Une peinture terne et simpliste de l’Afrique

Béchir Ben Yahmed
Béchir Ben Yahmed

L’éditorial de Béchir Ben Yahmed (BBY) intitulé “Sombre tableau du continent” offre une peinture terne et simpliste de la situation du continent. La substance de l’article prête ainsi le flanc à la critique et à l’objection sur trois points :

  • Les clichés et la dichotomie artificielle
  • Les statistiques de routine
  • L’approche décontextualisée

Clichés et dichotomie

D’entrée de jeu, Béchir Ben Yahmed évoque le cliché de l’afro-optimisme, dont le revers est, on le sait, “l’afro-pessismisme”.  Ces expressions équivalent certes à l’euro-pessimisme et à l’euro-optimisme. Mais la comparaison est déplacée et l’on doit admettre que l’application de ces mots à l’Afrique est plus significative. Pourquoi ? Parce que les pays européens ont, indéniablement, des économies, des infrastructures sociale et des institutions culturelle plus solides. Alors que l’Afrique, elle, ne parvient pas à se dégager de la tutelle et de l’hégémonie occidentales. Les fluctuations boursières, les contradictions politiques, etc. fondent l’optmisme des uns et le pessimisme des autres sur le “Vieux Continent”, certes. Mais les populations et les élites n’en bénéficient pas moins de niveaux de vie élevés.
Cela n’est pas le cas en Afrique, où tous les pays sont des entités à deux niveaux ; à la base se trouvent des masses paupérisées depuis des décennies, au sommet trônent des élites politiques récentes, qui, en général, sont à la remorque de l’Europe. Les sociétés africaines vivent en permanence dans cette disjonction entre dirigeants et dirigés. Un  exemple majeur concrétise ce fossé ; d’un côté les populations ont “leur langue maternelle ; c’est-à-dire une langue ni écrite ni lue, qui ne permet que l’incertaine et pauvre culture orale” ; de l’autre, les dirigeants “n’entendent et n’utilisent” que les langues europénnes. Je cite ici Portrait du Colonisé par Albert Memmi, compatriote Tunisien de Béchir Ben Yahmed. En un mot, afro-optimisme et afro-optimisme sont des concepts et des expressions de l’élite africaine (francophone, anglophone, lusophone). Ces mots n’appartiennent pas au répertoire lexical et ne relèvent pas du comportement linguistique des populations. Autant dire que la distinction entre Africains optimistes et pessimistes constitute plutôt une dichotomie artificielle et superficielle.

Les statistiques habituelles

M. Yahmed continue avec une sélection de statistiques qui confirment sa son opinion présente, mais pas son parcours de combattant et sa vision originelle de l’Afrique. On relève les passages suivants :

  • Le produit intérieur brut du Nigeria et de l’Afrique du Sud, respectivement de 415 milliards et de 280 milliards de dollars par an.
  • La position économique de ces deux pays
    • 46,7% de la production totale de l’Afrique subsaharienne
    • 31,9% de la production africaine en général
  • Le poids démographique de quatre pays :
    • Nigéria, 184 millions d’habitants
    • Ethiopie : 91 millions
    • Egypte : 91 millions
    • RDC, 85 millions

Béchir Ben Yahmed évoque ensuite, sans pause ni transition, des faits d’actualité dominants au Nigéria et en Afrique du Sud. Ainsi, parlant du Nigéria, il écrit que le président Muhammadu Buhari est “malade et … ne dit rien — ni à son peuple ni aux Africains — du mal qui l’a maintenu éloigné de son pays pendant deux longs mois et l’empêche de reprendre son travail à un rythme normal”. Mais BBY aurait dû rappeler l’acte de transfert provisoire du pouvoir au vice-président Yemi Osinbajo, signé par Buhari et approuvé par la branche judiciaire (Sénat et Assemblée fédérale). De la sorte, l’équipe Buhari n’a pas totalement répété l’indécision du gouvernement de Umaru Yar’adua en 2008.

Quant à l’Afrique du Sud, l’éditorial dénonce le comportement du président Jacob Zuma “notoirement corrompu et dont l’obsession est de voir son ex-femme lui succéder au terme de son deuxième et dernier mandat. Pour se protéger d’éventuelles poursuites judiciaires”. L’article met ici en exergue un mal plus étendu, à savoir, la mal-gouvernance des héritiers de Nelson Mandela. Car avant les scandales financiers de Zuma, le pays de l’Arc-en-ciel a connu l’incompétence et l’affairisme de Thabo Mbeki. Négociateur dans le conflit ivoirien dans les années 2004-2005, il essuya la contestation de son rôle par les opposants du président Gbagbo, qui se plaignirent de son zèle à placer plutôt les produits d’exportation de son pays, et de sa partialité.

Cela dit, les économies du Nigéria et de l’Afrique du Sud sont —à l’image du reste du continent — exocentrées et dépendent de l’exploitation pétrolière et de l’extraction minière, respectivement. Pire, les deux sont loin de panser les plaies profondes de leur passé et de corriger les handicaps de leur présent. Pour le Nigeria, ce sont la guerre civile du Biafra, (1966-1970), la confiscation du pouvoir par l’armée pendant trois décennies environ, la corruption, les insurrections armées du  MEND dans le Delta du Sud-est, les ravages encore plus criminels de Boko Haram dans le Nord-est. En Afrique du Sud,  la libération et l’élection du président Mandela marquèrent la fin de l’Apartheid, certes, et le changement de régime politique. Mais, les rênes du pouvoir économique n’ont pas changé de main. Par exemple, citons le massacre en 2012 de 34 mineurs grévistes de la mine de platine de Marikana. Les forces de l’ordre au service du gouvernement de l’ANC commirent une tragédie qui rappelle la boucherie de Sharpeville en 1960. L’ex-couple Jacob et Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma réussira-t-il là où le duo Bill et Hillary Clinton a échoué ? Leur plan tient-il en compte la crise endémique de la société africaine, dont certaines couches affichent une xénophobie d’autant plus regrettable que la lutte contre l’Apartheid fut soutenue par la plupart des pays africains ?

