Guinea Country Report 2022
After Guinea made progress in recent years in a number of respects, the period under review is marked by major setbacks. In 2019, it became clear that President Alpha Condé wanted to seek a third term in office, for which a constitutional reform was required. Civil society organizations and opposition parties formed the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (le Front national de la défense de la Constitution, FNDC), which organized anti-government protests. From October 2019 onwards, the country experienced numerous clashes between supporters of different parties or between supporters and security forces. Human rights organizations reported that protesters regularly threw stones and other projectiles, and the security forces in riot gear fired tear gas and, at times, live bullets. Furthermore, authorities arrested and imprisoned members of the opposition and civil society organizations. The Guinean government did not investigate deaths and alleged abuses connected with those clashes.
In March 2020, the constitutional referendum and legislative elections took place simultaneously. The two main opposition parties – the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée, UFDG) and the Union of Republican Forces (Union des Forces Républicaines, UFR) – boycotted the legislative elections and thus President Condé’s Rally of the Guinean People (Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée, RPG) won a majority, securing 79 of the 114 seats in parliament. The constitutional referendum was accepted with a large majority, consequently resetting Alpha Condé’s term counter to zero and allowing him to run for a third mandate. In the presidential elections in October 2020, Alpha Condé won 59.5% of the votes, and Cellou Dalein Diallo (UFDG) came in second with 33.5%. The electoral commissioners, however, denounced massive fraud and called for the election’s (partial) repetition.
Overall, the division between those supporting the government (RPG) and those in favor of the opposition (UFDG, UFR) is growing and political violence has increased. The winning party tightened its control over the machinery for distributing the national wealth to themselves and their supporters. Corruption and nepotism in all sectors remain endemic. At the same time, the armed forces have lost part of their political character and civilian control is firmer than it had been.
The government increased macroeconomic stability even though Guinea’s debt rose again in 2019. Since President Condé’s accession to power, Guinea has intensified its international relations with a variety of countries. Since the mid-2010, China invested in various infrastructural projects in Guinea, for example in the building of a massive hydroelectric dam. The natural resource economy, especially the production of bauxite, is still booming and economic diversification is underway. However, the investments in the mining sector (e.g., bauxite and gold mining) come with social and ecological costs. Revenues essentially accrue to companies and the state, and few Guineans benefit from growth. They remain poor and suffer from poor infrastructure (such as health, electricity, education, transportation). At the same time, the rapid growth of the mobile financial sector promoted financial inclusion of ordinary Guinean citizens.
Little is known about the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and related deaths in Guinea. The authorities declared a state of emergency on March 26 (renewing it on a monthly basis) and adopted several measures to reduce the contagion of COVID-19: They banned large public gatherings, restricted travel, introduced a curfew and closed all schools. On the ground, however, the lockdown restrictions have not always been strictly followed. Civil society organizations and oppositional parties accused the government of exploiting the pandemic to silence dissident voices. In May 2020, the government started reopening the economy and in September 2020, it also lifted the capacity restriction on public transportation and reopened bars, restaurants and hotels.
France took an imperialistic interest in Guinea at the end of the 19th century. The colonial state nurtured the formation of an indigenous class of public sector employees that became the kernel of Guinea’s national movement. After World War II, a socialist trade union movement led by Ahmed Sékou Touré mobilized various social groups to demand self-government. On September 28, 1958, Guinea voted against General de Gaulle’s referendum on membership in a Communauté Française that would have encompassed all of French West Africa. France severed all relations with Guinea, which declared independence on October 2, 1958, under President Sékou Touré.
As the Cold War raged, Guinea pursued a socialist vision of development in an era of transformation. Touré sought to eliminate the deficiencies of the colonial period, particularly in infrastructure and basic needs. He put much emphasis on nation-building, women’s emancipation and youth empowerment. Touré also wanted to end the country’s dependence on Europe and proposed the formation of a United States of Africa with Ghana and Mali. Guinea developed into a totalitarian state with strong isolationist features, but maintained relatively strong relations with the Soviet Union, the United States and West Germany. Sékou Touré’s regime (first republic until 1982, second republic with a new constitution until 1984) became infamous for its torture camps, where numerous real and imagined opponents were detained and died. Guinea also became notorious worldwide for its succession of real and invented coup attempts – among them the “Coup Peulh,” ascribed to a whole ethnic group. Like current President Condé, Sékou Touré was Malinké. Until Touré’s death in 1984, up to one-third of the Guinean population had left the country.
After Sékou Touré’s death, the military seized power under Colonel Lansana Conté. With the end of the Cold War, a new multiparty constitution (third republic) was introduced in 1991 with a formal orientation toward democracy and a market economy. A party system emerged that was to a significant degree ethnically structured. It included the currently ruling RPG, predominantly composed of Malinké. The governing party was dominated by President Conté’s Soussou. Peulh and Malinké are the largest ethnic groups, and the associated parties nowadays dominate politics. Greater opportunities for private business saw wealthy businesspeople emerge who were largely dependent on corrupt relations to the government. President Conté and his family used their political power to personally benefit from many of the new business opportunities. Overall, economic growth remained low and a large part of the population still lived in poverty. President Conté never created a genuine democracy – that is, one that would allow for a change of power. Manipulated elections, oppression and intimidation poisoned the political climate. Donor funds did not translate into improved economic development. After rigged parliamentary and presidential elections in 2002 and 2003, respectively, Guinea’s economy began to severely deteriorate, a situation aggravated by President Conté’s illness. Guinea became successively a major transit hub in the shipment of cocaine from Latin America to Europe. In 2006 and 2007, as a reaction to the ongoing political, economic and social crisis, trade unions launched general strikes that were marked by the massive participation of youth and women across ethnic boundaries.
Beginning in the 1990s, Guinea was affected by civil wars in neighboring Sierra Leone (1991 – 2002), Liberia (1989 – 2003) and Côte d’Ivoire (2002 – 2011). At times, there were more than one million refugees in the forest region. By 2006, most refugees had left Guinea or integrated into its population. An attack by Liberian government forces and associated groups in late 2000 was quickly repelled but entailed severe destruction in some parts of the border region.
Conté died in office at the end of 2008. Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and a group of lower-ranking officers took power in a coup. Initially welcomed, they ruled in an increasingly erratic and authoritarian manner that cost them much support. The abuses culminated in a major massacre. Opposition groups had assembled at a peaceful protest gathering in the national stadium on September 28, 2009 and were assaulted by an army squad composed of close confidantes of Camara. In the process, 158 civilians were killed, more than 100 women raped and well above 1,000 injured. Until today, the victims and their families are waiting for a trial that would investigate the massacre and hold the responsible persons accountable. In December 2009, Dadis Camara’s aide de camp, Sidiki “Toumba” Diakité, attempted to assassinate the president. Since then, Dadis Camara lives in exile in Burkina Faso while having a strong following in Guinea, especially in the Forest Region.
In 2010, Guinea’s transitional government was able to organize the country’s most open multiparty presidential elections to date. These elections were hotly contested, with candidates Alpha Condé (RPG) and Cellou Dalein Diallo (UFDG) going to a second round. Condé was declared the winner amid claims from Diallo and his supporters that the elections had been rigged. Alpha Condé was a historically high-profile opposition leader. Having already opposed Sékou Touré, he was sentenced to death in absentia in 1970 and lived much of his life in France, where he became a university professor and a prominent and well-connected member of the Parti socialiste.
