Guinea’s President Alpha Conde was kind enough to answer my questions while attending the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering at Davos, Switzerland. Conde was the first freely elected President in the country’s history after surviving, imprisonment, exile and at least one documented assassination attempt. He describes his journey, vision, challenges, opportunities and what he would like foreigners to understand about his country.
Forbes: How did you get into politics? Please tell us about your journey?
Conde: I grew up in the town of Boke, 300 kilometers from the capital Conakry. I was always a passionate advocate of the African cause and a campaigner for African democracy. In fact, while I was studying Law in Paris I headed the Black African Students Federation.
As I was growing up I had a clear goal – to change the situation in my country. I always knew that I needed to work towards the Presidency if I was ever to make that kind of change happen.
I began a career as a professor of Law at the Sorbonne, but the campaigning continued. This campaigning put me at the center of politics and inevitably led to my being exiled and sentenced to death in absentia by the former regime of President Sékou Touré.
Only in 1991, after years of exile, was I able to make a return to Guinea. We were determined as campaigners to open up the political field to a multiparty system, and so we started the first mass movement political demonstrations.
Despite elections, it was clear to the people and to the international community that the different military regimes were not going to relinquish their grip on power. Each popular vote was met with increasingly crude efforts to steal the elections. And after each stolen election, they would offer ministerial posts to opponents. I refused these offers, as our people demanded real democracy. It would have been wrong and a betrayal of everything that people had fought for.