Un éditorial qui décontextualise l’Afrique

L’éditorial de BBY contient seulement le nom de l’Afrique. Il ne désigne nommément ni l’Asie, ni l’Amérique, ni l’Europe. Et pourtant l’auteur sait à quel point les autres parties du monde sont redevables à l’Afrique en  matières premières. Que font-ils, au nom de la solidarité humaine, pour prévenir les dérives récurrentes ou pour aider à punir les auteurs de crimes de sang et de guerre ? L’Afrique est le seul continent à ne pas siéger en permanence au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU. A-t-elle une chance d’en être membre un jou ? Voire.
En attendant, la pendule de l’Histoire marche sans arrêt. Elle balance entre la paix et la guerre, la prospérité et la misère, la droiture et la corruption. La stagnation et les revers de l’Afrique sont évidents. Mais en même temps l’on note des efforts de correction et de prévention. Ainsi, des magistrats du continent siégeant dans les Chambres africaines extraordinaires, (CAE), et en vertu d’un accord entre l’Union africaine (UA) et le Sénégal, ont jugé, reconnu coupable et condamné l’ex-dictateur tchadien Hissène Habré, le 9 janvier dernier. De même, sous la menace d’une intervention militaire coordonnée et d’une arrestation par les forces de la CEDEAO, Yahya Jammeh a dû céder le pouvoir à Adama Barrow, son successeur démocratiquement élu.
Il y a donc une dynamique positive que l’éditorial de Béchir Ben Yahmed ne mentionne pas. L’article réflète une vision en tunnel qui ne sied guère au fondateur de l’hebdomadaire Jeune Afrique et président du Groupe éponyme. Pis, aucune ébauche de solution n’est indiquée. Et Le ton  pessimiste persiste du début à la fin. Il ne sert à rien d’énumérer les faillites du continent, si l’on ne le replace dans le contexte de son passé historique négatif, c’est-à-dire l’esclavage, la colonisation, la néo-colonisation et la perpétuation des hégémonies étrangères nonobstant les indépendances nominales, juridiques et politiques. De même, l’Afrique souffre le plus, certes. Mais les autres contients ne s’en tirent pas non plus à bon compte. Du Brésil aux USA, en passant par la Chine, l’Inde, la Russie, l’Union Européenne, le ras-le-bol des laissés-pour compter et la réprobration contre les politiciens et les élites économiques se manifestent, ouvertement, ou en sourdine.Et la mondialisation en porte la responsabilité. L’environnement global du 21è siècle est un géant aux pieds d’argiles. Sa tête (les économies avancées) est dans les nuages post-industriels et cybernétiques. Mais une grande partie de son corps (les damnés de la terre, Fanon) vit 20e siècle, voire au 19e. En particulier, l’Afrique gémit entre le marteau des hégémonies extérieures et l’enclume d’élites nationales défaillantes et dans certains criminelles. Toutefois, l’épidemie Ebola (2013-2014) a montré à quel point la fragilité de l’être humain et la nécessité de la solidarité planétaire.

Pour terminer, il est étonnant de la part de Béchir Ben Yahmed, auteur du livre Les années d’espoir : 1960-1979, d’appliquer à l’Afrique des oeillères réductrices, simplificatrices et simplistes. Engagé dans les tranchées depuis son départ du gouvernement de Habib Bourguiba en 1957, il continue de jouer un rôle prééminent dans la presse francophone. Pour ma part, je réitère ici mes remerciements à Jeune Afrique pour sa dénonciation infatigable de la dictature de Sékou Touré, président de la Guinée (1958-1984). Je compte republier sur mon site Camp Boiro Mémorial le dossier élaboré que BBY et son équipe exposèrent au public durant le « Complot Peul », qui aboutit à la liquidation atroce de Telli Diallo, premier secrétaire général de l’Organisation de l’Unité Africaine, devenue l’Union Africaine.

Ce qui manque à l’éditorial “Sombre tableau du continent”, c’est la longue expérience, la sagacité et la largesse de vue d’un acteur avéré et d’un témoin émérite de l’Afrique contemporaine.

Tierno S. Bah

Sable Mining. The Deceivers: Guinea and Liberia

Entitled “The Deceivers” Global Witness’ Report investigates and exposes the corrupt practices of British businessmen  Phil Edmonds and Andrew Groves. Operating from London, the duo is present in the mining sector in Liberia, Guinea  Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe…. I reprint here the Guinea and Liberia sections of the report. This version of the document corrects a glaring geography mistake: Liberia, not Gambia, shares with Guinea the Western chimpanzees habitat zone. And it includes relevant pictures and germane links.
Tierno S. Bah

Global Witness. “The Deceivers”, Sable Mining. “Guinea: The Prize”
Global Witness. “The Deceivers”, Sable Mining. “Guinea: The Prize”

As a spin bowler for the England cricket team Phil Edmonds won a reputation for deception and guile. He and his business partner Andrew Groves put those skills to use on the stock market, fleecing millions from investors as they carved out an African business empire with bribery and dirty tricks.

Guinea: The Prize

After Liberia, Edmonds and Groves set their sights on a new prize: Mount Nimba in Guinea. To win it, their company Sable Mining—still listed on AIM-got close to the future president, backing the campaign that brought him to power, courting his son and paying millions to one of his close friends to advance their business with bribery.

Phil Edmonds
Phil Edmonds

August 2010. Guinea is in the grip of election fever as the impoverished West African nation prepares to end five decades of dictatorship with its first free vote. Presidential candidate Alpha Condé is flying in with Sable Mining chief Andrew Groves—and Sable’s man in Conakry is worried the price of bribes is about to skyrocket.

Aboubacar Sampil
Aboubacar Sampil

“Once we get there on a plane with presi, the future head of the country, and two ‘big-shots’ from a big western company, trust me, prices will inflate like crazy,” Sable’s Guinean agent, Aboubacar Sampil, wrote in a 28 August email to a Sable executive. “Folks in the admin will try to get a lot, lot more for each step, leading to a minimum of about $500,000 not including the minister’s share.”

The email is among a cache of documents leaked to Global Witness by sources who requested anonymity.

Andrew Groves
Andrew Groves

Sable, listed by Edmonds and Groves on AIM in 2008, had spent the previous months lining up its first iron ore rights in Liberia. Now it was backing Condé’s campaign in neighbouring Guinea. To get close to Condé, Sable was courting his son, Alpha Mohammed Condé —with the implication that when his father became president, Sable’s interests in Guinea would be taken care of.

Alpha Mohammed Condé
Alpha Mohammed Condé

We look forward to bringing this political collaboration to life,” Alpha Mohammed wrote to Sable on 4 August 2010. “It will make my dad all the more comfortable to support our business partnerships and trust us as a team to be solution providers for many of the challenges he will face.

As Sable took care of campaign logistics—booking flights for the Condés, arranging meetings with a Liberian minister and the heads of South African intelligence, and offering the loan of a helicopter—its agent Sampil, an old confidante of Condé and a member of his entourage, was on the ground in Guinea scouting for permits.

To get them, he wanted money for bribes. Four times that August Sampil asked Sable for money via Alpha Mohammed’s Paris bank account, leaked emails seen by Global Witness show.