During his first term, Condé gradually restored some order to the economy and reinstated civilian control of the military. The West African Ebola epidemic of 2013 to 2014 hit Guinea and its neighbors Sierra Leone and Liberia. While the epidemic entailed an economic crisis, Guinea was much less hard hit than its neighbors and the situation quickly normalized after Ebola was fully eradicated in the region in 2015.
Relations between the government and the opposition remained acrimonious. The latter, especially Cellou Dalein Diallo and his UFDG, claimed that the legislative elections in 2013, the presidential elections in 2015, and the local elections in 2018 had been manipulated in favor of President Condé and the ruling RPG.
Guinean police and gendarmerie have a long history of using excessive force against protesters, especially in election times. Their capacity is limited and they are often associated with corrupt practices. Overall however, the state security forces are in a position to establish control when challenged. While there is only sporadic banditry on remote roads, gang crime in major cities has increased. In the capital Conakry, gangs are often linked to political actors from both the opposition and the government and may use violence on their behalf. While opposition-organized rallies and union-organized strikes already repeatedly turned violent in the last decade, the situation worsened dramatically during the period under investigation. Clashes following protests in Conakry and other major cities regularly resulted in looting and the destruction of small shops; they also resulted in many causalities. Demonstrations against the new constitution began in October 2019, leading to more than 30 deaths and dozens of injuries by February 2020. The violence increased in the lead-up to and during the constitutional referendum and legislative elections in March 2020. Pre- and post-election violence also marked the presidential elections of October 2020 with at least 16 people shot dead. Twice, in March and in October 2020, small mutinies broke out in military bases, resulting in 11 deaths.
Monopoly on the use of force
The large majority of citizens accepts the nation-state as legitimate, yet political cleavages between ethnically and regionally structured parties are very pronounced. Almost all Guineans recognize the prerogatives and institutions of the state, even if they oppose the governing party and the individuals filling particular posts, including the presidency. There is a definite sense of national identity and pride in being the first African country to have gained independence from France. This sense of national identity, among other factors, has prevented Guinea from descending into a civil war such as those that raged in some of its neighboring countries. The large majority of the population accepts the nation-state as legitimate, yet political cleavages between ethnically and regionally structured parties are very pronounced.
Access to citizenship and naturalization is not denied to particular groups. However, getting access to the necessary documents might be more challenging or take longer for members of the Peulh ethnic group and/or the opposition.
Guinea’s population is largely Muslim. Islamic schools are prevalent throughout the country. Exact numbers are not available, but around 85% of citizens are devout Muslims, around 8% are Christians and around 7% adhere to traditional African religions (but syncretism is common). The Guinean state and society recognize the principle of secularism. Religious dogmas have only a minor influence on the legal order and political institutions. The state, however, has historically been anxious to maintain control over religious authorities, who were often integrated into patronage systems. In politically tense times, religious leaders regularly call for dialogue and peace. Recently, the influence of the Wahhabi movement has increased, leading at times to conflicts with the majority of the Tidjani community.
No interference of religious dogmas
The state provides basic services, including education, health care (e.g., vaccinations) and policing beyond the capital. Services are generally of bad quality and citizens complain that they are forced to pay for services they consider to be entitlements. The Ebola epidemic in 2013 to 2014 had revealed the bad quality of the Guinean health sector. Since then, some improvements could be recorded in this area. In spring 2020, the international airport in Conakry has been closed to non-essential flights and (long distance) public transport was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A capacity restriction in public transport remained in place until mid-September. The schools and higher education institutes had to close between mid-March and the end of June 2020.
Overall, the access to jurisdiction in Guinea is limited – especially for ordinary citizens and in particular for women – and the laws are not enforced. Accordingly, the majority of the population does not bring cases to court but seeks help from “traditional” authorities such as elders. According to the results from Afrobarometer, released in 2020, Guineans are not satisfied with the government’s performance in the field of education (73%), access to the police (67%), to water (85%), to electricity (83%) and to medical services (61%).
Guinea held multiparty presidential elections in 2010, 2015 and 2020, legislative elections in 2013 and 2020, local elections in 2018, and a constitutional referendum in 2020. During the elections and the referendum in 2020, international observers, NGOs, the opposition and the national electoral commission denounced major deficiencies that raise doubts about the integrity of the process. Elections are not outright rigged but administrative and other irregularities, such as vote-buying and biased voter registers, prevail (people twice registered, minors and deceased persons enrolled), especially in the Upper Guinea Region, President Condé’s stronghold. Furthermore, members of the opposition parties and ethnic Peulh have been prevented from registering. Prior to the presidential elections, candidates Ousmane Kaba and Cellou Dallein Diallo were prevented from holding meetings in the Upper Guinea Region.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opposition wanted to postpone the double election scheduled for March 2020. Despite the withdrawal of international observers (U.N., AU, ECOWAS), the polls took place. As precautions, the government made the use of masks mandatory for election officials; polling stations have been cleaned; the number of the voters in the buildings restricted; and voters were requested to wash their hands. The president declared a state of health emergency on March 27, 2020, before publication of the election results.
The governing RPG won the parliamentary elections, boycotted by the major opposition parties (UFDG, UFR), and thus increased its share of seats. The constitutional referendum was accepted with a large majority. It increases the president’s power, reset Alpha Condé’s term counter to zero and thus allowed him to run for a third mandate. The Constitutional Court declared Condé winner of the presidential elections of October 2020 with 59.5% with of votes, even though the electoral commissioners denounced massive fraud and called for the (partial) repetition of the election. After claiming victory, Diallo’s house in the capital Conakry has been blocked, increasing the violence that flared across the country.
Free and fair elections
The government in Guinea is, on paper, democratically elected. Because of the strong presidential character of the government, legislators and local officials representing opposition parties have limited ability to exercise their power. Overall, the political and economic elite has much power and its personal networks undermine democratic structures. A potential anti-democratic veto actor is the military, which controlled the country for decades. The military is less of a political force than it used to be and President Condé put much effort in its reformation, but it still enjoys great influence.
Effective power to govern
Guinea’s constitution officially guarantees freedom of assembly and association. In 2019 and 2020, opposition demonstrations and civil society organizations regularly faced difficulties to protest publicly. Since October 2019, when the protests against the new constitution intensified, protesters were increasingly met with force. International observers such as the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported excessive and often lethal use of force by security forces (tear gas, riot gear, and firearms) leading regularly to arrests, injuries, and deaths. Between October 2019 and March 2020, security forces shot dead at least 36 demonstrators. In Nzérékoré, the biggest city of the Forest Region, the polls in spring 2020 ignited long-standing intercommunal and ethnic tensions, leading to at least 32 deaths and 90 injuries. On March 27, 2020, the government banned all gatherings of more than 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 15, the Guinean government relaxed the limit on mass gatherings from 20 to 30 people. This measure remained in place throughout January 2021. The FNDC, a movement created in April 2019 by various civil society organizations and major opposition parties (UFDG, UFR), accused the government of exploiting the pandemic to silence the opposition.
