|07CONAKRY124||2007-02-01 16:51:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Conakry|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CONAKRY 000124
1. (C) First Lady Henriette Conte says that her husband will
follow through on his agreement to the deal struck between
the unions, government and Patronat January 27. In a
February 1 meeting with DCM, however, she left hanging the
question of when he might appoint a prime minister. Madame
Conte sees herself as a key mediator and has negotiated not
only with the unions but with her husband to ease tensions.
Her understanding of events on the ground, however, is
colored by her loyalty to the regime and her own isolation
from life outside the gates of the military camp she lives
in. End Summary.
2. (C) DCM met afternoon of February 1, at her own request,
with Guinean First Lady Henriette Conte. Madame Conte was
quick to respond to the request for an appointment; her staff
called back to confirm a meeting within minutes of the
initial contact January 31. Madame Conte received DCM at her
residence on the grounds of Camp Almamy Samory Toure, the
military base in downtown Conakry. Greeting DCM with an
embrace, she replied in kind to DCM's New Year's greetings
while her photographers took pictures. She then dismissed
them and her protocol staff. Participants in the meeting
were herself, DCM and former Guinean Ambassador to the UN
Camara Mahawa Bangoura.
3. (C) DCM noted that she had hoped to present New Year's
wishes earlier in the month but events had intervened. She
congratulated Madame Conte on the facilitative role she had
played in encouraging dialogue since shortly after the strike
began, and on her contribution to the parties reaching an
accord over the weekend. DCM welcomed the signature January
31 by President Conte of the decree establishing the position
and duties of prime minister and head of government (reftel).
Madame Conte was appreciative, noting that she felt it was
her role as a woman and wife to try to calm tensions "with
God's help." She hoped that she had U.S. support, to which
DCM responded that Guinea does have our support as it builds
its future. DCM stressed Guinea's traditional values of
harmony, tolerance and stability. Moreover, it was striking
that all participants in the negotiations, including unions,
the government, civil society and the First Lady herself, had
approached their talks with seriousness and patriotism.
4. (C) Madame Bangoura suggested that not every foreign
nation understands or is as helpful to Guinea as the U.S. is.
She observed that Guinea, unlike other countries in the
region, is ethnically intermarried, a large family that must
remain united. While resisting unwarranted interference in
its affairs, she said, Guinea counts not only on U.S. support
but on its counsel. Guinea has been the glue that holds the
subregion together, she said, but now it needs help too.
5. (C) DCM urged that the tripartite accords signed January
27 provided a roadmap forward, and that U.S. counsel was to
finish fulfilling the terms of the agreement, i.e., name a
prime minister. Madame Conte said that her husband would
certainly follow through on the agreement he had made. That
said, Bangoura added, a candidate of broad consensus was
critical, and identifying the right person could not be
accomplished very quickly. We in the U.S. did not appoint
our high government officials in a heartbeat, she said.
6. (C) DCM repeated that appointment of a prime minister was
key. She concurred that broad acceptance was needed on a
prime ministerial candidate given the magnitude of the
challenges Guinea faces. For example, although Guinea has
natural riches, corruption and a lack of capacity to ensure
good governance have hampered the country's progress. Any
prime minister would need a solid team and public support to
meet his responsibilities, she concluded.
7. (C) Turning to her talks with union leaders, the First
Lady admitted she had been surprised by some of the things
she had learned, but declined to expand. She said, however,
that she believed that the unions were in good faith, and
that the street and its "thugs" had overwhelmed their ability
to control events. For example, the workers stayed home
during the strike, as they should. It was only hooligans who
CONAKRY 00000124 002 OF 002
went out. DCM demurred, stating that while there were
certainly hooligans out causing damage on several days, the
march on January 22 had been comprised of thousands of
ordinary citizens, whom she had seen personally. Madame
Bangoura hastened to say that yes, there were some ordinary
citizens, but they had been coopted by opposition political
parties. Madame Conte agreed, adding that the march had not
included actual workers.
8. (C) Henriette Conte is quiet and somewhat inarticulate.
We believe that she sees herself primarily as the "mother of
the country," striving to keep the family together and on
peaceable terms. To this end, she has negotiated not only
with the unions, but with her husband, seeking common ground
and to keep the dialogue open and going forward. That said,
she remains isolated from practical reality outside the gates
of Camp Samory Toure, and does not appear to understand how
roused the Guinean population is.