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"Music for a coup - 'Armée Guinéenne'. An overview of Guinea's recent political turmoil". Australasian Review of African Studies. 31 (2), pp. 94-112. 2010.

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ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010 1
The Australasian Review of African Studies
African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific
Volume 31 Number 2 December 2010
CONTENTS
Tribute to Basil Davidson 1914 – 2010
Matthew Doherty 3
Engaging Africa and the World
Tanya Lyons ARAS Editor 5
Urbanisation, Urban Poverty Reduction and Non-
Governmental Development Organisations’ (NGDOs)
Intervention Mechanisms in Malawi
Jonathan Makuwira 8
The Safeguarding of International Shipping: A Solution to
Somali Piracy?
Emily Bienvenue 30
Fifty Years of Nigerian Independence: Governance in a
Multi-Ethnic Nation-State
Basil A. Ekot 51
Human Rights Activism and the Silencing of Women
Rachel Outhred 79
Music for a coup - “Armée Guinéenne:” An overview of
Guinea’s recent political turmoil
Graeme Counsel 94
Member Profile – Graeme Counsel, AFSAAP Treasurer 113
Book Reviews:
Dereje Feyissa and Markus Virgil Hoehne (eds.)
Borders and Borderlands as Resources in the Horn of Africa.
Finex Ndhlovu 114
ARAS Vol.31 No. 2 December 2010
2
Patrick Chabal. Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling.
Noah Bassil 118
Robert Maxon. East Africa: An Introductory History
Matthew Doherty 120
AFSAAP Postgraduate Essay Prize:
Guidelines and Procedures 2010 122
ARAS Guidelines for Contributors 124
Call for papers December 2011 ARAS 125
About AFSAAP 126
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
94
Music for a coup: “Armée Guinéenne.”
An overview of Guinea’s recent political turmoil
Graeme Counsel
University of Melbourne
Abstract
Since independence in 1958 Guinea has been beset by autocratic and
repressive regimes. In 2008 the military junta led by Capt. Moussa
“Dadis” Camara promised free and fair elections, yet succeeded only in
repressing democratic reforms amidst growing corruption within the
military. The campaign to promote Dadis as a Presidential candidate was
accompanied by the popular song “Armée Guinéenne,” which praised the
army as the defenders of the nation. The events of September 28 2009,
however, where unarmed protestors were massacred by Guinea’s defence
forces, proved the falsity of this claim. This article examines the
interplay between music and politics in Guinea, a relationship which has
its origins in the cultural policies of the independence era. As Guinea
enters a new phase, with the election of its first civilian government, this
article also provides background to the current political situation.
Introduction
Guinea has long been a centre of musical excellence. In upper Guinea,
the music of the griots has been passed down from one generation to
another since the founding of the Empire of Mali in the 12th century CE.
Griots are hereditary musicians, and it is their role to maintain the
extensive repertoire of oral narratives which describe the exploits of the
region’s famous and brave citizens. Guineans are well-versed in their
nation’s history, and a common ancestry from the ancient Empire of Mali
is a source of great pride. That the stories and tales associated with these
histories are usually sung and performed with musical instruments makes
for a particularly rich musical culture, one which Guinean leaders have
often appropriated.
In the late 1960s, at the height of Guinea’s Cultural Revolution, the
nation’s famous orchestra Bembeya Jazz National recorded the song
“Armée Guinéenne” as the A side to their second single on the Syliphone
recording label. Based upon a traditional griot song called “Douga,” a
song reserved for warriors, the orchestra modernised the composition by
featuring brass sections and electric guitars in their interpretation. The
traditional lyrics were also changed, and they now praised the Guinean
Army as defenders of the nation and protectors of the population. The
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
95
song was a great success for the group and has since become recognised
as one of the classic popular songs of Africa’s independence era,1
appearing on numerous compact disc volumes.2
What was once a dance-floor classic, however, has in recent years
assumed a darker tone. On December 23 2008 Guineans awoke to the
news of the death of their President of 25 years, Col. Lansana Conté.
The President’s death was not unexpected – ill health had prevented him
from making public appearances for many years and it was believed he
was much older than his official age of 74. In the hours after his death, as
uncertainty grew as to the shape and form of the new government, the
public’s worst fears were realised when the national broadcaster, Radio
Télévision Guinée (RTG), began to play Bembeya Jazz National’s
version of “Armée Guinéenne” continuously on the radio. When hearing
the song played in such a manner parents throughout the capital quickly
phoned their children to bring them home: they knew something dire had
occurred. Their fears were realised when a military coup was announced.
This article examines the history of the song “Armée Guinéenne” and its
journey from folklore to pro-independence symbol to anthem of a
military state. It will reveal not only the successes and failures of cultural
policy initiatives in Guinea, but also of the important role of music in
West African politics. The military junta led by Capt. Moussa “Dadis”
Camara used “Armée Guinéenne” as a theme for their political ambitions,
and this paper will explain this context in relation to the atrocities
perpetrated by the military in 2009 – actions which drew charges of
Crimes Against Humanity against the government amidst the distinct
possibility of civil war. In 2008 and 2009 I was in Guinea undertaking
archival research funded by Major Project Awards through the British
Library’s Endangered Archives Programme,3 and this article is based
upon my research and personal experiences.
1 In 2010 the song was featured on an 18 CD volume of music celebrating 50 years of
African Independence. See “1960-2010. Africa. 50 years of music,” Sterns /
Discograph / Syllart. 3218642.
2 A complete discography of Bembeya Jazz National is maintained by the author as an
internet resource, Graeme Counsel, (compiler), Radio Africa - Bembeya Jazz National
discography, http://www.radioafrica.com.au/Discographies/Bembeya.html (accessed
12 September 2010).
3 My archival partners in Guinea were the Bibliothèque Nationale de Guinée and
Radiodiffusion Télévision de Guinée. I published an account of the projects as
Graeme Counsel, “Digitising and archiving Syliphone recordings in Guinea,”
Australasian Review of African Studies, 30:1 (2009a): 144-150.
