Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08CONAKRY5
2008-01-02 14:31:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Conakry
Cable title:  

UNION LEADERS DEMAND CONSULTATIONS WITH PM OVER

Tags:  PGOV ELAB PREL GV 
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VZCZCXRO3333
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHRY #0005/01 0021431
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021431Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CONAKRY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2005
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CONAKRY 000005 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PREL GV
SUBJECT: UNION LEADERS DEMAND CONSULTATIONS WITH PM OVER
PROPOSED FUEL HIKES


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CONAKRY 000005

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PREL GV
SUBJECT: UNION LEADERS DEMAND CONSULTATIONS WITH PM OVER
PROPOSED FUEL HIKES



1. (U) SUMMARY. In a December 28 open letter to the PM,
union leaders called for public-private consultations in
order to discuss the government,s plans to reduce fuel
subsidies. While not against the idea in principle, the
unions want to be part of the consultative process and work
with the government to develop an appropriate, effective
implementation strategy. According to one union leader,
doing so will enable the unions to prepare the general
population for what is likely to be painful economic hit,
thereby minimizing any potential resulting civil unrest. END
SUMMARY.


2. (U) Union leaders issued an open letter on December 28,
addressed to Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, demanding
public-private consultations to discuss government plans to
reduce fuel subsidies and raise the price of gasoline. Union
leaders also criticized the recently signed presidential
decree permitting reorganization of the government (septel).
Finally, the unions requested that the government reconsider
plans to lift an export ban on basic food commodities and
suggested a delay of at least six months in order to allow
for public-private consultations and development of an
effective implementation strategy. (COMMENT ) The lifting
of the export ban is part of an ECOWAS commercial trade
agreement). The letter was issued by the
Unions-Intersyndicale, an umbrella organization representing
multiple labor unions under the leadership of Mme. Serah
Rabiatou and Dr. Ibrahima Fofana.


3. (SBU) During a January 02 telephone conversation with
Poloff, Rabiatou said that in principle, the unions are not
against the idea of raising the price of fuel. She noted
that the unions understand the economic pressures and the
fact that the government is losing significant revenues for
what is becoming an increasingly unsustainable economic
policy. According to Rabiatou, the unions, problem is that
they have not been consulted on the issue. She emphasized
that Kouyate is part of a consensus government and the
January 27 Accords that established his government require
regular dialogue and consultation with key players, including
the unions and civil society. Rabiatou said that the unions
had met briefly with the PM on December 31 when they

delivered the letter, but did not have an opportunity to go
into detail as the PM was pressed for time.


4. (SBU) Rabiatou stressed that any increases in the price
of fuel are likely to have a significant impact on the
general population. &It is important that we do this
together and look at how it needs to be done,8 she said,
adding &We want to be able to guarantee support.8 Rabiatou
noted that the PM must have some flexibility in his ability
to govern, but that he needs the unions and civil society on
board with this particular economic policy. &We all have
different roles to play and we can help inform the
population,8 she said. Rabiatou said that if the PM goes
forward with price increases without holding formal
consultations with civil society, she is certain that there
will be a widespread, negative popular reaction. She
emphasized that if the PM consults with unions and others and
that everyone agrees on an appropriate course of action, the
unions can help prepare the population and minimize
discontent.


5. (SBU) With respect to the planned lifting of the export
ban on certain commodities, Rabiatou said again that it is
not so much a question of whether the policy needs to be
implemented, but rather, a question of how it should be done.
According to Rabiatou, the unions also want to be part of
consultations on this issue as the government decides how to
proceed.

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


6. (SBU) The unions have traditionally supported Kouyate and
his administration as they see themselves as responsible for
his appointment with a vested interest in ensuring his
success. At the same time, Rabiatou,s comments and the
mildly critical tone of the open letter suggest that for the
unions, having a consensus government means that the PM
should consult with civil society before implementing key
reforms. While such a process is inherently democratic, it
may also be inefficient and time consuming. However, Guinea
is in a unique political situation in that the population has
demanded democratic change while its governing institutions
lack the accountability to the people characteristic of a
strong representative democracy. The unions, demand to be
part of the reform process may be an effort to ensure that
the government remains accountable to the population that put
it there.


CONAKRY 00000005 002 OF 002



7. (SBU) Increases in fuel prices are likely to be highly
unpopular and misunderstood. Having the unions and others on
board could help Kouyate &sell8 the policy to the
population since the unions carry significant political
weight and could help soften the eventual blow. The Embassy
fully supports the need for eliminating government fuel
subsidies as a necessary, but likely painful economic reform.
At the same time, it is important to minimize potential
civil unrest. Embassy is releasing sound bytes to local
radio stations in order to explain the international
economics of rising oil prices and the negative effect of
government subsidies. Encouraging the PM to consult with
civil society over this issue may be another mechanism by
which Embassy can help mitigate potential discontent. END
COMMENT.
CARTER