CONAKRY – In December 2010, I became President of Guinea following the country’s first truly open and democratic elections. I said then that I had inherited a country, not a state. Our economy was in ruins, our people were among the world’s poorest, and our political system had been weakened by decades of corruption, dictatorship, and misrule.
It needn’t be so. Guinea has vast mineral wealth, the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, and some of the highest-grade iron-ore deposits.
Making these assets work for all of our people, rather than only for a few unscrupulous international mining companies and politicians, requires confronting the deeply ingrained corruption found in Guinea’s politics and business. But uprooting such corruption can be painfully slow, and is often dangerous. After all, vested interests do not welcome challenges.
Compared to developed countries, rogue actors do disproportionate damage in a country like Guinea. Lack of transparency and endemic economic corruption do not mean only unpaid taxes and a lack of competition; they also corrode the political process and undermine our emerging democracy. It impedes change and opens the door to frustration and the kind of political tension and regrettable violence – including tragic deaths – that have recently affected our country.