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
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Historical Background
Democracy has been a long time coming to Guinea. On September 28
1958 Guineans voted overwhelmingly “Non” to an offer from President
Charles de Gaulle for autonomy within a West African federation of
French states. They instead chose total independence, becoming the first
Francophone nation in Africa to do so. Sékou Touré, the Mayor of
Conakry and leader of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée (PDG), was
elected as President and the Guinean nation was born on October 2 1958.
During the era of President Sékou Touré (1958-1984) the status of art and
culture was elevated to the forefront of government policy. In order to rid
his nation of the colonialist yoke Touré adopted as a course of action the
policy of authenticité, a cultural philosophy which advocated a return to
the values found in ‘authentic’ African traditions. Under Sékou Touré,
cultural practices in Guinea were tightly controlled and artists were
directed to “return to the source”4 for artistic inspiration and to reject the
cultural influences of the West. Authenticité became the official cultural
policy for the Cultural Revolution launched in Guinea in 1968. It was
deemed the philosophy appropriate to the new era of independence, and
earlier movements, such as Négritude, its predecessor, were ridiculed as
both passé and pro-West by critics such as Sékou Touré.5 Moreover,
where Négritude was concerned with “a re-creation and symbiosis with
other cultures,”6 authenticité rejected such overtures. Authenticité, as
practised in Guinea, strongly encouraged African artists to seek
inspiration from indigenous cultural practices alone, for Sékou Touré
believed that “each time we adopt a solution authentically African in its
nature and its design we will solve our problems easily.”7
President Touré commenced his transformation of Guinean culture
decisively, by banning all foreign music on the radio and by disbanding
all dance orchestras throughout the country. Touré considered these jazz-
4 Graeme Counsel, Mande Music and Cultural Policies in West Africa: Griots and
Government Policy Since Independence, (Germany: VDM, 2009b) 9; See also
Amilcar Cabral, Return to the Source: Selected Speeches of Amilcar Cabral, (New
York: Monthly Review Press, 1973); Manthia Diawara, African Cinema: Politics
and Culture, (USA: Indiana University Press, 1992).
5 “Négritude is a product of history, a product of white people who practised systems
of domination, exploitation, oppression, colonialism, and imperialism,” Touré, cited
in Lansiné Kaba, “The cultural revolution, artistic creativity, and freedom of
expression in Guinea,” Journal of Modern African Studies, 14:2 (1976): 209.
6 Léopold Senghor, cited in Stephen H. Grant, “Léopold Sédar Senghor, former
president of Senegal,” Africa Report, 28:6 (1983): 64.
7 Lapido Adamolekun, Sékou Touré’s Guinea: An experiment in nation building
(USA: Methuen, 1976), 365.
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97
style musical groups to be mere imitators of French culture, for their
repertoires featured no songs sung in local Guinean languages nor were
any indigenous musical instruments or melodies presented. “Culture is a
better means of domination than the gun,”8 stated Touré, and he replaced
the dance orchestras with a network of new bands which were established
in all of Guinea’s préfectures and towns. During Guinea’s 1st republic,
over 60 dance orchestras were created, all of whom were fully supported
by the state with all musical instruments paid for. Many of these bands
formed part of regional artistic troupes which contained dance companies,
theatrical groups, and traditional instrumental ensembles. In keeping with
the policy of authenticité each troupe was instructed to seek their
inspiration from the traditional cultures of their region. As the troupes
evolved and became skilled, they were sent on tours throughout Africa
and the Eastern Bloc where they promoted the concept of authenticité.
Zaïre, Chad, Mali, and Togo adopted authenticité as their national
cultural policy, and in order to develop their culture in the post-colonial
era many other African nations embraced the basic principles of the
movement.
By the early 1960s the PDG dominated Guinean politics to the extent that
the nation had evolved into a single-party state. The era of totalitarian
rule had commenced, an era which proclaimed the “cultural
transformation of the social background”9 in order to prepare for the
creation of the “new man.”10 The government had expanded its regional
artistic troupes through the creation of National orchestras and
performance groups. These “national” groups represented the apex of
authenticité, and were heralded as being “beyond all linguistic, ethnic or
racial barriers.”11 They were epitomised as the “image of the Guinean
nation.”12 Such troupes, led by Les Ballet Africains and Bembeya Jazz
National, toured the world and presented the ideals of Guinean life to an
admiring and generally uncritical audience. The truth of the matter,
however, was quite a different story.
8 Guinean National Commission for UNESCO, “Cultural policy in the Revolutionary
People’s Republic of Guinea,” Studies and Documents on Cultural Policies, Volume
51 (Paris: UNESCO, 1979), 23.
9 Guinean National Commission for UNESCO, 74.
10 Guinean National Commission for UNESCO, 74.
11 Wolibo Dukuré, La festival culturel national de la République Populaire
Revolutionnaire de Guinée (Guinea: Ministére de la Jeunesse des Sports et Arts
Populaire, 1983), 54.
12 Dukuré, 54.
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Though the PDG could boast some 26,000 party cells throughout the
country, rumours of coups, fifth columnists, and plots beset the
administration from the outset. The government reacted by curtailing
civil liberties and democratic processes. The Fula, Guinea’s largest
ethnic group comprising some 40% of the population,13 were targeted by
Touré, who had earlier fought off several Fula competitors during his run
for the Presidency. Challenges to Touré’s rule were not tolerated, and
attempts to form a second political party in 1965 led to the arrest of
Diawadou Barry, the principal Fula leader, who was sentenced to death
on treason and conspiracy charges. The Fula were seen as the enemies of
the state, and the PDG purged the government’s ranks. Among its
victims was the first Secretary-General of the Organisation of African
Unity, Teli Diallo, who died in Camp Boiro prison, a victim of the
infamous diète noire.14
By the 1970s the situation for the Fula, and for any of those deemed
opponents to the PDG, had become so dire that 25% of Guinea’s
population, a figure representing some 2,000,000 people, were fleeing the
country in order to escape political and ethnic repression.15 After an
attempt on the President’s life in 1976, Touré reportedly stated: “We will
annihilate them [the Fula] immediately, not by race war, but by radical
revolutionary war.”16
In this anti-Fula context the song “Armée Guinéenne” is an example of
the failure of the authenticité programme. Through the Syliphone
recording label, 728 songs were released on vinyl records, yet a survey of
the catalogue reveals a marked disproportion in representations of
Guinea’s ethnic groups. Though the Fula comprised 40% of the
population only 23 songs of 728 were sung in Fulani – just over 3%. Of
the Fula orchestras, no long play recording was released by Syliphone
until 1980, nearly 15 years after the state-run company began releasing
vinyl discs. In the same period dozens of recordings by Malinké groups
were released. My research at the Radio Télévision de Guinée (RTG)
13 Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous
Peoples - Guinea : Overview 2007 http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,MRGI,,
GIN,456d621e2,4954ce60c,0.html (accessed September 2 2010).
