For the last twenty years, the West African nation of Guinea has exhibited all the characteristics that have correlated with civil wars in other countries, and Guineans themselves regularly talk about the inevitability of war tearing their country apart. Yet the country has narrowly avoided civil conflict again and again. In A Socialist Peace?, Mike McGovern asks how this was possible, how a nation could beat the odds and evade civil war.
All six of Guinea’s neighbors have experienced civil war or separatist insurgency in the past twenty years. Guinea itself has similar makings for it. It is rich in resources, yet its people are some of the poorest in the world. Its political situation is polarized by fiercely competitive ethnic groups. Weapons flow freely through its lands and across its borders. And, finally, it is still recovering from the oppressive regime of Sékou Touré. Yet it is that aspect which McGovern points to: while Touré’s reign was hardly peaceful, it was successful—often through highly coercive and violent measures—at establishing a set of durable national dispositions, which have kept the nation at peace. Exploring the ambivalences of contemporary Guineans toward the afterlife of Touré’s reign as well as their abiding sense of socialist solidarity, McGovern sketches the paradoxes that can undergird political stability.