Association / assembly rights
Despite a long history of muzzling the press, the Guinean constitution ensures freedom of expression. Guinea has only one television station, which is state-owned, but private radio has grown rapidly since being legalized in 2006. Independent and opposition-owned media are active and generally express a wide variety of views. Print media, however, have limited reach due to the low literacy rate and the high cost of newspapers. For many, radio remains the most important source of information and numerous private stations broadcast throughout the country – in French and a variety of local languages. FM radio call-in shows are popular and allow citizens to express broad discontent with the government. However, libel laws, (self-)censorship and harassment have been used in the period under investigation against Guinean journalists, though many continue to risk the consequences. In August 2019, journalists protested against the state’s harassment of the private media. After the constitutional referendum in March 2020, the pandemic was used as an excuse to put multiple journalists under house arrest. Other journalists received threats by the government that resulted in an increase of self-censorship. During the presidential elections in October 2020, the popular online news website guinéematin.com was suspended. Furthermore, the Internet and telephone networks were severely disrupted or shut down for one week, making it difficult for people to communicate, get information or report on unfolding events. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for the government to impede the free flow of information – meaning that violence was likely going underreported.
Freedom of expression
Guinea’s constitution stipulates the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers. Under the socialist (1958 – 1984), Conté (1984 – 2008) and Camara (2008 – 2010) governments, such separation was rarely if ever upheld in practice. Under President Condé, a legislature was elected in 2013 and 2020. The major opposition parties boycotted the latter, leading Condé’s RPG to win a majority of 79 of the 114 seats in parliament. The Democratic Union of Guinea (Union démocratique de Guinée, UDG) of businessman Mamadou Sylla won four seats and the Mouvement populaire démocratique de Guinée (MPDG) of Siaka Barry as well as the People’s Democratic Movement of Guinea (Nouvelles forces démocratiques, NFD) of Mouctar Diallo won three seats each. Five parties won two seats each while further 15 parties won one seat each. The solid majority for the RPG enables President Condé also to pass laws that demand a two-thirds majority. Consequently, the legislature and a weak judiciary do not act as a check on the executive. As mentioned, a health emergency was declared in March 2020 and extended on a monthly basis until mid-January 2021. In October 2020, the president ordered its prolongation without consulting the National Assembly.
Separation of powers
On paper (i.e. in the constitution), the judiciary is independent and has the right to interpret and review existing laws. However, in reality, the judiciary is not independent and high levels of corruption frequently undermine the administration of justice. Moreover, the judiciary is struggling with a scarcity of material and human resources.
In March 2020, 89.8% of the population voted in favor of a new constitution in a highly contested referendum. In May 2020, lawyers revealed significant differences between the text of the draft constitution subjected to the referendum in March and the constitution enacted by President Condé in April. The International Crisis Group reports that all election candidates must belong to a political party and thus the new constitution excludes independent candidates. Further, the state-controlled Supreme Council of the judiciary will appoint the Constitutional Court judges instead of the more independent Association of the Magistrates, as the initial draft has foreseen. In November 2020, the Constitutional Court confirmed the re-election of Alpha Condé. Thus, it dismissed the appeals filled by Cellou Dallein Diallo and three other opposition leaders and did not order a repetition of the election as occurred recently in Malawi, even though the electoral commissioners had asked to do so.
Officeholders who benefit illegally from their positions are getting away with their crimes without consequences. Often, their networks even expect the officeholders to profit from their positions. Officeholders who break the law are typically moved out of government rather than prosecuted. The Guinean press is attentive to wrongdoing, so abusers of public office are likely to at least be publicly shamed. President Condé is perceived as still beholden to many of the interest groups who helped him reach and stay in power and as either uninterested in or unable to punish those who illegally enrich themselves. Corrupt members of the government can often return to official positions after a moratorium or are directly transferred to a different position. Guinea’s minister of justice Cheick Sako, who oversaw the investigations into the massacre of September 28, 2009, in which about 150 persons were killed, resigned in May 2019 because he opposed the revision of the constitution. Guinean human rights groups worry that with Sako’s resignation, the organization of the trial of 14 suspects will further be delayed or not take place at all. As reported by the U.S. State Department in 2019, two of the alleged ringleaders of the massacre, Colonel Claude Pivi and Colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara, remained in high-level government posts. General Mathurin Bangoura, a person of interest whose indictment was dismissed following a judicial review, remained governor of Conakry.
Despite serious human rights abuses committed by the Guinean security forces before and after the double vote in March and the presidential elections in October 2020, human rights organizations reported that none of the security force members have faced any consequences. February 2019, the conviction of a police captain for the 2016 killing of a protester was a first. In June 2019, the National Assembly passed a law on the use of firearms. Human rights organizations fear that this will further shield the police and gendarmes from prosecution.
Prosecution of office abuse
Civil rights are guaranteed by law but only partially respected in practice. Conditions in Guinean prisons are harsh to the point of being life-threatening and security forces continue to be accused of rape, torture and using excessive force. In the review period, human rights have suffered, due first of all to tensions between the opposition and the government over the elections and the constitutional referendum, and secondly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Security forces have repeatedly committed serious human rights abuses (imprisonment, torture, rape and killing). Furthermore, the government closed down a media station, disrupted Internet access and put several journalists under house arrest. A wave of arrests occurred in November 2020 after the presidential election. According to Human Rights Watch, the vast majority of the 325 arrested were targeted merely because of known or suspected political affiliation, or because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Seeking judicial redress against such practices is often futile. Furthermore, vigilant justice is widespread. In 2016, a commission proposed a revised civil code that would have legitimized polygamy again, making it the norm. Civil society organizations and President Alpha Condé heavily criticized this proposition. In 2019, a readjusted text was adopted. It legalized polygamy but only if decided at the moment of marriage and with the wife’s explicit consent. In theory, monogamy thus remains the norm. Furthermore, the new civil code eradicated some of its discriminatory articles against women; for example it now provides both mother and father with parental authority. At the same time, according to a human rights report by the U.S. State Department, rape and domestic violence occurred frequently, despite the fact that the law criminalizes these acts. Authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators and often victims are blamed. Customary law discriminates against women and sometimes takes precedence over statutory law, particularly in rural areas. The law prohibits clitoridectomy, but it was nevertheless performed on about 97% of women in 2012. In Guinea, homosexuality is illegal and homosexual acts are punished by imprisonment. Ethnic discrimination may extend to the courts.
Principal democratic institutions continue to exist, with local elections held in 2018 after repeated delays. Yet the highly contested legislative elections in March 2020, which the main opposition parties boycotted, epitomizes the fragility of the democratic process. Moreover, the constitutional two-term limit and the constitutional court did not prevent incumbent Condé to run for a third term. Overall, deficiencies extend to the executive and legislative branches at the national level. The presidency and the executive dominate the legislative and judiciary, which cannot fulfill their monitoring function. The judiciary is less and less considered as an independent institution.
Performance of democratic institutions
Democratic institutions are rhetorically accepted by the main political actors, and their strategies for obtaining power largely focus on winning elections and assuming positions in these institutions. The repeated delays of legislative and communal elections by the government demonstrate that timely elections are subordinate to interests in power. Huge deficiencies in the most recent elections also raise doubts over the democratic commitment of main political actors. Furthermore, there is no internal democratization within the political parties. Overall, democracy is not rooted in Guinean political culture and authoritarian elements are prevailing. The constitutional change and the re-election of President Condé for a third term have increased autocratic tendencies. The military’s commitment to democracy is still in doubt.
