widens daily. Meanwhile, public authorities do very little to remedy these problems or else reestablish the regulations that could bring back a necessary balance.
Today half the population lives below the poverty line, which means that one in two Guinean does not have enough to eat, cannot get cured when he or she is ill, cannot afford children’s school fees and in a nutshell cannot meet his or her basic needs. Matters are worse still in the countryside where up to 86% of the rural population is poor.
Adequate healthcare is a miracle in Guinea, our hospitals and dispensaries lack everything and are ramshackle and dilapidated. How many Guineans do not bother to seek medical care till their very death? Medical care is too costly, sometimes amounting to the whole salary of one person, who often single-handedly supports the entire family. Healthcare only represents 6% of the national budget. This is far below what the population needs. It is therefore essential that adequate measures be put in place to facilitate everyone’s fair access to healthcare and the setting-up of small dispensaries and health units all over Guinea, including in small villages. This challenge is a greater priority than any political competition. For a sick country cannot focus properly on its development.
How do we build a sustainable future from the economic and social breakdown, which seriously threatens peace and stability in our country? This should be the sole purpose of our political commitment. It is certainly my primary concern.
We too often tend to use politics to fight one another. This can be useful at times, to bring forth the victory of certain projects as this is a natural goal of electoral contests. But as soon as rivalries destroy or impoverish a country, we must seek new ways to engage in the political debate to build ourselves up, raise consciousness, and resolve the problems of our citizen: our children, brothers and sisters of Guinea.
Perfection is not of this world, and I confess that I have myself made mistakes in the past, like most men of action caught in the hardship of political trials. I have faced imprisonment, privation, and suffering; but I never gave up on doing what is good, questioning my actions and maintaining within myself the necessary self-analysis, without which we fall into self-sufficiency and close-mindedness.
We must react differently; entertain new ways of thinking and acting, conceive new fellowships and solidarities and a new convention of objectives based on hard work, ethic, justice, transparency and sharing.
The great challenge awaiting us cannot be reduced to the quest for power alone, but it must allow us to endeavour so that all Guineans have a better quality of life in Guinea. Guinea itself is rich but the overwhelming majority of Guineans are poor. How do we ensure the inversion of this curve so that our countrymen and women can work, take care of their health and experience a decent standard of living like in any other country worthy to be called as such? This is the major challenge, which all should focus on. This is why I invite, every one, regardless of their convictions or political affiliation to join in on this march towards progress and unity for the good of all.
Our youth is broken, constituting a minority majority on the margin of political and economic life. Nevertheless, 3 out of 4 Guineans are under 30 years of age and close to 45% of the total Guinean population is under 15 years old. We are in our great majority a young population and this majority must be visible at the level of our institutions and of our actions for development. Beyond merely declaring intentions, a strong political will must emanate from our projects so that our youth become the driving force of the development and modernisation of our people.
Today too many among our youth, and particularly among our recent graduates, find it hard to economically establish themselves in Guinea. After trying and failing to see job opportunities materialize, they have the legitimate feeling that their elders are locking them out of any professional insertion. We must put an end to this injustice and make sure that their desire to take charge and be responsible becomes a reality in the name of justice and of our country’s future. If such a change of course does not occur soon, the revolt of the youth will be drastic.
The popular uprising of early 2007 stressed the urgency of profoundly reforming our country, not only from the political and economic standpoints but also from a social one. These reforms cannot occur without opening a new political page requiring a change of regime. This is a necessary and absolute condition to rapidly set in motion the train of measures that must change the old habits of catering to special interests, political business dealings, and a host of other mob-like practices, which have plagued the healthy management of our economy and of our natural resources and granted no benefit to the majority of Guineans. National wealth must be used to enrich Guineans, who must feel its effects in their daily lives when they go to the hospital, use public transports or get paid wages.
We must build a new dialogue environment where all Guineans are invited without any restrictions. We must do it without holding any grudges, without hatred or any spirit of revenge. I believe that regardless of our differences and electoral allegiances, we all love Guinea and we must therefore respect this fact in one another. Nelson Mandela, the great African figure, a role model to us all for his courage, his tolerance and his exceptional humanitarian work succeeded in building a rainbow nation on forgiveness, and on the giving of oneself to the cause of his people. It is this man who has inspired me to follow such an approach and use such words when talking about others and my country.
Thus, a new space of understanding built around issues of development must constitute the cornerstone of a new platform in which political parties, unions, civil organisations (particularly associations and NGOs), and all religious denominations come together in a concerted effort to promote a real plan of action consensus. Our national resources must be reallocated to increase the standard of living of all our fellow countrymen and not simply enrich the cast of a privileged few. By raising the issues in this way, I am not attempting to ignore the legitimacy of political action nor political parties. Politics, however, should not solely be based on what opposes us; it should also unite us around what is essential to us all: namely Guinea.
This is the noble task to which I invite all those, who like me; believe that the superior interest of Guineans and Guinea must take precedence over any other consideration of ethnicity, party affiliation, regionalism or personal interest. Far from denying these differences, let us turn them into the tools to build a unified, prosperous and strong nation.
27 March 2008
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