Geopolitics

Who Is Lauriane Doumbouya, The French Wife Of Guinea's Coup Leader?

During the recent inauguration of new Guinea president Mamadi Doumbouya, the presence of a female French police officer alongside the coup leader grabbed the public's attention. But little is still known about the new first lady.

The phone rings over and over without response. There is no one to answer the line registered to Mamadi Doumbouya. The contact refers to an address in Chabeuil, more precisely to a staff house in the gendarmerie , the French military police corps, of this small town in southeastern France. It was there that Lauriane Doumbouya, née Darboux, used to serve in the French police force.

No one answers because the French officer now lives several thousand miles away, where during the Oct. 1 inauguration ceremony of Mamadi Doumbouya as the new president of Guinea, the presence of this white woman did not go unnoticed.

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Vaccinating The World Requires More Than Just Doses

It's imperative that people everywhere also have access to COVID-19 vaccines. But shipping and sharing the vaccine doses is only half the battle.

-OpEd-

BRUSSELS / CONARKY — Chances are that your social media feed already features plenty of freshly #vaxxed friends and family proudly showing off Band-Aids on their biceps or signed certificates indicating that they're now protected against COVID-19.

Throughout Europe, the vaccination campaign has indeed begun to take off. And yet, the sad reality is that in the rest of the world, one in four people will likely have to wait until at least 2023 for access to a vaccine.

Because of this disparity, many are demanding solutions: Either vaccine patents must be lifted or more contributions made to the COVAX program, the international vaccine-access campaign being co-led by the World Health Organization.

Should we be fighting for greater vaccination equity? Absolutely. It goes without saying that everyone should have access to vaccines. But we also need to make sure people are willing to get vaccinated. For that to happen, there's a crucially important factor that has unfortunately been neglected in fragile and conflict-affected countries: how much — or how little — citizens tend to trust their governments.

Our organization, Search for Common Ground, is dedicated to peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries, and we have conducted several surveys on the links between coronavirus and conflict in places where we work. We have found that only 36% of respondents responded "satisfied" when asked about their government's handling of the pandemic. Even more telling is that 50% rated their government as employing a "discriminatory approach" (i.e. failing to consider the needs of various segments of the population equally) in their coronavirus response.

For persecuted minorities or those living under authoritarianism and corruption, distrust in government is to be expected. But during a global pandemic, when trust in the state, particularly in its vaccination plan, is absolutely essential, this can be deadly.

This distrust is already unfolding with troubling ramifications. While the media celebrates the delivery of vaccines to certain parts of the Global South, the coverage of this trust factor is lacking. A case in point is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has just returned 75% of its COVAX vaccines — the equivalent of 1.3 million unused doses.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Ivory Coast worry that 500,000 doses of vaccine will expire because there are not enough people on the vaccination lists. What links these two countries? A history of conflict and low trust in the government.

Getting vaccinated in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Photo: UNICEF in RDC.

Skeptics might argue that fear of the vaccine is widespread, that wild rumors are spreading even in Europe. While this is a valid observation, it is a false comparison. When distrust in government has been built from years of war, persecution and discrimination, citizens are left feeling that at best their government does not care for them, at worst it wants them dead. Such a level of distrust will surely influence national vaccination plans.

In order to end the pandemic and ensure that citizens in post-conflict societies benefit from the vaccine, we must focus, therefore, on building trust.

Our teams of mediators and analysts work in some of the most challenging areas of the world. We know that there are two key variables for ensuring trust in a vaccination campaign. The first is how the information is communicated and the second is who is communicating that information.

This is why it is essential to carefully consider who will be the face of the vaccination campaign, and how this must be adapted to different communities. Everything must be thought out, down to the radio stations chosen to broadcast messages, the locations of vaccination centers and the ethnicity or religion of the nurses who will administer vaccines. Every detail is crucial for ensuring that various communities feel respected, safe and understood. These are issues that should be central to the planning process, not an afterthought.

While the COVID-19 pandemic remains first and foremost a public health challenge, it goes without saying that there will be no sustainable global progress without seriously considering these complex social dynamics. Yes, vaccine distribution is essential. But let's face it: Investments in the COVAX program will only yield real results if we put the issue of trust at the center of immunization efforts. People in post-conflict countries deserve to see the light at the end of the tunnel too.