14 The “black diet” was a term given to the special treatment of political prisoners. It
consisted of a “diet” of no food and no water.
15 George Rubiik, “Social origins of the 1984 coup d’etat in Guinea,” Utafiti, 9:1
(1987): 93-118; Thomas O’Toole and Ibrahima Bah-Lalya, Historical Dictionary of
Guinea, 3rd edition (London: Scarecrow Press, 1995), 69.
16 O’Toole and Bah-Lalya, 83.
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sound archives in 2008-9 indicates that this policy of under-representation
of Fulani culture was prevalent, and of the more than 3,000 songs which I
archived less than 10% were of Fula origin. What becomes readily
apparent, even through the scantest of surveys of the recorded music of
the Sékou Touré era, is the dominance of Malinké music over all else.
President Touré was Malinké by birth, and from the outset of the
authenticité cultural policy Malinké musicians – the griots – assumed
important positions within the government hierarchy. Sidikiba Diabaté, a
prominent griot, was appointed by Touré to gather the “traditional
heritage”17 from all corners of the nation in order to supply the National
ensembles with a suitably representative repertoire. Diabaté toured
widely and recorded a large selection of Guinean music, however this
diversity was not fully reflected in the music of the National troupes.
Rather, a Malinké aesthetic dominated the troupes, especially in terms of
the instrumentation, with griot instruments such as the kora and balafon
placed to the fore. The personnel of the troupes were also mainly
comprised of griot artists. Guinea’s dance orchestras and national
groups, who were purportedly beyond all linguistic, ethnic, or racial
barriers, performed under the guise of nationalism yet were dominated by
a Malinké cultural paradigm which permeated their performances. The
cultural policy of authenticité had evolved in Guinea into a mechanism
which rather than promoting ethnic diversity actively stymied it. This is
particularly relevant to the Fula, who were marginalised both politically
and culturally.
The song “Armée Guinéenne” is a case in point. Guinea’s griots, like
their counterparts in Mali, Senegal, and elsewhere in West Africa,
maintain an extensive repertoire of songs, including “Douga,” a
composition which predates the colonial era. The song’s title translates
as vulture, a bird synonymous with bravery, and “Douga” is performed in
honour of the bravest citizens, usually soldiers. In the 1960s, in keeping
with the authenticité policy, the song “Douga” was adapted and used as a
template for a new composition, “Armée Guinéenne.” Many associate
the song with Bembeya Jazz National’s version, who are widely
acclaimed with its composition. What is perhaps less well known is that
the group were not the first to record the song. In 2009, my research in
the archives of Radio Télévision Guinée revealed a circa 1964 recording
of “Armée Guinéenne” by l’Ensemble National de la Radio Télévision de
Guinée. This original version of the song featured on two audio reels –
17 Almami Oumar Laho Diallo, Interview by Graeme Counsel, 23 August 2001.
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one contained a selection of material performed by the Ensemble, which
was undated, while the other reel was a compilation of material titled
“Vieux airs chansons Guinéennes avec commentaire par Katy Emmanuel.
1958-1964.” From this second reel (RTG catalogue number 0345/F) it is
apparent that the song was well-known by 1964, and was important
enough at that time to be anthologised in a national radio broadcast. Its
journey towards an anthem of the nation had begun.
Translation of “Armée Guinéenne” from Maninka to English
Aaa, l’Armée Guinéenne
Ah, the Guinean Army
fabara makara ni kεya tε kƆrƆbƆla.
the defence of the fatherland is fundamental.
Ooo, milisi Guinéenne
Oh, the Guinean Militia
fabara makara ni kεya tε kƆrƆbƆla.
the defence of the fatherland is fundamental.
Bureau politiki national ani gouvernement
The Bureau Politique Nationale, the government,
Laginε jamanadennu bεε ye dubala ayi ve.
all the children of the nation bless you.
L’armée nin tε mƆƆ kεlε k’ni telen nin.
This army does not fight against honest people.
L’armée nin tε mƆƆ kεlε jƆnmaya ma.
This army does not fight against weak nations.
JƆnmaya kεlε ban man di
It is difficult to end to a fight
NyƆgƆnyebalila kεlε ban man di.
where opponents do not see each other.
Gbangban, juulu gbangban, enimilu gbangban.
Nail, nail the bad people, nail the enemies.
Espionlu gbangban, n’i ma nyε i la hƆrƆya ko, enimilu gbangban.
Nail the spies, if you want really your independence, nail the
enemies.
Juulu gbangban, enemilu gbangban.
Nail the bad people, nail the enemies.
Espionlu gbangban, n’i ma nyε i la hƆrƆya ko, enimilu gbangban.
Nail the spies, if you want really your independence, nail the
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enemies.
MƆƆ tε na annu janfa nin kƆƆ
Nobody will betray us anymore
An na hƆrƆya nin kƆ, fw.
after our independence, really.
MƆƆ tε na annu janfa nin kƆ
Nobody will betray us anymore
An na hƆrƆƆƆya nin kƆ, fw.
after our independence, really.
Aaa, l’Armée Guinéenne
Ah, the Guinean Army
fabara makara ni kεya tε kƆrƆbƆla.
the defence of the fatherland is fundamental.
