Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as GIN by Abbreviationfinder, Guinea has had a civilian government since 2010. Although several elections have been held since then, the democratic system has major shortcomings and there is strong tension between the government and the political opposition. The country still carries on a legacy after several decades of authoritarian rule, during both Sékou Touré and Lansana Conté. Both the military and the police regularly abuse the civilian population without being punished for it. Corruption is widespread.
Guinea is largely devoid of democratic traditions. Sékou Touré governed the country from independence in 1958 until his death in 1984, when Lansana Conté, another authoritarian leader, took power. He built up a system characterized by extensive corruption, in which both the economic elite and the military benefited from everything continuing as before. As economic conditions tightened in the early 1990s, protests against Conté’s regime increased. Until then, it had hardly occurred that the Guineans openly showed their dissatisfaction with the regime.
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Even the junta who took power in a coup after Conté’s death suppressed all opposition. Corruption was exacerbated, and over 150 people were killed as they protested against the military. In early 2010, however, a transitional government took over power (see Modern History). Elections to the presidential post were held the same year, but parliamentary elections were delayed until 2013. Thereafter, further presidential elections were held (2015), as well as local elections, after being postponed several times. The local elections 2018 were the first in the country since 2005. But the parliamentary elections that would have been held in 2018 have since been postponed indefinitely. Virtually all elections have been bordered by accusations of electoral fraud (see Current Policy)). Opposition protests have often led to violence. In 2018, at least 18 people were killed in connection with demonstrations and nearly 90 were injured. Police and the military have accounted for most of the serious violence.
During the 2010 presidential election, violent unrest erupted when the second round of elections was held. Tensions were spurred by the fact that the largest groups of people supported was their candidate: Malinké was behind Alpha Condé, while Fulani gathered around Cellou Dalein Diallo (see also Current policy). The election was won by Condé, but the winning margin was small. This – along with cheating charges – made Fulani feel robbed of power. Fulani, which is financially strong, is the only major population group in the country that has never ruled the country. One reason why Condé won the election was that he could take advantage of other Guineans’ fears of being dominated by Fulani.
Ethnic contradictions were also fueled by the notion that the people group to which the president belongs will benefit politically and economically.
The political climate in the country hardened significantly after President Alpha Condé was subjected to an attack in 2011 (see Calendar). Within the political opposition, there is concern that the government is pushing for a constitutional change to allow Alpha Condé to be re-elected for a third term.
Women are generally in a worse position than men in Guinea (see Social conditions). Women gained voting rights in 1958. In the government that took office in 2016, seven of 31 ministers were women (just over 22 percent). The proportion of women in the National Assembly was at about the same level, even though the law stipulates that at least 30 percent of the candidates in an election must be women.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of speech and assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution. Over the years, media freedom has been restricted in various ways, journalists have been arrested and newspapers have been closed. The situation improved after the democratically elected government’s 2011 entry, and then deteriorated again.
There are clear limits to what can be said, for example through strict advocacy laws and it is also prohibited to publish “false information”. Anyone convicted of slander risks imprisonment for up to five years. At the same time, media helps to inflame tensions in society.
Low wages and poorly educated journalists have contributed to some ethical problems, such as journalists receiving bribes for not writing about sensitive topics.
In Reporters Without Borders rankings for 2019, Guinea ranked 107th out of 180 countries. The country has gradually slipped to the list since 2013 when it was in place 86.
During the 2010 election campaign, all parties were given space in the state media. But when riots broke out around the second round, temporary state of emergency was introduced and several journalists from private media were arrested. Following an assassination attempt on President Alpha Condé in 2011, the state media council banned the CNC (Conseil nationale de communication) from the media to report on what had happened. The ban was only lifted after protests both within the country and from other countries.
Also in connection with the 2013 parliamentary elections, there were threats and harassment of journalists, in some cases from the country’s security forces or supporters of various parties. Some radio stations were forced to close, and their employees were arrested.