Commitment to democratic institutions
The political party system is relatively stable, with the three biggest parties (i.e., Alpha Condé’s RPG, Cellou Dalein Diallo’s UFDG, and Sidya Touré’s UFR) all having existed for more than a decade. Other political parties, however, are built around important personalities on an ad hoc basis. Political parties are highly personalized and their existence is dependent on their leaders. Furthermore, the party programs do hardly differ (if they exist at all) and clientelism is widespread. The ethnic polarization between the two largest groups, Peulh and Malinké, however, is historically reflected in the party system. The UFDG and the RPG have tended to treat the two largest ethnic groups as ready-made electoral constituencies. The tendency toward ethnic parties has resulted in significant polarization between (though not within) parties, including repeated and, in the period under investigation, increasing electoral violence.
In the 2020 presidential elections, Alpha Condé (RPG) won 59.5% and Cellou Dalein Diallo (UFDG) 33.5% of the votes. Sidya Touré (UFR), the third strongest political voice in the country, boycotted the elections.
Guinea has relatively strong unions and professional organizations. Though controlled by the one-party state during the socialist period, they have been independent and outspoken for more than a decade. Civil society groups must constantly seek patronage from international donors or local actors, risking political cooptation. Organizations representing formal sector employees are relatively strong, while those representing more marginal interests have great difficulty making themselves heard.
At key moments over the past decade, such as during the general strikes of 2006 and 2007, disparate groups have worked together, counterbalancing tendencies toward polarization, mirroring the political divide. Lately, the FNDC organized numerous protests throughout the country against the adoption of the new constitution. The FNDC is composed of opposition parties and civil society organizations. However, the protests were not as inclusive (in terms of age, gender and ethnicity) as this was the case during the general strikes of 2006 and 2007. Contrary to the general strikes, the unions were also not at the forefront this time.
According to the latest results from Afrobarometer, released in September 2020, two-third of the Guinean population say that the constitution should limit the president’s term of office to two. A majority (56%) states having no or limited confidence in the National Electoral Commission (Commission électorale nationale indépendante, CENI). Overall, the Guineans have more trust in “traditional” (71%) and religious leaders (79%) than in institutions such as the Presidency (50%), the police and gendarmerie (41%), the National Assembly (38%) and the Courts (33%.)
According to the Afrobarometer, released in November 2019, 80% of the Guineans supported elections as the best way to choose their leaders. At the same time, most Guineans (77%) believed that party competition leads to violent conflict. There is a major regional and ethnic difference regarding the credibility of elections: While Malinké and people living in the Upper Guinea Region generally rate the elections as fair, Peulh and people living in the Fouta Djalon consider them as not free and fair.
Approval of democracy
Many years of authoritarian rule, which included pressure on citizens to inform against their neighbors and relatives, eroded relations of trust. Trust has also decreased as a result of rising ethnic tensions, especially between Peulh and Malinké. High levels of poverty also mean that many Guineans have to compete with one another for scarce material and political goods. This leads 79% of Guineans not to trust people immediately but to be very careful when dealing with them according to a 2019 Afrobarometer survey. Despite this, there is a strong sense of national unity and identity in Guinea, partly forged by many years of isolation and deprivation. Many Guineans belong to civic and cultural organizations. Especially women organize in economic saving and self-help groups. Exact data from opinion polls on social trust and other pertinent indicators is unavailable, dated or unreliable.
Guinea is one of the poorest countries worldwide. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report it ranks 178 out of 189 countries assessed. Like other post-socialist countries, Guinea has a relatively low Gini coefficient (33.7, assessed in 2012), indicating moderate income inequality. A very large percentage of Guineans (70.9%, assessed in 2012) live in poverty. Opportunities are concentrated in the capital and the economy is partly ethnically structured, with Peulh businessmen having a relatively strong position in the more profitable sectors such as trade. The minority groups from Forested Guinea are least well-connected to the economy and the state. Women are relatively well-represented in the formal and informal workforce, another legacy of the socialist era, when women were actively promoted in schools and workplaces. However, they mainly generate income on a day-to-day basis. There is no quantitative data available on gender inequality. Officially, equal rights for men and women are guaranteed, however women continue to suffer from various disadvantages, due to traditional or religious attitudes within the population. During their childhood and youth, girls must obey their fathers; once married, women come under the authority of their husbands. Nevertheless, female agency is manifold, even though this is often difficult to recognize for outsiders.
Against the background of historically hardly differentiated political and economic spheres, market access has become significantly freer under the Condé government. Connections of major established businesspeople to the opposition have increased incentives for the government to more broadly distribute opportunities. Yet political considerations and corruption continue to distort opportunities, including the allocation of government contracts. The new investment law of 2015 stipulates equal treatment of domestic and foreign investors, though with some legal exceptions possible, and allows for the full repatriation of profits.
In the 2020 Doing Business report, Guinea ranks 156 out of 190 countries. Starting a business in Guinea takes 15 days and six procedures at a cost of 33.8 % of GNI per capita. The Starting a Business score is 84.5 out of 100 (ranked at 122 out of 190).
No precise numbers of the informal sector’s size are available but it is estimated that at least two-thirds of the economically active population is employed in the informal sector.
Guinea has a long history of state monopolies, both under the socialist government (1958 –1984) and under the post-socialist government, in which the president, the Guinean army and various cronies controlled large portions of the economy (importation of rice, cement, large-scale construction). There is some regulation to prevent monopolies in Guinea, but enforcement and investigative capacity is low. Cellular telecommunications are competitive and the financial sector is open, offering Guinean customers more services. Overall, the concentration of economic power within few well-connected businesspeople is still high. According to the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom of the Heritage Foundation, Guinea is mostly unfree, ranking 121 out of 180 countries. Guinea does not have a competition authority and the country is not a member of the International Competition Network.
With an average most favored nation tariff of 12.1%, Guinea does not erect significant tariff barriers. In the “trading across borders” category in the Cost of Doing Business index, which refers to the costs in terms of time and finances required for documentary compliance, Guinea scores 167 out of 190 countries. Since Condé’s inauguration in 2010, his government aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food production to save foreign exchange for capital goods. Government policy discourages export of locally grown staple foods. Against the background of rising international fuel prices, the government increased the price of fuel, which had been subsidized, by 25% in 2018. The subsidy had entailed significant government expenditures, fuel smuggling and facilitated corrupt practices. The omission of subsidies heavily hit the poor population as it increased the overall costs of living. Guinea has been a WTO member since 1996 and liberalized its economic policy, including foreign trade, in recent years. The WTO’s latest review of Guinea in 2018 evaluated the country’s changes in trade policy as very positive, but corrupt practices still heavily impacted trade.
Liberalization of foreign trade
The banking system was characterized by a state monopoly under socialism and gradually liberalized over the course of the 1990s and 2000s. There is little de facto supervision. The financial sector remains underdeveloped according to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom and continues to provide a very limited range of services. Most people have no bank accounts, but the use of mobile financial services (e.g., mobile wallets) has grown rapidly in recent years, promoting financial inclusion.