Now it is very important to make money transfer to the Alpha bank account. That can help to finalise faster with the technicians of the ministry,” Sampil wrote on one occasion. “They started giving me some information that I have to pay for. You know how things work.

Prime territory

Alpha Mohammed had sent Sable his bank details earlier in the month—but wiring cash to the son of a high-profile politician was proving tricky. “We are having a few issues with our risk/compliance people in terms of getting this payment made,” wrote Sable’s London lawyer on 17 August. Groves suggested routing the payment through a Sable account in South Africa.

Alpha Condé paid,” Groves wrote a few hours later to say he had sent the son his money. But 10 days later Sampil, who had asked for 15,000 euros, was still complaining that the transfer hadn’t come through.

Alpha Mohammed told Global Witness that he had never “attempted to use improper influence to assist Sable”—though the emails show that he was aware of plans to send bribe money through his account.

Any payments to Alpha Mohammed Condé from Sable Mining would have been for consultancy work or reimbursement for travel,” a spokesman for the Guinean government said. Alpha Mohammed “would be able to show that his bank never had more than 10,000 euros in his account”.

Sampil declined to comment for this report. Edmonds and Groves told Global Witness that if any bribery occurred in Guinea, it was without their knowledge. Jim Cochrane, Sable chairman since 2014, said the company obeys the law wherever it operates and that questions from Global Witness had “prompted a further internal review of all these matters, many of which were subject to review a number of years ago”.

Global Witness’s investigation did not reveal any evidence of wrongdoing by Alpha Condé Sr.

Condé won the election. And whatever Sampil was doing for Sable, by January 2012 his efforts were paying off. One of the key permits Sampil had applied for during the election campaign—when he was soliciting bribe money from Sable—came through: iron ore exploration rights in Mount Nimba on the Liberian border, prime mining territory close to concessions held by multinationals BHP Billiton and Arcelor-Mittal.

Sampil was handsomely rewarded. Sable appointed him a non-executive director with an annual salary of $120,000 and in 2014 paid him $6 million in “consultancy fees”. His importance to Sable “cannot be underestimated”, the company’s lawyer said in a 2012 court filing.

Sampil “does not hold any position with the government of the Republic of Guinea and does not represent the administration in any capacity”, the company told the Times. Payments to him were “fully justifiable and have been disclosed fully”, Cochrane wrote to Global Witness.

There was just one problem with the Nimba permit: it was illegal.

Special treatment

Maps of the exploration area granted to Sable show that it overlapped with the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site on Unesco’s danger list, home to the rare Western chimpanzee, already extinct in nearby Gambia Liberia, and the critically endangered Western Nimba viviparous toad, one of the only toad species that spawns live young.

About the Western Chimpanzees, watch Gilles Nivet’s documentary movie Le Pacte de Bossou. — T.S. Bah

While Sable’s permit was later adjusted to skirt the reserve just outside the boundary, in some places it remained less than 90 metres from the park. It also covered swathes of the buffer zone surrounding the reserve, which is also internationally recognised.

Letting Sable operate there “contravenes commitments made by our government to the international community”, warned environment minister Samady Touré in a letter to the mining minister on 9 August 2012, four days after the permit was revised. The company’s activities “are incompatible with the current status of the Strict Nature Reserve” under Guinean law, wrote Touré, who requested the cancellation of the permits.

“This contract involves a licence on the buffer zone of the Nimba site and not the protected area. It was believed that this would have lower negative impact,” a spokesman for the Guinean government told Global Witness in an email. “The basic premise of preferential treatment for Sable from the Condé government is simply incorrect.”

‘A quick and dirty job’

Touré’s protests went unheeded and three months later he was dismissed. Unesco officials who visited Nimba in 2013 feared for the future of the reserve. Sable’s planned mine could squeeze a band of endangered chimpanzees into a narrow corridor between mining concessions, said the Unesco team’s report, and forest landscapes already threatened by hunting, logging and farming would be isolated and fragmented.

But with no power to stop Sable, all Unesco could do was urge the company to carry out environmental impact assessments to the “highest international standards”. The report Sable produced in February 2015 didn’t come close, according to a senior Unesco official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was a “quick and dirty job”, the official told Global Witness. Sable’s consultants spent so little time in the field that they even mistook passing migrant birds for native wildlife.

“The bird inventory has as the two most common species two migrant species from Europe because they just did the inventory on the days they came through,” the official said. “It is very clear that they didn’t do proper baseline studies.”

Parts of the report, seen by Global Witness, look suspiciously like a hasty cut-and-paste job. Sable’s concession is a “nesting site for marine turtles”, it says. Nimba is 270 kilometres from the sea.

Secret recordings

On the ground in Nimba, Sable plied local officials with gifts to keep them on-side. In secret recordings of speeches from a village ceremony in July 2013, Guinean officials can be heard thanking Sable for its gifts: Sable renovated the local prefect’s house; local environmental and mining officials received 11 motorcycles and a pick-up truck.

With the officials taken care of, Sable had just one hurdle left to clear: getting its ore out of Guinea.

It was a nut that far bigger mining companies had failed to crack. Guinea’s big iron deposits are in the country’s south and east, from where the easiest export route is a short haul across Liberia to the coast by rail. But Guinea’s government was desperate for infrastructure, insisting that companies fund a much longer and costlier railway to the Guinean capital that would carry passengers as well as ore.

In August 2013, Sable succeeded where its competitors had failed when a Guinean ministerial decree granted the company the right to export through Liberia. With the Guineans onside, the Liberians followed, signing an export deal with Sable on 23 January 2013.

In London, the news sent Sable stock rocketing more than 300 per cent. But Edmonds and Groves may not have been telling investors the whole story. The Liberian railway was in the hands of international steel giant Arcelor-Mittal and the arrangement to use it was far from a done deal.

“There’s nothing agreed yet on the railway,” a person with close knowledge of talks between Arcelor and Sable told Global Witness, speaking anonymously due to the confidentiality of the discussions. Far from having secured an export route, Sable was more likely to end up fighting a “lengthy court battle”, the person said. The railway deal is “not yet consummated”, the Liberian government told Global Witness.

‘Just do what I do’

With a rail deal nowhere near as close as he was publicly claiming, Groves offered Arcelor an alternative: buying Sable’s ore “at the mine gate”, leaving the larger company to take care of transportation. But Arcelor officials suspected Groves of exaggerating the quality of Sable’s deposit, cherry-picking the best samples to make the overall quality seem higher, insiders say.

