Jim Armitage: Bad old days of violence return to Guinea

US Outlook It's depressing to see trouble return to the mineral-rich African state of Guinea.

At least eight people were killed this week and hundreds injured as the opposition took to the streets to protest about the government of Alpha Condé – a newish President who meets Tony Blair surprisingly regularly.

I described in this column recently the Israeli diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz's almost miraculous ability to obtain mining concessions cheaply under the old regime. Such deals are currently under investigation. The Condé government is attempting to get what it claims to be a better deal for the people by renegotiating such agreements.

Condé has clearly not handled his dealings with the political opposition well. They claim he is trying to steal the much-delayed elections due in May. His police officers have been horribly heavy-handed in the latest unrest. But, given that so much money is at stake for mining companies and their middlemen allied to one political group or another, one wonders if such demonstrations are as spontaneous as they appear, or whether foreign business interests are being given undue weight in African politics once again.

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