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The Painful Lurch Toward The End Of Ebola In Guinea

FORÉCARIAH — Assény Touré’s tightly drawn features bear testament to his harrowing ordeal. In December, after he was diagnosed with Ebola, this taciturn 30-year-old was chased out of the village where he was born, Béta, an hour-drive away from Forécariah, in western Guinea. The virus killed 19 members of his family. He survived. And yet he's still a pariah.

“Ebola killed my family," says Touré, who has taken up shelter in a Red Cross tent where four patients are being quarantined. "I won’t let other Guineans die of that disease."

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Geopolitics
Rémi Barroux

Twice Victims In Guinea, Where Ebola Survivors Are Ostracized

MACENTA — Just a few months ago, people would queue outside the shop of Jean Segbé Bavogui, 41, a tailor in Banizé, a neighborhood outside the Guinea town of Macenta. But the small workshop is now empty. Bavogui hasn't seen any clients or received any orders for over a month. Even the well outside his door where his neighbors used to collect water has been deserted. This is all because Bavogui is an Ebola survivor, which makes him a damned man in the eyes of his community.

Bavogui was infected by his wife Jeanne, becoming sick on Sept. 28 just as his wife was being released from the hospital — cured. As soon as the first symptoms appeared, he rushed to the treatment center in Guéckédou, which is run by Doctors Without Borders, before going through the living hell that the disease creates for patients: vomiting, diarrhea, fever and bleeding.

"I thought I was going to die," he says. "Three other patients in my room passed away. I wanted to call my brother, who was taking care of my children, to tell them goodbye."

The tailor is among the lucky ones. Between 50% and 80% of those infected die from the virus — 1,192 patients of the 1,971 infected since the beginning of the outbreak in March, according to the Guinean Health Ministry. Doctors declared Bavogui "healthy" Oct. 5 and gave him a certificate to confirm he was cured and carried an immunity against the virus.

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Geopolitics
Rémi Barroux

Into The Ebola Triangle, As Doctors Risk All To Stop The Spread

A reporter follows international doctors into the heart of the West Africa where Ebola is spreading, from Gueckedou (Guinea), Kailahun (Sierra Leone) and Foya (Liberia).

KAILAHUN — It's late July in the south of Kailahun in Sierra Leone, and a small convoy of white four-wheel drives from Doctors Without Borders (DWB) and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with a local ambulance, slowly rolls towards the tiny village of Mendekema.

It takes more than an hour to drive just 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) on this road weaving deep into the bush, and soaked by heavy seasonal rains.

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Fanged Frog Species Discovered, Eats Other Frogs

GENEVA — A team of German and Swiss zoologists have discovered an imposing new large-fanged frog species in West Africa. The batrachian's anatomy and genetics are very different from its cousins of the same region, according to the report published in the periodical Frontiers in Zoology.

The frog, named Odontobatrachidae, has the notable characteristic of big curved teeth in the upper jaw and two distinctive fangs in the lower jaw, which, the scientists say, could be used to eat other frogs, a relatively rare but not unheard of amongst some frog species.

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eyes on the U.S.
Renaud Girard

Strauss-Kahn's Accuser: A Visit With Those Who Know Her Best, In NYC's French-Speaking African Milieu

The alleged victim is an immigrant from northern Guinea, and her ethnicity is Fulani, who are known as pious, hardworking Muslims

NEW YORK – The alleged sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the now former head of the International Monetary Fund, has been major worldwide news. But it has hit especially hard in New York's French-speaking African community, home to the Guinean woman employed as a maid at the Sofitel Hotel where she says the 62-year-old French politician sexually assaulted her.

In the heart of Harlem, a small grocery store offers a flavor of Africa. The plump 45-year-old woman owner, Ms. A, who gives her customers a warm welcome in impeccable French, wears a long traditional green-colored African dress, and a turban made out of the same fabric is wrapped round her hair. Born in Guinea, she is a Muslim woman who belongs to the Mandinka ethnic group. The alleged victim is from northern Guinea, and her ethnicity is Fulani.

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