Even as iron ore prices slumped in 2014, Sable continued to tell the markets that Nimba was a workable prospect. But it’s unsure the company will ever get any iron out of Guinea.

Since Sable arrived in West Africa, Guinea has been hit by a deadly Ebola epidemic that left 2,536 dead and few companies with appetite for the foreign investment needed for recovery. But Andrew Groves has some advice for those who do feel equal to the challenge, say two people who attended a meeting with him in 2014.

Just get them all round the table—army, police, government, environmental, doesn’t matter who it is—we get them all round the table and we just give them money to make things happen and it all just goes away,” Groves said, according to one of them (the other gave a similar account). “You should just do what I do. Because everything goes smoothly when you do it like I do.

Global Witness

Next, Liberia: The Bribes

Guinea, 1960-1965: “The Erosion of Public Morality”

During the campaign for the 2010 presidential election candidate Alpha Condé declared that, if elected, he would take Guinea back to where the first president of the country, Sékou Touré, left off. He was appealing to the die-heard political orphans of the Butcher of Camp Boiro.  For whatever reason (misguided sense of ethnic pride, demagoguery), neither they, nor Mr. Condé, admit —then and now— Sékou Touré’s calamitous legacy. They do not mind either that in 1971 the first president tried the current in absentia and sentenced him to death.
Today, President Alpha Condé has gotten what he wished for, as  Guinea sinks deeper into poverty, corruption, repression, intolerance, personality cult, etc. Such was life under the dictatorship of Sékou Touré. Its plight and yoke persisted under Lansana Contés tyranny. And they are crushing Guineans today under Alpha Condé’s autocracy.
Abraham Lincoln’s memorably wrote: « You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. » Looking beyond the  “nationalist” discourse —then prevalent—, Victor David Du Bois’ insightful analysis applied Lincoln’s words of wisdom to postcolonial Guinea and Africa. His trailblazing scholarship exposed the seeds of failure sowed by politicians and military “strongmen” across the continent in the midst of the Cold War…  Wrong and destructive leadership caused the dismantlement of the health care system in Guinea, for example. Decades later, the nefarious policy would turn the country into Ground Zero for the Ebola virus epidemic and worldwide scare of 2014.
(See: Hunger and Frustration at Ebola Ground Zero and Camp Boiro, Ebola et Alpha Condé).
An anthropologist turned political scientist with a  PhD (The independence movement in Guinea: a study in African nationalism) from Princeton University (1962), and a Fulbright Scholar, Du Bois was not fooled by Sékou Touré. To the contrary, he figured the Guinean leader out and saw clearly through his duplicity, antics, gimmicks and tricks.
It is my dutiful pleasure to republish “The Erosion of Public Morality”, which is the third installment of Du Bois’ series entitled The Decline of the Guinean Revolution. The first two articles are:
The Beginning of Disillusionment
Economic Development and Political Expediency
See also my own Tribute to David Du Bois.
I enhance the documents with the relevant web links and I make the contextual annotations that hindsight affords me. Also, I plan to follow up  with other Du Bois studies. The first batch is a six-part series called “The Rise of an Opposition to Sékou Touré”. It  includes:

Another series is named “The Search for Unity in French-speaking Black Africa”. It has four parts:

  • Part I: The Founding of the Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache (O.C.A.M.) (June 1965)
  • Part II: New Bonds Between Ex-French and Ex-Belgian Colonies: The Acceptance of Congo-Léopoldville by the O.C.A.M. (July 1965)
  • Part III: Mauritania’s Disengagement from Black Africa (July 1965)
  • Part IV: Relations Between the “Moderate” and the “Revolutionary” States: The Case of Guinea (August 1965)

The Du Bois papers appeared in consecutive volumes in the American Universities Field Staff Reports, West Africa Series. New York, Cambridge University Press, 1962-1967. I wish to acknowledge the courtesy and professional assistance of the staff at the University of Maryland College Park’s McKeldin Library with its state-of-the-art digital equipment.
Tierno S. Bah


Victor D. Du Bois. The Decline of the Guinean Revolution
Part III: The Erosion of Public Morality
American Universities Field Staff Reports. 1965-1967. West Africa Series
Vol. VIII No. 9 (Guinea), pp. 1-9

Conakry. December 1965

Revolutions, whether social or political, have a tendency to be
extremely puritanical in their formative years. The sense of mission among leaders and led alike is strong. The changing of the social order from a prerevolutionary to a revolutionary state is generally accompanied by a condemnation of certain traits, habits, and attitudes identified with the ancien régime. It is also characterized by a selective recollection and reaffirmation of values and virtues associated with some earlier period in the nation’s history when the indigenous culture was as yet “untainted” by the corrosive influences of the alien world.

Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)
Victor David Du Bois (1932-1983)

Guinea’s revolution, which stressed the new nation’s determination to throw off its colonial past and reclaim its African personality, bore such signs. It had all the earmarks of a crusade of good against evil. This conception, assiduously promoted by the country’s leaders, was readily accepted, not only by the masses, for whom it provided a mainspring for action, but also by many outsiders, eager to demonstrate their understanding of and sympathy for those whom they felt were setting out to build a brave new world in Africa.
Guinea’s leaders were anxious to make a favorable impression
on the outside world, and to do this they strove to give their revolution the austere, reform-minded image which they felt the outside world expected of it. The country’s elite — government functionaries, party officials, the military — were urged to set an edifying example for the masses. They were told to be conscientious in their work, unassuming in their demeanor, and austere and incorruptible in their personal lives .
With the populace, the country’s leader’s were brutally frank.
Now that they were free, everyone would be expected to work doubly hard and give unselfishly of his time and effort to build the schools, roads, hospitals, and other public projects which were needed and which would mean the difference between success and failure for the young nation. In the task of national construction that lay ahead, everyone’s energies would be engaged. There would be room neither for idlers nor individualists in the new society that was being forged. Toward such “social parasites” the P.D.G. (Parti Démocratique de Guinée, the nation’s sole and ruling political party) had neither tolerance nor mercy. Deliberately it sought to expose them, hold them up to public scorn; then, if it could not reform them, to neutralize them in the most expeditious manner possible lest they come to influence others.

The party’s intense puritanism during these early days expressed itself in all areas of national life, but nowhere more than in the new social code which it attempted to impose on the people. This social code at times emerged more as a reaction to alien moral standards than from any innate need felt on the part of Guineans themselves for reform. Thus practices such as public nudity, formerly quite common and perfectly natural among many of the people, were now frowned upon by the party as sauvage. Women, who for years had unashamedly gone about bare-breasted, were suddenly told that this was mal vu. Men were urged to curtail their drinking habits and their age-old practice of urinating in public.