Ooo, milisi Guinéenne
Oh, the Guinean Militia
fabara makara ni kεya tε kƆrƆbƆla.
the defence of the fatherland is fundamental. 18
Of interest in the song lyrics is the Maninka term “gbangban.” My initial
request for assistance in translating this term drew several interpretations,
varying from “to refuse,” “to fight,” and “to hang.” “A Maninka study
guide for Guinea” states that “gbangban” is defined as meaning to nail or
to fasten.19 Suzuki20 notes that the term is an onomatopoeia for the action
of hammering a nail into an object, with the author noting that in
Guinea’s early years of independence a person accused of espionage was
publicly executed, with their bodies suspended from wooden posts by
nails hammered into their hands. Dr. Sylla, the Director of Guinea’s
National Library, added that the sense of the term in the song “is to nail to
the pillories the enemies of the People.”21 That the song alludes to this
practice is perhaps best exemplified by President Sékou Touré himself,
18 The song has been anthologised on many collections, including Graeme Counsel
(compiler) Bembeya Jazz National. The Syliphone years. Hits and rare recordings
(Sterns, STCD 3029-30: 2007). It can also be heard at a number of web sites,
including “Armée Guinéenne - Bembeya Jazz National 1968” http://www.youtube
.com/watch?v=g8crPUW-H5s (accessed 12 September 2010).
19 Aaron Shargi and Tony Gemignani, A Maninka study guide for Guinea, Private
publication, no date.
20 Hiroyuki Suzuki, “Creation d’une musique populaire dans le cadre de la Nation: le
cas de la Guinée sous le régime de Sékou Touré,” Cultures Sonores d’Afrique III
(2004): 70.
21 Dr Baba Cheick Sylla, personal correspondence, 9 June 2010.
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102
who, in his poem “Révolution et exigence,” 22 wrote –
Let us resolutely destroy
Any betrayer of the Nation.
Let us nail to the post
The murderers of Boiro.23
The lyrics to “Armée Guinéenne” portray the army as a protector of the
people and encourage vigilance against the enemies of the nation. The
song, however, becomes much less heroic when seen in terms of
advocating a military state which persecuted its own citizens due to their
ethnicity. If, as Claude Riviere asserts, the persecution of the Fula by the
Touré régime became a key factor in shaping their consciousness,24 then
“Armée Guinéenne” was a key symbol of their oppression. The song was
played at military processions, was broadcast on the national radio (and
the Voice of America), and came to enshrine all that the Guinean army
represented.
The domination of Guinean politics by Sékou Touré and the PDG came
to an abrupt end in 1984, when Touré died in the USA following minor
heart surgery. As the PDG met to organise a successor, Col. Lansana
Conté, a Susu, overthrew the government in a military coup. His break
with the era of the PDG was decisive, and he freed political prisoners
from jails while imprisoning and executing senior PDG officials. He was
far from Guinea’s saviour, however, and indeed life in Guinea grew
harder and corruption more entrenched. President Conté continued
Touré’s practice of appointing members from his own ethnic group to
government jobs and senior positions in the military, where Susu
numbers tripled.25 Guinea’s cultural policies were all but abandoned, and
the dance orchestras and performance troupes were left to fend for
22 Ahmed Sékou Touré, Poèmes militants, 6th Edition, (Conakry: Bureau de presse
de la présidence de la République, 1977). Some of the President’s poems were set to
music with the verses sung by choirs. These songs were commercially released in the
1970s by Syliphone. For a discography see Graeme Counsel (compiler), Radio Africa
- Syliphone Discography, http://www.radioafrica.com.au/Discographies/Syliphone
.html (accessed 12 September 2010).
23 Touré: 74. Translated by Dan Reboussin, “Ahmed Sékou Touré, Guinea (1922-
1984),” 28 May 2004, http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/cm/africana/sekou.htm (accessed 2
September 2010). Mamadou Boiro was the Chief of Police in Guinea. He was
murdered in 1969 by three senior military officers, who were to face treason charges.
24 Riviere, cited in Lansiné Kaba, “Rhetoric and reality in Conakry,” Africa Report,
23:3 (1978): 43-47.
25 Robert J. Groelsema, “The dialectics of citizenship and ethnicity in Guinea,” Africa
Today, 45:3/4 (1998): 417.
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themselves. Conté was to rule Guinea for the next 25 years.
Guinea’s new President was reluctant to hold federal elections, which
were delayed until 1993. Amidst allegations of electoral fraud and
flagrant irregularities, which included the disenfranchisement of all votes
from two préfectures, Conté was declared victor in that year with 51.7%
of the vote. For the elections of 1998 the opposition organised
themselves into a bloc so as to end Conte’s “ethnocentric”26 regime,
however the President was so confident of victory that no provision was
made for a second round of voting. Conté attracted 56% of the vote. In
2001 the President held a referendum to extend his term from five years
to seven, and he received 98.4% of votes in favour. The most recent
elections, those of 2003, were a tragedy for democracy, boycotted by all
but one opposing candidate. Conté won 96% of the vote.
The corruption displayed in Guinea’s elections was a microcosm of a
much larger problem. By 2006 corruption had become so endemic that
Transparency International named Guinea as the fourth most corrupt
nation in the world.27 Guinea has more than half of the world’s bauxite, is
rich in gold, uranium and diamonds, has fertile soils and huge
hydroelectric potential, yet in the decade of the 2000s the United Nations
Human Development Report routinely placed the nation near the lowest
ranking in the world.28 In 2003 over 20 protestors were killed in riots over
the cost of rice. In January 2007 a nationwide strike led to the deaths of
over 90 people at a rally, many of whom were shot by the army on the
streets of Conakry.29 Guinea’s corruption opened the door for Columbian
drug cartels, and in 2008 over a ton of cocaine was being flown into the
country every week, en route for Europe. On the street it sold for as little
as $2 a gram, a day’s wage in Guinea. The drug trade involved many
senior government officials, including all of the anti-drug squad, and the
President’s son, Ousmane Conté, who used the Presidential Guard to
offload cocaine from the planes at Conakry’s international airport. To
ensure the backing of the military, Conté favoured powerful factions
26 Ali B. Dinar, “Guinea: Background brief on presidential elections 1998.12.08,” 8
December 1998, http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Newsletters/irinw_120898.html
(accessed 2 September 2010).
27 Transparency International, CPI Table, 2006, http://www.transparency.org/news_
room/in_focus/2007/cpi2007 (accessed 2 September 2010).
28 United Nations Development Program, Human Development Reports, 2010,
http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/ (accessed 2 September 2010).