Since then, the authorities have shown a greater willingness to take action against those who threaten and harass the media, even though the president has dismissed criticism from international organizations promoting freedom of the press. The Media Council CNC has also tended to intervene in media that does not support the government.
In 2014, three media workers, along with five health workers, were killed when they visited a village in the N’Zérékoré region of southeastern Guinea to inform how people would protect themselves against the Ebola virus. The village’s fear of the group they believed was there to spread the disease is believed to have led to the murder. However, the military later intervened to prevent a group of journalists and lawyers from further researching the case.
In 2016, a reporter on the internet magazine Guinee7.com was shot to death by an unknown perpetrator when he watched the opposition party UFDG’s party congress where riots arose.
The largest media are state, but since 2006, private radio and TV channels have been allowed.
There are about 10 newspapers in the country, all of which have small editions, irregular editions and are mostly read in Conakry. There are also several online magazines, often based outside of Guinea, which in recent years have become increasingly important for news reporting.
Since literacy is low, it is the radio that reaches most residents.
There are no restrictions on the Internet, but outside the capital few Guineans have access to the Internet.
Corruption is a major problem at most levels of society, but the situation has improved since the change of power in 2010. In 2016, thousands of ghost workers were cleared from the state’s payrolls. But only a few cases have reached the courts, especially at lower levels. Major cases involving the mining industry and the transport sector have mainly been handled by courts in other parts of the world, including in France and the United Kingdom. In 2016, President Condé, but even more so, his son Alpha Mohammed Condé, was accused of receiving bribes from the mining company Sable Mining Africa (see Calendar, May 2016). In 2018, the opposition demanded an investigation into a port contract awarded to a company under investigation in France (see Calendar). There is an anti-corruption authority, ANLC, which is subordinate to the president, and who suffers from a shortage of both money and staff.
Nevertheless, according to Transparency International’s index of perceived corruption in the countries of the world, Guinea has climbed from place 164 out of 178 countries in 2010 to place 130 out of 180 countries nine years later.
Judicial system and legal security
The legal system is designed according to the French model but also has elements of African customary law. The courts should formally be independent, but in practice political considerations affect the judgments. There are also special military courts. It is common for criminal cases to be handed over to traditional courts where a senior elder acts as a judge. Corruption is a major problem in the justice system, where wages are low. Legal security is generally poor and people have little confidence in the courts.
The death penalty was completely abolished in 2017, but no executions had been carried out in the country since 2001. Since 2016, torture is also prohibited by law. At the same time, reports that the security forces have committed torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and other abuses. Few cases lead to prosecution and even fewer are convicted of these crimes. Despite this, the situation has nevertheless improved, compared to before.
In 2007, the presidential guard killed 140 peaceful protesters. In the fall of 2009, 157 people were killed in Conakry in connection with protests against the then junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara. The military was also reported to have been guilty of assault, mass rape, threats, robbery and other abuses. Most of the victims belonged to the Fulani people group.
Already during the junta’s time, a commission was appointed to investigate the incident, the aftermath of which helped to get the junta to fall. A UN commission blamed Camara massacre, Aboubacar “Toumba” Diakité and Lieutenant Colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara. Juntan’s own investigation only pointed out Diakité. The International Criminal Court in The Hague is also investigating the incident.
In February 2012, Prosecutor Moussa Tiégboro Camara was indicted for his part in the 2009 massacre. He then retained his government post with responsibility for combating drug trafficking and financial crime.
A step towards justice was taken at the end of 2017, when a seven-year investigation into the massacre was completed. This happened after at least a hundred corpses were excavated and identified. Prosecutions have been brought against about 10 people, including the junta leader Camara, but no trial has started in the fall of 2019.
Difficult conditions prevail in the overcrowded prisons, although the situation has improved somewhat in recent years. In Conakry, there are often over 1,600 prisoners in a prison with room for 300. Prisoners are often kept locked up for long periods without trial.