The severity of the new social code was particularly evident in the domain of justice, where the nation’s legal machinery was geared not so much to reform as to the punishment of offenders. A series of harsh laws was enacted shortly after independence, providing capital punishment for crimes ranging from murder and accidental auto death to petty theft. So zealous was the spirit of reform among Guinea’s leaders that at times they were impelled to enforce the unpopular measures even in the face of obvious injustice and general discontent 1.

The external world, whether capitalist or Communist, conservative or revolutionary, tends to look favorably on puritan principles, especially when practiced by the peoples of the developing nations. When these principles appear to be personified in a public figure as charismatic as Sékou Touré, the world is prepared to accept almost any action committed in their name.

During the first two years of independence, this intense puritanism convinced many persons both in Guinea and in the outside world that the men who ruled the country were dedicated, self-sacrificing public servants, whose only concern was the well-being of their people. This conviction gave rise to an almost unbounded confidence in Guinea’s leaders, and especially in Sékou Touré, who was idolized as a sort of Saint George-come to slay the dragons of colonialism wherever they be found in Africa 2. This feeling of confidence was also nurtured by the fact that during the first year and a half of Guinea’s existence as a sovereign nation, life remained essentially what it had been under French rule, both for the Guinean people themselves and for the Europeans who lived among them.

Photo-montage depicting Sékou Touré as Saint George riding a white stallion and slaying the dragon of colonialism. (1960)
Photo-montage depicting Sékou Touré as Saint George riding a white stallion and slaying the dragon of colonialism. (1960)

The situation began to change markedly, however, once Guinea made the fateful decision of breaking with the franc zone and establishing its own currency. From that time on, Guinea began to enter a period of economic decline which was to cause a grave loss of public confidence and provoke what Sekou Toure was later to refer to as a “crise de moralité” throughout the Republic.

At first, when Guineans changed their old C.F.A. francs for the
attractive new currency which the government issued to them, there was little awareness as to what the change-over signified. But as the repercussions of the currency change started to make themselves felt in the marketplace, the price of the monetary reform became more apparent. Annoying shortages in the stores became the rule rather than the exception; it became harder and harder to find a spare part for an automobile or a particular type of medicine at the pharmacy. In dozens of little ways that nettled each one personally, Guineans became intensely aware of the fact that things somehow were less satisfactory than before.

Guinea’s inability to maintain its pre-independence level of prosperity, let alone scale the glittering heights its leaders had staked out for it, gave rise to a cloud of disillusionment that began to engulf the country.

More severe repercussions started to be felt in 1961 and 1962, when the government completely reorganized the nation’s transport and distribution system and imposed still more stringent controls on the private commercial sector. State stores, which were established in each of the country’s administrative regions to supply the local populace with needed foodstuffs and other products, failed miserably at their task more often than not. Often their management was entrusted not to people who were competent and experienced in their operation, but to persons whose only qualification for the job was that they were related to a minister, a deputy, or an important party official. Inevitably, these stores degenerated into centers of corruption, often with the open, or at least tacit, complicity of local party and government officials, who took their own cut of the profits.

The people began to lose faith in their government and the party because officials of both became more and more involved in conspicuous consumption, needless waste, and outright corruption. Already since independence, beneath the veneer of puritanism, these practices were clearly visible to anyone willing to open his eyes. President Touré himself scarcely set an edifying example. Although he spoke often and eloquently to his people of the need for frugality and austerity, he thought nothing of investing public funds in a sizable fleet of expensive American automobiles for his own use and for the comfort of visiting dignitaries. Ministers whose yearly salary was only $5,000 somehow managed to build for themselves, or for rent to foreign diplomats, sumptuous seaside villas that cost ten times that amount.

Regional governors and high party officials were not long in emulating the example set by their colleagues in the capital. While such notables rode around in their chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz, hundreds of villages in the interior were deprived of the services of a doctor, or even of a minor medical assistant, for lack of a vehicle to reach them.

Their possession of power and their access to the state’s coffers soon made of Guinea’s “revolutionary” leaders a privileged ruling class. And like ruling classes everywhere, they were loath to give up the perquisites they had acquired in the name of revolutionary principles which now seemed remote. They were not really called upon to do so, however. Who was there in Guinea who would reproach them publicly for their corruption? The only person who could possibly do so was the President, and he was too taken up with denouncing colonialists, imperialists, and neocolonialists to do anything more than utter meaningless platitudes or empty warnings. Moreover, considering the way he himself carried on, he was scarcely suited to undertake such a crusade.

As the gap between the rulers and ruled in Guinea became wider,
it was only natural that the people should feel themselves increasingly alienated from their leaders. And this is what began to happen. The old sense of identification, of rapport, between Sékou Touré and the political elite, on the one hand, and the masses, on the other, began to wither away. The void was gradually filled with feelings of suspicion, fear, and even contempt toward the men who only yesterday had been heroes to their people.

(Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)
President Sékou Touré, in 1963 (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)

Bribery, nepotism, and corruption invaded virtually every branch of the public sector, wearing relentlessly away at the moral fiber of the nation. Occasionally, the extent of the corruption was spectacular. One such case occurred in December 1962, when President Toure disclosed the arrest of several high Guinean officials and foreigners working in the transport sector who had embezzled over $1 million in public funds 3.

Frauds on this scale were the exception however. Far more damaging were the hundreds, indeed thousands, of minor thefts, extortions, and other dishonest dealings committed daily by persons high and low who abused the public offices entrusted to them:

  • The party officials who demanded bribes to find someone’s relative a job
  • The government functionaries who pilfered the funds meant for community development
  • The heads of co-operatives who used their positions to obtain scarce goods and then sold them to a hard-pressed public at exorbitant prices
  • The soldiers and customs officials at Conakry’s airport who, in violation of regulations, openly solicited hard currency from incoming passengers in exchange for Guinean francs so that they could later sell it on the black market at three times the official exchange rate.

It was practices such as these that robbed the Guinean Revolution
of any meaning and eroded away the people’s sense of public morality.

President Sekou Toure welcomes President Félix Houphouët-Boigny during a state visit in 1962. (Photo: Information Côte d'Ivoire)
President Sekou Toure welcomes President Félix Houphouët-Boigny during a state visit in 1962. (Photo: Information Côte d’Ivoire)

This general decline in civic spirit was accompanied by an equally pernicious abdication of civic responsibility. Officials would leave their offices without telling anyone where they were going or when they would be back, and without delegating authority to a subordinate to act during their absence. Clerks felt free to follow the example set by their superiors. Lateness for work, absenteeism, and slipshod performance became the general practice of the day. No one seemed to give a damn.