29 AllAfrica.com, “Guinea: Bloodbath in Conakry!” http://allafrica.com/stories
/200909300740.html, (accessed September 2 2010).
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
104
within them, and all members of the armed forces were virtually above
the law. So flagrant was their corruption that it was not uncommon to see
ordinary soldiers driving luxury cars such as Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, or
Range Rover, vehicles stratospherically out of reach of their official
wages. Guinea’s soldiers would make extra cash by nefarious means,
including hiring their uniforms and guns to those who would then
terrorise at will.
During the Conté years the cultural legacies of Sékou Touré were never
reignited. State-funded cultural enterprises such as Syli-film and Syli-Art
were dismantled, and Syliphone, after releasing 728 songs, ceased
production. The art of the 1st Republic was spurned, for Conté sought to
break with the past, rather than re-live it through the policy of
authenticité. Many of the orchestras of the Touré era disbanded due to
lack of financial support, and only the National Orchestras, who had been
given their own venues by the President Touré, continued to perform.
Official concerts were uncommon, though in 1998 Bembeya Jazz
National performed to mark the centenary of the arrest of Almamy
Samory Touré, the famed resistance leader to French rule in the 19th
century, and purported grandfather of Sékou Touré. During Conté’s
reign, “Armée Guinéenne” was no longer a potent symbol of the struggle
against imperialism, was no longer officially sanctioned, and fell into
obscurity.
By late 2008 Conté’s health was deteriorating. Guinea’s press were
reluctant to publish information on the topic, for fear of imprisonment, or
worse, though it was widely known that the President had been ill for
years. He had not be seen or heard in public for many months, and on
October 2 2008 the President failed to attend the gala 50th anniversary of
independence celebrations, a very noticeable absence. Rumours began to
circulate that his death was imminent. The tension in Conakry grew daily
over the uncertainty of who would assume the Presidency following his
death, and what the army, corrupt and factionalised, might do.
On the evening of 22 December 2008 President Conté died. His death
was not announced until the following morning. Just six hours later
“Armée Guinéenne” began playing continuously on the national radio,30
as reports of a military coup were confirmed. Capt. Moussa “Dadis”
Camara, an obscure and junior army officer, had declared himself
30 “Music for coups” is not a peculiar phenomenon to Guinea, as witnessed in
neighbouring Mali, when Modibo Keita was deposed in 1968. Then, it was the music
of Bazoumana Sissòko that was played to herald the change of leadership.
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
105
President in a bloodless coup, citing that taking power was necessary to
ease Guinea’s “deep despair.”31
Initially, Dadis, as he is colloquially known, was embraced by the
Guinean people. He represented a younger generation, and his promises
to stamp out corruption, to return the country to civilian rule, and to not
stand as a Presidential candidate were warmly received. He promised
elections in 2 years, but then bowed to public pressure and declared
elections would be held in December 2009. He retired legions of old
generals, grilled senior government officials on live television as to their
roles in corruption and the drug trade, and was affectionately known as
“Obama junior.”32
Things began to sour, however, as the President began to waver on his
key commitment not to stand as a Presidential candidate. After months of
refusing to rule out his candidacy, Dadis began a tour of Guinea and
claimed that no-one could stop him from nominating as a candidate.33
The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), the
ruling military junta, began an advertising blitz preparing the nation for
his election. Dadis was shown on television surrounded by cheering
supporters, with the song “Armée Guinéenne” always accompanying his
image, the campaign, and the national news. Sometimes it would just be
the opening bars of the song, other times the complete four minute
version. Though he refused to declare himself a candidate, his intentions
were obvious to all. After 51 years of faux democracy, however,
Guineans were ready to challenge the military, and a protest movement
against Dadis’ rule began.
Following the 2008 coup, Guinea’s constitution was suspended and
meetings of all political parties were banned. These and a series of other
repressive measures did not deter Guinea’s opposition parties uniting
under the umbrella of the “Forces Vive.” As a show of support they
announced that a mass rally was to be held at Guinea’s largest football
31 Alan Cowell, “Coup attempt in Guinea after strongman dies,” New York Times on
the web, 23 December 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/24/world/africa
/24guinea.html?_r=1 (accessed 2 September 2010).
32 Randy James, “Guinea’s leader Moussa Dadis Camara,” Time Magazine on the
web, 8 October 2009, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599
,1929113,00.html (accessed 2 September 2010).
33 Alexis Arieff, “Guinea’s 2008 military coup and relations with the United States,”
webGuinée, 2009, http://www.webguinee.net/bibliotheque/droit_politique/crs-2009-
report/military-coup-us-guinea-relations.html (accessed 2 September 2010).
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
106
stadium on 28 September 2009. The CNDD had warned that the protest
was illegal and air force jets roared over the capital in a display of power.
Huge convoys of heavily armed vehicles now escorted the President
wherever he went, and the Guinean army, filled with young officers and
recruits loyal to Dadis, lived above the law in a manner that their
predecessors could only envy.
Guinea’s Septembre 28 stadium is the largest in the country and on the
day of the rally was filled to capacity with more than 25,000 people.
Many were unable to enter the gates due to the large crowds. The
stadium is named after Guinea’s most auspicious date, 28 September
1958, the day that Guineans said “Non” to the offer of French autonomy
and declared their country a republic. Before the day’s end, however, 28
September would never be the same. Shortly after the rally had
commenced34 and opposition figures had addressed the crowd several
hundred members of Guinea’s military entered the stadium on foot and in
vehicles. Using automatic fire, and their knives when they ran out of
bullets, the military killed 157 unarmed civilians and injured over 2,000.