Most economic activity remains outside the formal banking sector. The banking sector is dominated by two French companies and the Togo-based Ecobank. Local SMEs are severely underserviced by the international brands. Regional banks such as Ecobank operate in Guinea, but the banking system and capital markets are still poorly differentiated. In 2019, the ratio of non-performing loans stood at 10.4% and the bank capital to assets ratio at 6.6%. According to the IMF report released in February 2020, the Guinean banking sector faces growing vulnerabilities and stress.
Previous governments routinely printed money to overcome funding shortfalls and Guinea repeatedly suffered inflation rates around 20%. Monetary policy has become more orthodox under the Condé government and inflation declined significantly to a long-term low of 8.2% in 2016, increasing again to 11.6% in April 2020 before slowly going back to 10.7% in October 2020. The Banque Centrale de la République de Guinée (BCRG), the central bank, has adopted a prudent monetary policy stance, with a gradual tightening in response to rising inflationary pressures and to raise foreign exchange reserves. According to the IMF report released in February 2020, the BCRG has experienced a number of issues with its correspondent banking relations (CBR), particularly in euros since 2013.
The Guinean franc has lost value relative to the U.S. dollar over the years. The government allows the Guinean franc to float within limits with interventions to stabilize it. In April 2020, the BCRG announced support measures to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial sector. The policy rate and the reserve requirement ratio were both reduced by 100 basis points to 11 and 15% respectively. Furthermore, identification requirements for e-money accounts have been eased and companies were encouraged to reduce e-money transfer fees. Overall, the IMF deplores the insufficiency of data on the financial sector. For instance, there is no data available on the real effective exchange rate index. It recommends to the BCRG to develop its capacity to implement a macroprudential policy.
In general, the Condé government has been successful in promoting macroeconomic stability, reducing the government debt-to-GDP from 64% in 2011 to 16-23% between 2012 and 2018. In 2019, however, it increased again to 34.3%. In September 2017, the government signed a 20-year agreement with China for a loan of $20 billion in exchange for bauxite concessions in the Boffa area. It further secured an Extended Credit Facility with the IMF for $170 million for 2017 to 2020. The Economist estimates Guineas GDP to slow down to 4% in 2020 but expects an accelerated growth again in the following years due to the increasing demand for minerals.
Guinea had in 2019 a negative current account balance of -314.6 million USD. Its total reserves amount to 1,227.3 million USD according to the World Bank.
In March 2020, the Guinean government has adopted strict measures against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the closing of the international airport for non-essential flights, the limitation of public transport and the implementation of a nationwide night curfew. The local markets, however, remained open. In June 2020, the IMF provided a Rapid Credit of $148 million to mitigate with the pandemic’s economic impacts. It further granted Guinea an immediate debt relief of $45.5 under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Furthermore, the World Bank supported Guinea in strengthening its public health system with $10.90 million.
Property rights and regulations on acquisition, use and sale are well defined, but such rules are not always enforced. The Heritage Foundation has assessed property rights not to be effectively protected. Although both foreigners and citizens have the right to own property and businesses, enforcement of these rights depended on a corrupt and inefficient legal and administrative system. In addition, land sales and business contracts generally lack transparency. The pervasive impunity and corruption of public institutions additionally hampers the effective protection of private property.
In principle, private companies are legal and can operate in the country. They are also viewed as important engines of growth, but the private participation in the economy remains low. Since 2015, the Condé government is making efforts to privatize water and electricity. In 2015, the French firm Veolia was contracted to manage the state-owned electric utility Guinean Electricity (Electricité de Guinée, EDG) – a contract that ended in October 2019. Several private projects aimed at harnessing Guinea’s solar energy potential and gas-powered thermal plants are being implemented. Overall, legal safeguards for private companies exist but are limited, given the constraints on the rule of law, especially by private and ethnic favoritism, as well as a deficient judiciary. Asylum-seekers from Guinea often claim that their (small) businesses have been harassed by businesspeople close to the ruling RPG.
Moreover, private companies coexist in Guinea with habits and expectations inherited from the socialist period: a preference for a strong state responsible for a large share of employment and welfare provision. The state, however, is weak and poorly funded and thus not able to satisfy these expectations.
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government aimed at supporting the private sector, notably small and medium enterprises. It introduced temporary exonerations on taxes, social contributions and payment of utilities to support firms in the most affected sectors. However, as a report by the World Bank indicates, most of the small and medium enterprises had not received support from either banks or the government by June 2020.
Social safety nets are rudimentary and cover only a limited number of risks for few beneficiaries, namely civil servants. The National Fund for Social Security (Caisse Nationale de Sécurité Sociale, CNSS) is the government body responsible for providing social welfare but is inadequately funded. The majority of the population is at risk of poverty. People must rely on extended family networks, private saving groups and private charity for social security. Yet life expectancy has continuously increased over the past 10 years and was at 61.2 years in 2018. The government has taken measures to support the agricultural sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since the pandemic led to an increase in food prices. Several actors, such as the World Food Programme, in collaboration with the government, distributed food to the most vulnerable people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social safety nets
There remains significant gender inequality in Guinea, though socialist era policies promoted women. Women who hold an important position in the government, in politics or the economy are confronted with major obstacles. The literacy rates were 38% for males and 23% for females, according to the 2016 issue of World Bank Development Indicators. While female students attend primary school at 80% the frequency of males, this ratio falls to 40% in tertiary education. Still, it is important to contextualize this by noting that fewer than 11.6% of Guineans attend tertiary educational institutions. Alongside these educational disparities, it remains the case that women have consistently made up 54% of the workforce. The complaints of ethnic, regional and political favoritism practiced in both the public and private sectors increased in the period under review.
Guinea has historically been one of the world’s poorest countries. The temporary return of relative stability, increasing predictability of the government and macroeconomic stabilization measures have entailed relatively high growth rates under the Condé government between 2014 and 2018. Public debt decreased from 68.9% of GDP in 2010 to 34.5% in 2019. These achievements have recently been called into question due to political unrest. In addition, there will be severe long-term economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s growth is expected to slow despite continued expansion of the mining sector. The international bauxite demand could also slow, which would likely lead to significant job loss and decline in government revenues.
Guinea is home to a third of the world’s reserves of bauxite, which accounts for over half of Guinea’s exports, increasingly satisfying Chinese demand. As reported by the U.S. State Department in 2020, most of the country’s bauxite is exported by the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG, a joint venture between the government of Guinea, U.S.-based Alcoa, the Anglo-Australian firm Rio Tinto, and Dadco Investments of the Channel Islands) and the Société Minière de Boké (SMB, a Franco-Sino-Singaporean conglomerate). New investment by both companies is expected to significantly increase Guinea’s bauxite output over the coming years. In June 2020, the Guinean government validated the agreement for the exploitation of the Simandou mountains by the Chinese-Singapore-Guinean SMB-Winning consortium with an estimated investment of $14 billion. Overall, the Guinean mining sector has a long history of large-scale corruption, for example the scandals around the rights to extract iron ore in the above-mentioned Simandou mountains. With new initiatives in gold, diamonds, fisheries, agriculture and solar energy, the natural resource sector is being diversified. However, agriculture in particular has suffered from decades of neglect and mismanagement and lack of transportation infrastructure. Guinea had in 2019 a negative account balance, at -$314.6 million.