Meanwhile the people suffered. The hapless laborer, peasant, or ordinary citizen waited for hours to see an official — only to be told that the person in question was no longer available, or was too busy to receive him and that he should come back tomorrow. Then, the following day there would be the same story. Sometimes wages would go unpaid for days, or even weeks, because a minor official was not available to sign a document or affix his own stamp, which he allowed no one else to use.

Parade of magistrates and Justice civil servants, 1963? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)
Parade of magistrates and Justice civil servants, 1963? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)

Away from the bureaucracy, things were not much better. Food
was scarce and, when available, high in price. Rice, the staple of the Guinean diet, could be obtained only through the party’s base committees in many parts of the country, and this meant that one had to be on good terms with the party officials if one hoped to get any rice at all.

In the interior, shortages were even more pronounced. Some areas went for months without gasoline or imported goods. This difficult situation was rendered even worse by the government’s ever increasing demands on the local populace. In order to compensate for the sharp decline in tax collections and falling customs revenues, and to dissuade people from smuggling, the government started requisitioning cattle from the Peul herdsmen in the Fouta-Djallon and coffee from the people in the Forest Region, thereby alienating them even more.

Womens' parade, 1964? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)
Womens’ parade, 1964? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)

The tragic results of this internal deterioration were soon evident. As the government found its prestige diminishing and its laws flouted, it resorted to harsher and harsher measures to bring the people back into line.

Guinea became a totalitarian state, with all that this implies.

Workers were forbidden to strike, although Article 44 of the National Constitution specifically guaranteed them that right 4;  freedom of speech and of assembly, guaranteed by Article 40 of the Constitution 5, were ruthlessly suppressed on the pretext that they would only serve the interests of “counterrevolutionary” elements ; and social justice — a topic upon which Sékou Touré delivered many a lengthy discourse — became a mockery.

Young Guinean women await the arrival of President Touré, 1962? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)
Young Guinean women await the arrival of President Touré, 1962? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)

Because Touré and other party leaders had always made political reliability rather than professional competence the primary criterion for recruiting persons into public service, the Guinean government was crowded with self-seeking, mediocre types. These were the party militants who faithfully attended each rally of the P.D.G., and dutifully applauded at all the right places when Touré delivered one of his customary pronunciamentos. These people managed to get along. It was simply a question of adjusting to the President’s current mood, and taking in whatever profit one could on the side.

For the conscientious civil servants, the situation was much more difficult. The cost of living in Guinea rose steadily; working conditions deteriorated; and more and more they came under heavy attack from Sékou Touré, who accused them of not being sufficiently dedicated to the revolution and even of harboring counterrevolutionary sentiments. The President called upon them to play a more active role in the Guinean Revolution and to make a greater contribution to the building of the nation, yet he denied them the freedom that was indispensable for them to be able to do so. Life for the functionary in Guinea was fraught with tension and uncertainty. One never quite knew what fate awaited one today, tomorrow, or the next day.

Soldiers parade, 1960? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)
Soldiers parade, 1960? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)

For many of these men—teachers, civil servants, intellectuals — Guinea had become a bleak land, a country that no longer held a future for them. Over the years they had stood by helplessly or impassively while Sékou Touré and the P.D.G. snuffed out one liberty after another in the name of a revolution in which few of them any longer believed, but which they felt too weak to oppose. The political climate in Guinea had become such that it was no longer possible to lead a peaceful and productive existence there. Many of these people, therefore, took what seemed the only way out: they fled the country. Hundreds made their way across the border to Senegal or to the Ivory Coast where they sought new jobs and, hopefully, a new life.

Parade of members of the Youth organization (J.R.D.A.), 1964? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)
Parade of members of the Youth organization (J.R.D.A.), 1964? (Photo courtesy Ministry of Information, Republic of Guinea)

But it was not only the intellectuals who fled. Dakar and Abidjan today are crowded with thousands of ordinary Guineans as well: farmers, fishermen, market-women, laborers, dioula traders, and others who left Guinea because life there had become intolerable. In 1965 a whole village near the Ivoirian town of Touba moved across the border and settled in the Ivory Coast.

The Guinean government, in an effort to check this exodus, tightened up its passport requirements and refused to grant exit permits to its citizens except where convincing reasons could be furnished by the applicant to justify the departure. But to no avail: the exodus continued, and continues to this day. Since 1960 several hundred thousand people have left Guinea 6. So large a number of people do not leave a country unless there are compelling reasons for them to do so, and the fact that they have been obliged to leave is an indictment of Sekou Toure, the government, and the P.D.G., and of the way they have ruled Guinea over the last seven years.

As the number of these exiles increased, Touré became increasingly alarmed. Their presence abroad was a source of embarrassment to him, and their growing outspokenness against his regime, a reason for disquiet. It now became unmistakably clear to him that unless drastic measures were taken to deal with the profound malaise which pervaded the country, his own position would be more and more threatened.

Notes
1. The death penalty for fatal accidents committed on the highways was never enforced, but the government did enforce its harsh laws against petty theft.
In October 1959, in Kindia, a teen-age youth named Camara Yero was convicted of stealing 200 francs ($.80). According to published reports of the incident, the youth was first beaten severely by the police, forced to dig his own grave, then had his hands trussed to his legs like an animal. Badly bleeding, he was then dragged before a military firing squad and executed to serve as a public example of the fate that awaited thieves. Several days later a similar incident took place in Conakry. A nineteen year-old boy, accused of having stolen six shirts, was sentenced to die before a firing squad. The execution, which was scheduled to take place in a schoolyard, was widely advertised throughout the capital and the public was urged to attend.

Public sentiment was strong against the execution. The person who had originally filed the complaint against the youth immediately withdrew it when he heard of the severe punishment that was to be meted out to him. The wife of the Czech ambassador to Conakry, in tears, implored Sékou Touré to call it off. He refused and the execution was carried out as ordered.
2. This theme found expression in the political art of the day. At the centre culturel in Mamou, for example, hang two murals painted on cloth by members of the J.R.D.A., the national youth movement. One mural depicts Guinea “as it used to be”. It shows a white woman being borne in a sedan chair by four Africans while her husband struts alongside. A second mural shows Touré, mounted on a white charger and garbed in a knight’s armor, slaying the dragon of colonialism.
3. Afrique Nouvelle (Dakar), December 7 to 13, 1962.
4. Title X: On the Rights and Fundamental Duties of Citizens (Article 44; Paragraph 2): “The exercise of trade unionism and the right to strike are recognized for the worker.”
5. Title X: On the Rights and Fundamental Duties of Citizens (Article 40): “The citizens of the Republic of Guinea shall enjoy freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of public demonstration under the conditions as set by law.”
6. Just how many people have actually left is extremely difficult to determine. Reliable statistics have not as yet been compiled, and estimates vary widely. Guinean exiles residing in the Ivory Coast claim that as many as a million people have fled since independence, a figure which is most certainly grossly exaggerated. President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, in a public speech delivered on November 17, 1965, cited 200,000 as the number of Guineans at present living in his country, but this number is probably also an exaggeration. The most recent reliable statistics available concerning breakdown of Abidjan’s population ( 1963) show that out of a total population of 230,000 for that year, Guineans numbered only 3 500 or roughly 6%.