According to Human Rights Watch, the military focused their aggression
on the Fula, with eyewitness testimonies stating that members of the
Presidential Guard told them that “we’re going to finish all the Peuhl
[Fulani],” and “we’re going to kill all of you.”35 Many of the military
personnel who attacked the rally belonged to the Presidential Guard, and
eyewitness reports stated that Lt. Toumba Diakité, the commander of the
Presidential Guard, along with several senior army officials, was present,
coordinated and took part in the attacks. As news of the killings spread
through Conakry, and then around the globe, people began to flee the
country. It was clear that the military was out of control. All of the shops
in the capital city closed, along with many embassies. In the following
days the price of petrol quadrupled, gunfire rang out, and the running
water stopped. Rumours circulated that the phones and internet were
34 I was not present at the rally itself. My description of the events which occurred are
based upon the many published accounts from eye witnesses – accounts which helped
inform subsequent international inquiries. For example, see Human Rights Watch,
“Stop violent attacks on demonstrators,” 29 September 2009,
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/09/29/guinea-stop-violent-attacks-demonstrators
(accessed 2 September 2010); and Amnesty International, “Guinea. Amnesty
International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review,” May 2010
http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session8/GN/AI_UPR_GIN_S08_20
10_AmnestyInternational.pdf (accessed 2 September 2010).
35 Human Rights Watch, “Guinea: September 28 massacre was premeditated,” 27
October 2009, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/27/guinea-september-28-
massacre-was-premeditated (accessed 2 September 2010).
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
107
about to be cut. The road to Conakry’s airport was said to be too
dangerous to travel on, with reports of soldiers robbing foreigners amidst
the cancellation of flights. I remember on the evening of 28 September
listening to a BBC radio interview with ex-Prime Minister Sidya Touré,
who was to address the rally that day. Recovering from a beating by
soldiers, he now spoke in a whisper from a hospital toilet, where he was
in hiding. In the following days lawlessness took hold of the capital: the
Ambassador to Mali was attacked by Guinean soldiers who robbed him of
his vehicle,36 police stations were attacked by the public, the bodyguards
of a government minister exchanged fire with soldiers, army Generals
were assaulted by their own troops, and lootings and car-jackings by
soldiers took place at random. Guinea was headed for anarchy, possibly
civil war, or certainly a clash between factions of the military, some of
whom were appalled by the events of 28 September. The Guinean
government tried to deflect responsibility for the massacre and diminish
the brutality, claiming that the soldiers were provoked and that only 57
civilians died – most of them by being trampled.37 Dadis even attempted
to cajole the international media by offering them bribes - “Whatever you
want, at whatever time. On my tab, as chief of state.”38 He admitted,
however, that the army was ill-disciplined and were beyond his control.39
The African Union condemned the violence, as did the United Nations,
who announced an International Commission of Inquiry.
In the weeks following the stadium massacre the situation in Guinea grew
increasingly tense. President Camara continued to deflect responsibility,
and no military personnel were arrested. The promotion of Dadis to
Presidential candidate continued unabated, however, though it was plain
that his career as a politician was finished. As the United Nations inquiry
gathered momentum and its report40 due, the Guinean government grew
36 This follows an earlier attack on the Ghanaian ambassador, who was robbed of his
car and clothes by soldiers, and was left standing in the street in his underwear. See
Magbana, “Sékouba Konaté, No. 2 in Guinean junta, returns to Conakry,” Guinea
oye!, 5 December 2009, http://guineaoye.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/sekouba-konate-
no-2-in-guinean-junta-returns-to-conakry/ (accessed 2 September 2010).
37 Human Rights Watch, “Bloody Monday. The September 28 massacre and rapes by
security forces in Guinea,” 17 December 2009, http://www.hrw.org/en/node
/87186/section/13 (accessed 2 September 2010).
38 Randy James.
39 Saliou Samb, “Uncertainty prevails under increasingly isolated junta,” IPS News, 8
October 2009, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48773 (accessed 2 September
2010).
40 United Nations Security Council, Report of the International Commission of
Inquiry mandated to establish the facts and circumstances of the events of 28
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
108
all the more anxious as it become evident that Crimes Against Humanity
charges would be laid by the UN Commission. In this climate of fear an
assassination attempt was made on the President’s life. Upon visiting an
army barracks in downtown Conakry, Dadis was shot in the head by his
aide-de-camp and commander of the Presidential Guard, Lt. Toumba
Diakité. It was rumoured that Diakité was going to be named as the
perpetrator responsible for the massacre, that he would be the scapegoat,
and that Crimes Against Humanity charges would be levelled at him
alone. Incredibly, Dadis survived the shooting, and Diakité escaped with
a large group of loyal and fully-armed Presidential Guards. Dadis was
flown to Morocco, where bullet fragments were removed from his brain.
His recovery was far from certain, and his absence left Guinea on the
precipice.
Into the vacuum stepped Vice-President Gen. Sékouba Konaté, the
Minister of Defence. A comparatively moderate figure, Konaté was not
present at the stadium protest and was thus seen to have less culpability
for the massacre. He was the first of the military junta to acknowledge
the tragedy of the events of 28 September and of the army’s role.41 He
called for reconciliation, and for the elections, now months overdue, to be
held as soon as possible. Dadis, however, sought to retain the leadership,
and made a statement from his hospital bed that he wanted to return to
Guinea to rule the country. The army was placed on red alert in his
homeland region of N’zérékoré, where rioting had broken out, and there
was widespread fear that the country would descend into civil war. On
12 January 2010 Dadis was ready to return and boarded a plane bound for
Guinea. Yet in an extraordinary move his aircraft was flown only as far
as Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. There, Dadis met with
Konaté and Burkinabé President Blaise Compaoré, with the three
agreeing that a transition to civilian rule would occur and that there would
be no role for Dadis in a future Guinean government. This agreement
was known as the “Ouagadougou Accord.” Konaté established his
credentials by quickly enacting its main objectives, including the creation
of the National Transition Council, which was comprised of trade union
members, civil leaders, and opposition spokesmen. Konaté was also
unwavering in his commitment to the elections, and on 27 June 2010
Presidential elections were held – the first democratic ballot in Guinea
September 2009 in Guinea, 18 December 2009, http://www.unhcr.org/
refworld/docid/4b4f49ea2.html (accessed 2 September 2010).
41 Newstime Africa, “Sékouba Konaté will now become Guinea’s new Army chief,” 4
July 2010, http://www.newstimeafrica.com/archives/12987 (accessed 2 September
2010).
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
109
since independence in 1958. Former Prime Minister Cellou Diallo, a
Fula, who was severely beaten by soldiers at the 28 September rally,
received the majority of the vote with 40%, requiring a run-off second
round of elections between himself and Alpha Condé, a veteran
opposition leader, who came in second place. The run-off election has
been postponed on several occasions, and is due to take place on 19
September 2010.