In Guinea, the gross capital formation was at 30.6% in 2019. GDP per capita rose significantly from $1,744 in 2011 to $2,670 in 2019, but as mentioned, revenues are largely derived from mining and mostly accrue to resource companies and the state. Per capita growth of the GDP stood at 2.6% in 2019 and 3.2% in 2018 after being much higher the two years before (above 7%). For most Guineans, income remains very low. Consumer price inflation was 9.5% in 2019, a relatively high figure compared to Francophone countries in the CFA zone (unlike Guinea). ILO estimated the unemployment rate at 4.3% in 2019 and 2020 but this is not a reliable number due to the large size of the informal sector. Since Guinea’s economic liberalization under Lansana Conté, growth never substantially trickled down and only a wealthy and corrupt elite could profit from the country’s revenues.
There is little awareness of ecological issues and the government does not integrate environmental goals into its tax and other policies. Guinea does conduct environmental impact studies for development and business projects, including dams and mining sites. Often, however, the promised measures are not put into practice. The opening of the Kaleta Hydropower Dam in 2015, the foreseen operation of the 450 megawatt Souapiti Hydropower Station in 2021, a dam constructed with Chinese investment, and other hydropower projects planned by the Condé government are likely to increase renewable electricity production. However, at least the Souapiti dam comes with human costs as, according to Human Rights Watch, 16,000 people have been displaced. Civil society organizations like FIAN Germany, which advocates for food and nutrition rights, attribute environmental damages and human rights violations to the bauxite mining. Similar concerns are raised in relation to artisanal and medium-sized industrial gold mining in the Upper Guinea Region. As the mining sector further expanded, the environmental burden of extractive activities, which consume large quantities of water, release significant toxins, destroy agricultural soils and lead to deforestation, has increasingly become a factor in clashes between citizens, companies and the state. The Ministry of the Environment has never seen robust budgets or politically powerful ministers at its helm. While the ministry has noted the environmental degradation caused by several mining operations, it has done little to force any changes in mining practices.
With a literacy rate of just over 30% and tertiary enrollment of 11% and universities that have been handicapped by years of neglect, the country is poorly positioned to support research and development. There is no estimate for expenditures in the education sector. Primary school enrollment stands at about 94%, which is significantly below developing country average. The quality of education is often very low, classes are too big, schools are poorly equipped with material, and corruption in the educational sector is widespread. In general, much emphasis is put on learning by heart; critical thinking is not supported. Furthermore, teachers are not sufficiently qualified; they also are underpaid and regularly receive their wages late. This leads to regular and at times long-lasting strikes by teaching personnel organized by the strong teacher’s union. When families face difficulties paying for the schoolbooks and uniforms, they take their children – especially girls – out of school, leading to high drop-out rates. There are current attempts to strengthen English in the curriculum and to digitalize the education sector. The U.N. Education Index is still very low but was slowly rising, from 0.280 in 2009 to 0.354 in 2019. The little data available shows government expenditure on education remained at 2.3% of GDP in 2018.
Education / R&D policy
Guinea faces many challenges to pushing forward reforms. Deep poverty, poor education, an unskilled labor force, the reliance on natural resources, endemic corruption, ethno-political polarization and weak infrastructure amplify one another. The country also suffers from decades of poor economic policies and human rights violations, especially during the socialist era and subsequent military regimes. The Condé government has made some progress in setting the foundation for economic predictability and growth, but most of Guinea’s structural challenges will take decades to overcome. Officially, Guinea did not record many COVID-19 cases. The country, however, is expected to suffer from the long-term effects of the pandemic due to its impacts on the global economy.
Civil society in Guinea has been valiant and there are many civic associations, but they are challenged by the same massive structural constraints that face all members of Guinean society. In addition to economic and infrastructural constraints, a history of authoritarianism has eroded trust among Guineans and the ongoing practice of arbitrary violence by security forces has instilled fear. Despite this, Guineans have regularly fought for justice and often been able to recognize (and demand) the collective good, even when it competed with the short-term interests of a subset of society. This has become most obvious during the general strikes of 2006 and 2007. The sense that “we are Guineans first and members of a religion or an ethnicity only second,” developed during the Sékou Touré period (1958-1984), is currently at stake as ethno-political cleavages continue to be high. In the period under review, the FNDC was able to organize many protests. Many Guineans, however, do not or only partly consider the FNDC to be a civil society organization, as opposition parties are part of it.
Civil society traditions
Ethno-political polarization between the two strongest groups organized in the UFDG and the RPG, respectively, is high and has increased during the period under review. Between 2009 and 2010, that is, during the transition to a democratic regime, the political situation was volatile and stakes were perceived as high. While an atmosphere of normalcy briefly returned in the mid-2010s, clashes between party supporters or between supporters and security forces increased during the period under review. In the lead-up to the double vote in March 2020 (constitutional referendum and legislative elections) and the presidential elections in October 2020, the intensity of the clashes increased further, not only in the capital and but also in other major cities. As mentioned, the polls in spring 2020 ignited long-standing intercommunal and ethnic tensions in the Forest Region. Overall, the conflict intensity rose and the general instability in Guinea increased.
Initially, the government has set clear priorities under Alpha Condé, among them the establishment of civilian control over the military, the strengthening of government capacity, the reestablishment of macroeconomic stability and the creating of an environment conducive to foreign investment (especially in the mining and the hydroelectric sectors). However, President Condé was repeatedly accused of relying more on his patronage networks than on expertise.
In the last period of his second term, Alpha Condé prioritized the adaptation of the new constitution, which reset his term counter to zero and thus allowed him to be re-elected as president. Consequently, all other economic and political goals of his government were subordinated to this priority. Guinea has a long history of crises, of which the COVID-19 pandemic is just one. It thus did not have a major impact on the government’s priorities.
The government has been determined and partly able to implement its own policies. It has articulated priorities and plans for achieving them, something not much seen in Guinea since the end of the socialist period in 1984. Much-needed reforms of the military, reintroduction of an economic policy framework after several years of chaotic pillage, and construction of hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to Guinea and the wider region have all moved forward. Designated a heavily indebted poor country in 2012, Guinea then saw some of its debt cancelled, which strengthened its economic future. However, the hope many Guineans had after the presidential election in 2010 has vanished, giving way to disappointment and consternation as the planned reforms are only partly implemented and not alleviating the poverty of the population. In particular in Condé’s second term the provision of health care, education and electricity to citizens have seen little or no progress due to the president’s focus on lifting the constitutional two-term limit. Even in the Upper Guinea Region, President Condé’s stronghold, people protested because basic services such as energy are not provided. While initially the COVID-19 pandemic slowed economic activities, everyday life quickly returned as people continued their daily survival struggles. The government used the pandemic as a pretext to disregard fundamental rights, such as the assembly right.
The Guinean government under President Condé has shown some flexibility and ability to innovate. A major learning effect could be seen in the process of developing the mining code. However, there are no institutional innovations but rather a setback with the implementation of the new constitution and most changes are due to the personal orientation of the leadership. On the economic side, the government has partly evolved from a major focus on the mining sector to tackle other economic sectors. In the political realm, President Condé was not conciliatory. The adaptation of the new constitution and Condé’s election to a third term signify major setbacks in the democratization process.