Fin de la transmission d’Ebola en Guinée

L’Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS) a déclaré aujourd’hui la fin de transmission de la maladie à virus Ebola en République de Guinée. Quarante-deux jours se sont écoulés depuis que le dernier cas confirmé a donné un deuxième test négatif. La Guinée entre maintenant dans une période de surveillance renforcée de 90 jours afin de pouvoir identifier rapidement tout cas nouveau et empêcher ainsi la propagation du virus.
Souriante, une femme de Guinée accueille la nouvelle de la fin de transmission de la maladie à virus Ebola
Souriante, une femme de Guinée accueille la nouvelle de la fin de transmission de la maladie à virus Ebola

Parlant au nom de l’OMS, Dr Mohamed Belhocine, Représentant de l’organisation en Guinée, a félicité “le gouvernement et le peuple guinéens pour être parvenus à arrêter l’épidémie de maladie à virus Ebola dans leur pays, ce qui est un accomplissement majeur. Nous devons leur rendre hommage pour avoir su faire preuve, dans l’adversité, d’un leadership extraordinaire pour combattre l’épidémie.”

« L’OMS et ses partenaires continueront de soutenir la Guinée au cours des 90 prochains jours de surveillance renforcée et dans ses premiers efforts pour relancer et renforcer les services de santé essentiels tout au long de l’année 2016. »

Une étape importante dans l’épidémie de maladie à virus Ebola

La fin de la transmission en Guinée marque une étape importante dans la flambée de maladie à virus Ebola en Afrique de l’Ouest. La chaîne de transmission d’origine a débuté à Guéckédou (Guinée) fin décembre 2013, il y a deux ans. Elle a entraîné une flambée épidémique qui s’est propagée au Libéria et en Sierra Leone, deux pays voisins, puis dans sept autres pays, par voie terrestre ou aérienne.

« Pour la première fois, les 3 pays affectés — la Guinée, le Libéria et la Sierra Leone — ont arrêté les chaînes de transmission à l’origine de cette épidémie dévastatrice il y a deux ans », déclare le Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Directeur régional pour l’Afrique. « Je félicite les gouvernements, les communautés et les partenaires pour leur détermination à combattre l’épidémie pour franchir cette étape majeure. Tout en travaillant à bâtir des systèmes de santé résilients, nous devons rester vigilants afin d’interrompre rapidement toute résurgence éventuelle en 2016.»

En plus de la chaîne de transmission d’origine, 10 nouvelles petites flambées de maladie à virus Ebola, ou «résurgences», sont survenues de mars à novembre 2015. Elles semblent dues à la résurgence d’un virus persistant au sein de la population survivante.

Il arrive notamment que, chez certains survivants de sexe masculin, le virus reste présent dans le liquide séminal pendant 9 à 12 mois après rétablissement du sujet et disparition du virus du système sanguin.

L’OMS et ses partenaires travaillent avec les Gouvernements du Libéria, de la Sierra Leone et de la Guinée pour que les survivants aient accès aux soins médicaux et psychosociaux, au dépistage du virus persistant et à des services de conseil et d’éducation afin de les aider à réintégrer la vie familiale et communautaire, de réduire la stigmatisation et de diminuer le risque de transmission du virus Ebola.

Soutien à la Guinée, au Libéria et à la Sierra Leone

« Les mois à venir seront absolument critiques », déclare le Dr Bruce Aylward, Représentant spécial du Directeur général pour la riposte à Ebola, OMS.
« Pendant cette période, les pays doivent être pleinement préparés à prévenir et détecter tout nouveau cas et à intervenir en conséquence.
La persistance temporellement limitée du virus chez les survivants pourrait entraîner de nouvelles résurgences en 2016. Il est donc impératif que les partenaires continuent de soutenir ces pays. »

Read Alpha Conde and Ebola’s weight on Guinea

Parallèlement, les trois pays les plus touchés mettront en œuvre un programme de relèvement mobilisant l’ensemble du secteur de la santé en vue de relancer et renforcer les principaux programmes de santé publique, en particulier en faveur de la santé de la mère et de l’enfant, tout en maintenant leur capacité à détecter et à prévenir toute résurgence de maladie à virus Ebola, et à intervenir en conséquence.

OMS — Genève

Guinée-OMS : un vaccin anti-virus Ebola

OMS / WHO — Communiqué de presse

Les résultats d’une analyse intérimaire de l’essai clinique de phase III concernant l’efficacité du vaccin Ebola VSV-EBOV (Merck, Sharp & Dohme) en Guinée montrent que ce vaccin est très efficace.

Le Conseil de surveillance et de sécurité des données — organe indépendant composé d’experts internationaux —, qui a procédé à cette étude, a recommandé de poursuivre cet essai. Les résultats préliminaires des analyses de ces données provisoires sont publiés aujourd’hui dans la revue britannique The Lancet.

— C’est une avancée très prometteuse, a déclaré Margaret Chan, Directeur général de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé. Nous l’avons obtenue grâce au gouvernement guinéen, aux personnes vivant dans les communautés et aux nombreux partenaires de ce projet. Un vaccin efficace sera une arme supplémentaire très importante dans la lutte contre l’actuelle flambée d’Ebola et les flambées futures, a-t-elle ajouté.

Bien que, jusqu’à présent, le vaccin semble être efficace chez tous les sujets vaccinés, il faudra disposer de données plus concluantes pour savoir si le vaccin peut conférer une «immunité collective» à des populations entières. A cette fin, l’autorité nationale de réglementation des produits médicaux et le comité national d’éthique de la Guinée ont approuvé la poursuite de l’essai.

4000 personnes en contact avec des malades ont participé à l’essai

Dr. Sakoba Keita
Dr. Sakoba Keita

— C’est le cadeau de la Guinée à Afrique de l’Ouest et au monde, a déclaré le Dr Sakoba Keita, coordonnateur national de la riposte à Ebola en Guinée. Les milliers de bénévoles de Conakry et d’autres régions de la Basse-Guinée, mais aussi de nombreux médecins, gestionnaires de données et mobilisateurs communautaires guinéens, ont contribué à trouver une ligne de défense contre cette terrible maladie, a-t-il ajouté.

