Election raises expectations among country's youth

For the first time in over five decades, Guineans elect a new president on Sunday. In a country where water and electricity are still a luxury, voters are eager for justice.


, special correspondent in Guinea

After 52 years of authoritarian rule, Guineans are nurturing high expectations of Sunday’s democratic elections, and of whoever wins the historic contest.

"Optimism that poll will be fair"

Indeed, Guinea’s future president-elect will have little time to savour victory. Should he fail to deliver on campaign pledges, the same eager voters will waste no time reminding him of that which was promised.

Swiftly improving the standard of living is a priority for nearly all Guineans. Diallo, Bah and Oumar, three young men at a market in downtown Conakry, are very clear about what they need: "Water and electricity, that's what's missing in the country”.
“When there’s power in one neighbourhood, these’s a blackout in the next. It's the same with the water. Everyone should have access all the time!" the three insist.
Take a look outside the capital, and the situation is even worse. Barring a handful of regions that enjoy five hours of electricity per day thanks to nearby hydroelectric dams, households have learned to do without power or running water.
"Even in the capital, some children have never seen a faucet," laments Aziz Diop, head of Guinea’s National Council of Civil Society (CNSOC), the government agency that coordinates the work of associations and NGOs.
'We’re not electing a candidate so he can go travel abroad'
Launching major public work projects would broaden access to electricity and water to some Guineans. But not all would be able to afford the cost. With unemployment widespread, many are deprived of all income.

On a typical day, hundreds of young men queue outside a police recruitment centre near Conakry's September 28 stadium.

"There is no work in Guinea. The young are suffering,” says Jean-Marie, a college graduate with a degree in biochemistry who patiently waits in line. “We’re not electing a candidate so he can go travel abroad. Whether he’s Peuhl, Malinke or Soussou [Guinea's three main ethnic groups], he better do something for the youth of his country.”
Report: Pitching in for free elections

Even if Jean-Marie is lucky enough to get hired, his earnings will be far from extraordinary. According to Diop, the salary for state employees varies between 300,000 and 800,000 Guinean francs (42 and 112 euros) per month -- hardly a comfortable wage considering that a 50 kg sack of rice costs 220,000 francs.

In a country where the government remains the single largest employer, “[t]he best paid public-sector workers cover their normal expenses only for the first half of each month,” says Diop.
Back at the market, Diallo, Bah and Oumar share their solution to the country’s stifling poverty: “More justice,” they insist.
Their brief answer reflects widespread hope for a better management of the country’s resources. Foreign technocrats call it "good governance". In Guinea, it may involve getting over a culture of “inevitability,” which dictates that “whatever power God giveth, God taketh away.”


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