Throughout Guinea’s history its army have often acted as the final arbiter
in national politics. In this brutal theatre the military’s acts of aggression
have been played out to the accompaniment of “Armée Guinéenne.”
Through praising the Guinean army as the defenders of the nation, and by
linking the contemporary regimes with the glories of the past, the song
has been used to legitimise the actions of the military. In recent times
“Armée Guinéenne” has become indelibly linked with the junta of
President Dadis Camara, who appropriated the song and used it as the
anthem for his political ambitions. As Guinea enters a new era of civilian
rule, one where de-militarisation must occur to ensure stability and where
re-structuring of the economy is a matter of urgency, it remains to be seen
what role the song will play. The new Guinean leadership will have
many pressing issues to address and obstacles to overcome, lest the
strains of “Armée Guinéenne” once again saturate the airwaves.
Bibliography
Adamolekun, Lapido. Sékou Touré’s Guinea: An experiment in nation
building. USA: Methuen, 1976.
AllAfrica.com, “Guinea: Bloodbath in Conakry!” http://allafrica.com/
stories/200909300740.html, (accessed September 2 2010).
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the UN Universal Periodic Review,” 2010. http://lib.ohchr
.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session8/GN/AI_UPR_GIN_S08_
2010_AmnestyInternational.pdf (accessed 2 September 2010).
Arieff, Alexis. “Guinea’s 2008 military coup and relations with the
United States,” webGuinée, 2009. http://www.webguinee.net/
bibliotheque/droit_politique/crs-2009-report/military-coup-us-
guinea-relations.html (accessed 2 September 2010).
“Armée Guinéenne - Bembeya Jazz National 1968” http://www.youtube
.com/watch?v=g8crPUW-H5s (accessed 12 September 2010)
Cabral, Amilcar. Return to the source: Selected speeches of Amilcar
Cabral. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973.
Counsel, Graeme. “Digitising and archiving Syliphone recordings in
Guinea,” Australasian Review of African Studies. 30:1 (2009a): 144-
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150.
Counsel, Graeme. Mande music and cultural policies in West Africa.
Griots and government policy since independence. Germany: VDM,
2009b.
Counsel, Graeme. (compiler), Radio Africa - Bembeya Jazz National
discography,http://www.radioafrica.com.au/Discographies/Bembeya
.html (accessed 12 September 2010).
Counsel, Graeme (compiler), Radio Africa - Syliphone Discography,
http://www.radioafrica.com.au/Discographies/Syliphone.html
(accessed 12 September 2010).
Graeme Counsel (compiler) Bembeya Jazz National. The Syliphone
years. Hits and rare recordings (Sterns, STCD 3029-30: 2007)
Cowell, Alan. “Coup attempt in Guinea after strongman dies,” New York
Times on the web, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/24
/world/africa/24guinea.html?_r=1 (accessed 2 September 2010).
Diawara, Manthia. African Cinema: Politics and Culture. USA: Indiana
University Press, 1992.
Dinar, Ali B. Guinea: Background brief on presidential elections.
1998.12.08, 1998. http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Newsletters/irinw_
120898.html (accessed 2 September 2010).
Dukuré, Wolibo. La festival culturel national de la République Populaire
Revolutionnaire de Guinée. Guinea: Ministére de la Jeunesse des
Sports et Arts Populaires, 1983.
Grant, Stephen H. “Léopold Sédar Senghor, former president of
Senegal,” Africa Report 28:6 (1984): 61-64.
Groelsema, Robert J. “The dialectics of citizenship and ethnicity in
Guinea,” Africa Today. 45:3/4 (1998): 411-423.
Guinean National Commission for UNESCO. “Cultural policy in the
Revolutionary People’s Republic of Guinea,” Studies and documents
on cultural policies. Volume 51. Paris: UNESCO, 1979.
Human Rights Watch. “Stop violent attacks on demonstrators,” 2009.
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/09/29/guinea-stop-violent-
attacks-demonstrators (accessed 2 September 2010).
Human Rights Watch. “Guinea: September 28 massacre was
premeditated,” 2009. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/27/
guinea-september-28-massacre-was-premeditated (accessed 2
September 2010).
Human Rights Watch. “Bloody Monday. The September 28 massacre
and rapes by security forces in Guinea,” 2009.
http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87186/section/1 (accessed 2 September
2010).
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
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James, Randy. “Guinean leader Moussa Dadis Camara,” Time on the web,
2009. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1929113,00
.html. (accessed 2 September 2010).
Kaba, Lansiné. “Rhetoric and reality in Conakry,” Africa Report. 23:3
(1978): 43-47.
Kaba, Lansiné. “The cultural revolution, artistic creativity, and freedom
of expression in Guinea,” Journal of Modern African studies 14:2
(1976): 201-218.
Magbana. “Sékouba Konaté, No. 2 in Guinean junta, returns to
Conakry,” Guinea oye!, 2009. http://guineaoye.wordpress.com
/2009/12/05/sekouba-konate-no-2-in-guinean-junta-returns-to-
conakry/ (accessed 2 September 2010).
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c,0.html. (accessed 2 September 2010).
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Army chief,” 2010. http://www.newstimeafrica.com/archives
/12987. (accessed 2 September 2010).
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Guinea, 3rd edition. London: Scarecrow Press, 1995.
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1984),” 28 May 2004, http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/cm/africana
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IPS News, 8 October 2009, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?
idnews=48773 (accessed 2 September 2010)
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Private publication, no date.
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Almami Oumar Laho Diallo, Interview by Graeme Counsel, 23 August
2001
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“1960-2010 - Africa - 50 years of music,” Sterns / Discograph / Syllart.
3218642 (An 18 volume CD box set released in 2010).
ARAS Vol.31 No.2 December 2010
113
MEMBER PROFILE
Graeme Counsel - AFSAAP Treasurer
Graeme Counsel was born in Perth,
Western Australia. After performing
in local bands he moved to Victoria
and graduated from Monash
University in 1997 with a BA (Hons).
He pursued his interests in
ethnomusicology at the University of
Melbourne, where he completed his
MMus (2000) and a PhD in Cultural Studies (2007). Graeme’s research
interests focus on the relationships between African politics and the arts.