— La méthode de vaccination dite “en ceinture” adoptée pour l’essai est basée sur la stratégie d’éradication de la variole, a indiqué John-Arne Røttingen, Directeur de la Division de la lutte contre les maladies infectieuses à l’Institut norvégien de santé publique et président du Groupe de pilotage de l’étude. Notre hypothèse de base est qu’en vaccinant toutes les personnes qui ont été en contact avec un sujet infecté, on crée une “ceinture” de protection qui permet d’enrayer la propagation du virus. Cette stratégie nous a permis de suivre la dispersion de l’épidémie en Guinée, et sera un moyen de prolonger cette intervention de santé publique dans le cadre de l’essai clinique.

L’essai du vaccin VSV-EBOV en Guinée a commencé dans les communautés touchées le 23 mars 2015 pour évaluer l’efficacité et l’innocuité d’une dose unique suivant une stratégie de vaccination en ceinture. A ce jour, plus de 4000 contacts proches de près de 100 patients atteints de la maladie à virus Ebola, dont des membres de la famille, des voisins et des collègues, ont volontairement participé à l’essai.

La randomisation pour cet essai s’est arrêtée le 26 juillet pour permettre à toutes les personnes à risque de recevoir le vaccin immédiatement, et pour raccourcir autant que possible le délai nécessaire pour recueillir des données plus concluantes en vue d’homologuer, à terme, le produit.

Jusqu’à présent, 50% des “ceintures” ont été vaccinées trois semaines après l’identification d’un patient infecté afin de pouvoir faire une comparaison avec les “ceintures” qui ont été vaccinées immédiatement. Ceci est maintenant terminé. En outre, l’essai va maintenant inclure des sujets âgés de 13 à 17 ans et éventuellement des sujets âgés de 6 à 12 ans, sur la base de nouvelles données sur l’innocuité du vaccin.

Le même vaccin testé aussi sur les intervenants en première ligne

— En parallèle à la vaccination en ceinture, nous menons aussi un essai du même vaccin sur les intervenants en première ligne, a déclaré Bertrand Draguez, directeur médical à Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). Ces personnes ont travaillé sans relâche et ont risqué leur vie chaque jour pour s’occuper de personnes malades. Si le vaccin est efficace, nous les protégeons déjà contre le virus. Compte tenu du niveau d’efficacité, tous les pays touchés devraient immédiatement commencer et multiplier les vaccinations en ceinture afin de briser les chaînes de transmission et de vacciner tous leurs intervenants en première ligne pour les protéger.

L’essai est mis en œuvre par les autorités guinéennes, l’OMS, Médecins sans Frontières et l’Institut norvégien de santé publique, avec le soutien d’un large partenariat composé d’organisations internationales et nationales.

— C’est un résultat remarquable qui montre le pouvoir des partenariats internationaux équitables et de la flexibilité, a déclaré Jeremy Farrar, Directeur du Wellcome Trust, l’un des bailleurs de fonds pour l’essai. Ce partenariat montre également que ce travail essentiel est possible au cœur d’une terrible épidémie. Il devrait changer la façon dont le monde réagit aux menaces que constituent les maladies infectieuses émergentes. Nous, et tous nos partenaires, restons fermement attachés à donner au monde un vaccin sûr et efficace, a-t-il ajouté.

— Ce travail mené en un temps record marque un tournant dans l’histoire de la recherche et développement en santé, a déclaré Marie-Paule Kieny, Sous-Directeur général de l’OMS chargé de diriger les efforts de recherche et développement contre la maladie à virus Ebola. Nous savons maintenant que l’urgence de sauver des vies peut accélérer la recherche et développement. Nous allons exploiter cette expérience positive pour élaborer un cadre mondial de préparation pour la recherche et développement de sorte que, si une autre flambée épidémique de grande ampleur survient, quelle que soit la maladie, le monde soit en mesure d’agir rapidement et efficacement pour mettre au point et utiliser des outils médicaux et pour empêcher une tragédie à grande échelle, a-t-elle ajouté.

Notes aux rédactions

Le vaccin

Le vaccin VSV-EBOV a été mis au point par l’Agence de la santé publique du Canada. Le vaccin a été donné sous licence à NewLink Genetics, et le 24 novembre 2014, Merck & Co., Inc et NewLink Genetics Corp. ont conclu un accord de licence mondial et exclusif dans lequel Merck assume la responsabilité de la recherche, de la mise au point, de la fabrication et de la distribution du vaccin expérimental. Les Gouvernements du Canada et des États-Unis d’Amérique, entre autres, ont apporté un soutien financier.

Un protocole de vaccination en ceinture a été choisi pour l’essai : la moitié des ceintures est vaccinée peu de temps après l’identification d’un cas et l’autre moitié est vaccinée au bout de trois semaines. C’est une alternative à l’utilisation d’un placebo ; en effet, cette méthodologie permet d’avoir un groupe témoin pour la comparaison randomisée en veillant à ce que tous les contacts des patients soient vaccinés pendant l’essai.

L’essai a été conçu par un groupe d’experts du Canada, des États-Unis d’Amérique, de la France, de la Guinée, de la Norvège, du Royaume-Uni, de la Suisse, et de l’OMS. Le professeur Donald A. Henderson de l’Université John Hopkins, qui a dirigé les efforts d’éradication de la variole par l’OMS en utilisant la stratégie de vaccination en ceinture, faisait partie de ce groupe.

Les partenaires

L’essai du vaccin contre Ebola en Guinée est le résultat des efforts coordonnés de nombreux organismes internationaux. L’OMS assure l’appui réglementaire de l’étude, qui est mise en œuvre par le ministère guinéen de la Santé, l’OMS, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), EPICENTRE et l’Institut norvégien de santé publique.

L’essai est financé par l’OMS, avec le soutien du Wellcome Trust (Royaume-Uni), du ministère norvégien des Affaires étrangères, pour le compte de l’Institut norvégien de santé publique, par l’intermédiaire du Conseil norvégien de la recherche, du gouvernement canadien, par l’entremise de l’Agence de la santé publique du Canada, des Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada, du Centre de recherches pour le développement international et du ministère canadien des Affaires étrangères, du commerce et du développement, et de MSF.

L’équipe chargée de l’essai clinique comprend notamment des experts de l’Université de Berne, de l’Université de Floride, de la London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, de Public Health England et des laboratoires mobiles européens.

OMS / WHO