The government’s record on efficient use of resources is mixed. Cronyism in the public sector, unqualified staff and pervasive corruption mean that significant resources are not productively used. Still, Condé repeatedly included people in his government who have already served under the former president Lansana Conté, such as the current prime minister, Ibrahima Kassory Fofana. Overall, government policy is sounder than in previous governments. Levels of debt and the fiscal deficit remain within manageable limits. Given the structural constraints on government efficiency, there were hardly any alternatives to a concentration on major priorities, even if this meant considerable waste in other sectors. The state is still highly centralized, despite the elections of local councils in 2018, while the central state is overburdened with handling many local issues. Beyond the capital, “traditional” elders have much power, sometimes collaborating with and sometimes undermining local administrations.
Efficient use of assets
Government policy is largely coherent. This is facilitated by a focus on a limited number of objectives. It has mostly privileged macroeconomic stability over welfare concerns (e.g., when scrapping fuel subsidies in 2018), despite significant political backlash. The fuel price rise was strategically postponed until after the local elections were held to reconcile conflicting interests in votes and fiscal capacities. During political campaigns, the president and members of the government distribute money and basic commodities, such as rice. President Condé has weakened the power of the legislature and the military, while maintaining the support of its security forces.
Since his inauguration, President Condé has made the fight against corruption an official priority. Domestically, President Condé established a National Audit Commission in June 2011, in addition to the already existing (but moribund) National Anti-Corruption Commission, National Anti-Corruption Agency and Auditing Committee for Oversight of Strategic Sectors of the Economy. The Agence Nationale de la Promotion de la Bonne Gouvernance et de Lutte contre la Corruption (ANLC), created in 2004, is the only state agency focused solely on fighting corruption. It is an autonomous agency but reports directly to the president. The ANLC investigates anonymous tips concerning possible corruption cases received by the Bureau of Complaint Reception.
In 2014, Condé nominated Cheick Sako as minister of justice; he initiated several reforms to fight against impunity. In 2017, a law on the fight against corruption was adopted, explicitly focusing also on economic crimes. Furthermore, judges’ salaries have been increased by 400% in order to discourage corrupt practices. In 2018, Sékou Camara, general director of the Office Guinéen des Chargeurs (OGC), Paul Moussa Diawara, director of the Office Guinéen de Publicité (OLP) and Lansana Cherif Haidara, director of the Loterie Nationale de Guinée (LONAGUI) were suspended for suspected wrongdoing. In May 2019, Minister of Justice Cheick Sako resigned because he opposed the revision of the constitution. While the cases mentioned above can be seen as progress, the government’s fight against corruption and impunity is selective in that it attacks only the weaker parts of the system.
In November 2019, President Condé and Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, reached an agreement through which the commission will assist Guinea to establish an anti-corruption agency according to the U.S. State Department’s investment climate report. However, it remains unclear if that means reforming the existing anti-corruption agency or establishing a new anti-corruption agency. Overall, it seems that the embezzlement of public funds has even intensified as many senior officials were betting on the end of Alpha Condé’s regime in the run-up to the presidential election in October 2020.
According to a June 2020 report by Afrobarometer, the majority of the Guinean population (63%) thinks that the level of corruption is on the rise and the government’s efforts to combat it are unsatisfactory. Judges and magistrates, tax officers and police officers are respectively perceived as the most corrupt public servants while the religious and “traditional” leaders have more credibility than the public service staff. Corruption is further aggravated by a growing fear of reprisals if citizens report corrupt practices. Indeed, a large proportion of citizens have resorted to corruption to obtain services and benefits in the public sector. Overall, the culture of impunity and corruption prevails in Guinea.
Major political actors including political leaders, political parties, civil society and intellectuals agree in principle on the value of democracy and a market economy. Under this rhetorical agreement, however, lie some reservations. Some see multiparty democracy as having been forced on the country by outside forces or feel the political culture of Guinea with its significant authoritarian elements means democracy will, at best, be limited. Furthermore, the opposition’s boycott of the legislative elections in March 2020 and the election of Alpha Condé to a third term in October 2020 have seriously weakened the support and trust of a part of the population in the democratic process.
Most major political actors subscribe to market economics as an ideal. While Guinea’s socialist past is partly perceived as a development failure, the country’s experience with the market economy has disappointed expectations for improved living standards. While the market economy is in principle accepted, many Guineans see a responsibility of the state to intervene, especially if it comes to subsidizing basic commodities such as rice and fuel, in the interest of the people.
Consensus on goals
While the army has long been seen as the most powerful anti-democratic actor and still is a difficult institution, it is currently less ambitious politically than in the past. In the period under review, the actors who undermined the democratization process came from the core of power: the incumbent President Alpha Condé and his political party (RPG), the current government and the majority of the population that, at least according to official numbers, supported the president’s constitutional reform, which reset the term counter to zero and allowed Condé to run for a third mandate.
The image of a geographically and ethnically quartered country goes back to colonial roots. Since Guinea’s independence, ethnicity has been politicized and every community can find evidence of discrimination (though to a lesser degree during the Touré-era between 1958 and 1984). Since the presidential elections in 2010, the main political divide runs between two major ethnic groups, the Malinké and the Peulh, which are politically organized to the RPG and the UFDG, respectively. The RPG, in particular, has a support base that extends beyond its ethnic core, and the UFDG has, to some extent, been able to capitalize on the frustration of non-Peulh constituents. Generally, politics is patrimonial and determined by economic interests not by political programs, resulting in changing alliances.
President Condé engaged with the UFDG and other opposition parties in a confrontational and intransigent manner. The primary issues at stake have been presidential, legislative and local elections as well as the constitutional referendum. During the review period, the positions of the two sides hardened, leading to numerous and very violent clashes. The security forces used excessive violence to crack down on the protesters, causing many injuries and deaths. In November 2020, the Condé government arrested more than 300 people, among them 11 children.
Cleavage / conflict management
President Alpha Condé has developed a reputation for maintaining distance from civil society actors, although several former civil society actors have been incorporated into the government. In the period under review, the positions hardened between the government and civil society movements that opposed the revision of the constitution and a third term by the president. Civil society organizations criticized the country’s weak infrastructure, the non-delivery of basic services and human rights abuses by the security forces.
While the government has not invited civil society actors to help them set a governance agenda, civil society has forced its priorities onto the Guinean scene in collaboration with international actors. Guinean human rights activists thus work closely with Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and Amnesty International. Democracy activists cultivate their relationships with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the OSCE. Transparency activists work closely with Transparency International, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Global Witness. These national–international coalitions make their cases to the embassies of the United States, France and the EU mission, lobbying them to use their diplomatic and financial leverage to put these agendas at the center of their discussions with the Guinean government. The Condé administration is thus partly constrained to collaborate with civil society via these international intermediaries.