His publications explore the ways in which cultural policies influence
methods and forms of cultural expression, particularly music. He is an
avid African record collector and jealously guards his collection of rare
vinyl recordings, which, over the years, he has presented on African
music programmes on Australian radio stations. Discographies of African
music are far from complete, and Graeme's research has helped to
recreate catalogues of early African recording labels. He maintains these
at his Radio Africa web site (http://www.radioafrica.com.au), which also
features rare videos of African music and other resources. He has
travelled to West Africa on many occasions and received numerous
awards and scholarships, including the Ernst Morawetz prize in Music, an
Alma Hansen scholarship, and an Australian Postgraduate Award. He has
also received two Major Research Project Awards through the British
Library – funding which led to his recreation of the complete catalogue of
the Syliphone recording label. He has conducted research at the national
archives of Guinea, Mali, Senegal and The Gambia, and his archival
projects have been exhibited at Guinea's national museum. In 2008 the
Guinean government recognised his contribution to culture by awarding
him a gold medal, the Médaille de Palme Académique en Or, and a
Diplôme d’Honneur. An account of his latest archival research was
published in the Australasian Review of African Studies 30:1 (2009): 144-
150, and his other recent publications include “Archival and research
resources in Conakry, Guinea”, History in Africa 36 (2009): 439- 445,
and Mande popular music and cultural policies in West Africa: Griots
and government policy since independence (Germany: VDM, 2009). He
has also compiled and annotated four double-volume compact discs of
Guinean music. He is currently the Treasurer of AFSAAP, and maintains
the association’s website.
... In the following decades, the military establishment gradually entrenched itself in the political, economic, and legal systems of the country (Bah 2015: 75-85). It formally ceded power in 2010 after enormous domestic and international pressure following a violent suppression of a pro-democratic rally in September 2009 that claimed many civilian lives (Counsel 2010). As discussed above, such entrenchment of the military in politics has often been associated with the outbreak of large scale violence in a number of West African nations. ...
... Similarly, the external threat provided an excuse for the army's bad behavior domestically. Recent studies of the Guinean armed forces conclude that brutality and impunity run deep in the armed forces' culture (Bah 2015: 82;International Crisis Group 2010: 16;Counsel 2010). According to International Crisis Group, the armed forces of Guinea "have a well-deserved reputation for human rights abuses, including suppressing opposition, torture and extra-judicial killings" (2010: 17). ...
Chapter
Guinea exhibits many of the major risk factors commonly associated with the onset of civil war and/or armed conflicts, including deep ethnic divisions; a politicized military; an abundance of natural resources alongside extreme poverty; and being located in a conflict ridden neighborhood. Yet, the constant presence of these violent risk variables has failed to ignite a broader conflict or to destabilize the central power structure of the state, therefore sparing the nation from the types of armed conflicts often associated with similar contexts in many West African nations. This chapter identifies mitigating factors against the onset of large-scale violence in such contexts and explains why Guinea has been spared from civil war despite these unfavorable conditions for peace. The chapter reveals that the presence of such violent conflict risk variables in Guinea failed to be associated with the onset of large-scale violence in the country largely due to measures taken by the Guinean state and its international partners. This outcome contrasts with much literature on the incidence of armed conflicts in such contexts. © John Idriss Lahai, Tanya Lyons and the contributors 2015. All rights reserved.
Book
During the independence era in West Africa (1958-1984) many nations embarked on ambitious programs aimed at rejuvenating their traditional arts. These programs were realised through new cultural policies such as authenticité, with music being a prime focus. In the 1960s West African governments created dozens of orchestras throughout the region. They paid the musicians a salary, bought them musical instruments, and instructed them to "look at the past" for inspiration. Herein lies the foundation for such famous orchestras as Bembeya Jazz and the Super Rail Band, groups who were at the centre of a cultural renaissance which inspired the whole continent. This book examines the major orchestras and musicians of the independence era, and explains the role of the government and griots in the creation of the new musical styles. The text is supported through biographies of musicians, descriptions of traditional musical instruments, and extensive discographies of African recordings.
Article
The interdependence between art and society, and the subsequent question of the function of art, belong to the old debate which has divided the artistic world into two broad factions. Radical writers and critics, sometimes labelled as ‘revolutionary’, think that the artistic universe is intimately connected with the socio-political context in which creativity takes place, and hence that art must play an active rôle in the society. The ‘conservatives’, while not necessarily opposing the active involvement of individual artists in politics, cleave to the view of art for its own sake and truth.
1960-2010 -Africa -50 years of music
  • Dr Baba
  • Cheick Sylla
Dr Baba Cheick Sylla, personal correspondence, 9 June 2010 " 1960-2010 -Africa -50 years of music, " Sterns / Discograph / Syllart. 3218642 (An 18 volume CD box set released in 2010).
Bloody Monday The September 28 massacre and rapes by security forces in Guinea
  • Rights Human
  • Watch
Human Rights Watch. " Bloody Monday. The September 28 massacre and rapes by security forces in Guinea, " 2009. http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87186/section/1 (accessed 2 September 2010).
in Guinean junta, returns to Conakry Guinea oye!05/sekouba-konate-no-2-in-guinean-junta-returns-to- conakry
  • Magbana
Magbana. " Sékouba Konaté, No. 2 in Guinean junta, returns to Conakry, " Guinea oye!, 2009. http://guineaoye.wordpress.com /2009/12/05/sekouba-konate-no-2-in-guinean-junta-returns-to- conakry/ (accessed 2 September 2010).
Radio Africa -Syliphone Discography
  • Graeme Counsel
Counsel, Graeme (compiler), Radio Africa -Syliphone Discography, http://www.radioafrica.com.au/Discographies/Syliphone.html (accessed 12 September 2010).
A Maninka study guide for Guinea. Private publication, no date
  • Aaron Shargi
  • Tony Gemignani
Shargi, Aaron and Tony Gemignani. A Maninka study guide for Guinea. Private publication, no date.
Rhetoric and reality in Conakry
  • Lansiné Kaba
Kaba, Lansiné. "Rhetoric and reality in Conakry," Africa Report. 23:3 (1978): 43-47.