Civil society participation
The previous governments of Touré, Conté and the military junta all committed serious human rights violations against their citizens. The most recent substantial event was the September 28, 2009 stadium massacre that followed the coup d’état of December 2008. When 50,000 demonstrators protesting against the new junta gathered in the national stadium, the security forces opened fire, killing at least 157, raping more than 100 women and injuring over 1,200. More than 11 years on, the domestic investigation into the September 2009 massacre continues. Since legal proceedings began in 2010, the panel of judges appointed to investigate the massacre has assumed work, having interviewed more than 400 victims and charged 14 suspects, including several high-level members of the security forces. In 2015 former coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara and his then-vice president, Mamadouba Toto Camara, were charged. Yet some suspects, including colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara, continue to occupy senior positions in the Condé government. In April 2018, Guinea’s Minister of Justice Cheick Sako appointed a steering committee to organize the trial, however, the steering committee only met sporadically. The trial was initially scheduled for June 2020 but did not start. The process against Lieutenant Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, known as Toumba, who was extradited from Senegal in March 2017, has also not started. Toumba Diakité is accused of ordering the stadium massacre in 2009. Human rights organizations fear that the Guinean authorities lack the will to organize these trials as they are themselves involved in numerous human rights violations.
There is a deep, historically rooted feeling of political marginalization among Peulh that has increased during the last 10 years. Alpha Condé put a symbolical emphasis on reconciliation at the beginning of his presidency, but he was never interested in collaborating with his political opponents and followed a divide and rule policy. In the period under review, the security forces committed serious human rights violations that are not being investigated. In addition, another major cleavage in Guinea requires reconciliation, that between ethnic Maninka and members of the small ethnic groups in the southeastern Forested Guinea (especially the Kpelle/Guerzé associated with military ruler Dadis Camara). The cleavage has not received sufficient government attention, with postures on both sides potentially explosive as seen in March 2020, especially in and around the city of Nzérékoré.
The major policy priorities of the Condé government (i.e., macroeconomic stability, civilian control of the military and increasing attractiveness for foreign direct investment), align well with international development objectives. The Guinean government has established relatively cooperative relations with donors. There is a certain trend of diversifying cooperation: President Condé enjoys excellent relationships with Russia, Turkey and China. The relations with China are deep, underlined by the signing of a bilateral cooperation agreement between the two countries in 2018. The Souapiti dam, for example, is part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
The United States and France reestablished strong diplomatic relations with Guinea after Condé’s election in 2010. The U.S. and France supported Guinea’s fight against the Ebola pandemic and helped strengthening the health system. Both countries also supported Guinea’s Security Sector Reform and Law and Justice Sector Reform and generally promoted democracy. The EU and Guinea resumed development cooperation in 2013. A cooperation agreement was signed in 2014 that will continue to enable Guinea to tap into the European Development Fund. The government has also maintained good working relations with the U.N., the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. It has generally used development assistance, as well as diplomatic support, successfully in the areas of infrastructure construction (especially hydroelectric power), restructuring the military, developing the institutional framework of the mining sector and establishing macroeconomic stability. The Condé government has made some progress in the aforementioned priority areas but this is less due to a sophisticated plan than to the will of the leadership.
While the West Africa regional bloc (ECOWAS) congratulated Condé on his victory in the presidential elections in 2020, the United States, France, the EU and the AU all condemned the post-electoral violence and urged the authorities to conduct credible investigations and ensure justice and accountability.
Effective use of support
The Condé government has been more credible than the preceding Camara and Conté governments. In particular, Camara was extremely erratic, which makes the present government compare favorably. The credibility of the present government is, however, uneven. Efforts to strengthen state capacity, stabilize the economy and attract international investors are widely considered sincere, and collaboration with international partners in these areas is well established. The government’s commitment to fight poverty and climate change, and to enhance democratization and reconciliation, however, is severely in doubt.
Guinea has been a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2003 but only enacted implementing legislation on cooperation with the ICC in 2016. The ICC oversees the country’s investigations into the stadium massacre of 2009. In October 2019, an ICC mission visited Guinea to take stock of progress made by the national authorities in organizing the trial concerning the massacre. Even though Guinea is fully cooperative with the ICC, the trial did not start in June 2020 as promised by Guinea’s minister of justice. In its latest report from October 2020, the ICC regretted Guinea’s unwillingness to investigate past and present human rights abuses and urged the country to prevent renewed cycles of violence.
Guinea is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which played an important role as mediator in the difficult period between 2008 and 2010. In the recent presidential elections of 2020, the ECOWAS sent an observation mission to Guinea. Despite mentioning minor points of improvement, the ECOWAS mission considered the presidential elections as a crucial step in the consolidation of peace and the promotion of democracy in the country.
Guinea is also a member in the Mano River Union, which is of limited relevance in regional affairs, however. Regional cooperation in the sense of regional integration is not a top priority of the government, but the Condé administration strives for cordial relations within West Africa.
In the context of international peacekeeping, the Guinean Army has sent a battalion of more than 800 peacekeepers to the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali, where Guinean troops have sustained significant casualties. Generally, relations among West African states have been cordial in recent years. Guinea has implemented the ECOWAS Common External Tariff and joined the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), a suborganization of six countries aiming at establishing a common currency, the Eco. It should be noted that Guinea is not member of the CFA monetary union – to which all other former French colonies belong.
In the period under review, Guinea’s democratization process was severely set back, reversing the progress toward political stability made since President Alpha Condé’s inauguration in 2010. In 2020, many Guineans embraced the opportunity for continuity even though they have been less than content with the government’s output: A small political and economic elite is ruling the country while the large majority still lives in poverty. Born in 1938, Condé already is one of Africa’s oldest presidents. As with so many others, he is falling out of touch with the numerically dominant younger generation. After 10 years of endless (and at times violent) quarrels with the opposition – and recently also civil society organizations – President Condé will be unable to unite a highly divided country. While his leadership ability weakens, nepotism and corruption are likely to further increase.
Concerning the next presidential election scheduled for 2026, much will depend on two factors: first, whether the ruling party (RPG) and President Condé will be able to build up a successor who will enable the RPG to remain in power. This would enable the incumbent president to step down rather than remain in office until death (unlike Sékou Touré and Lansana Conté). And the second factor is the ability of the opposition to overcome its internal fractions that, once again, came to the fore during the presidential elections in 2020. Condé’s long-term opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo, born in 1952, is significantly younger than the president but – having been a prime minister already under Lansana Conté and having lost three presidential elections against Alpha Condé – he belongs to the old political guard. New and younger forces with the capability to unite the country should enter the political scene. They are then to thoroughly address Guinea’s historically rooted and politically instrumentalized regional and ethical divisions.
The constitutional change that permitted President Condé a third term is a burden on relations with Western donors and investors. The latter should not only put pressure on the Condé government to retake the path of democratization but also to investigate the security forces’ human right abuses that occurred under the Condé government and before.
Guinea’s relationships with other countries such as Russia or China, in contrast, are not negatively affected by the constitutional change. China is likely to continue its major investments, for example in bauxite extraction. The Souapiti Hydropower Station is expected to operate in 2021, doubling Guinea’s energy supply. With the diversification of the natural resource sector, Guinea has become less dependent on commodity price fluctuations. Yet the bauxite sector is expanding most and eventual dips in prices will pose a challenge to Guinea. International partners are to ensure that the government will finally distribute mining revenues more broadly so that the population also benefits. The mining sector is to be organized in a more transparent as well as socially and ecologically sustainable way.
In Guinea, the short-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been less severe than in other (African) countries. Officially, Guinea did not have many cases and registered less than 100 deaths until the end of January 2021. However, little is known of how reliable those numbers are. The pandemic’s long-term consequences might be much more severe, as less money will probably be flowing into Guinea, a country relying much on international investment and development assistance. Furthermore, the possible reduction of remittances will severely impact the poor population.