Area: 245,860 sq. km. (95,000 sq. mi.), about the size of Oregon.
Cities: Capital--Conakry. Other cities--Kankan, Kamsar, Boké, Kindia, N'Zérékoré, Macenta, Mamou, Faranah, Siguiri, Dalaba, Labe, Guéckédou, Pita.
Terrain: Generally flat along the coast and mountainous in the interior. The country's four geographic regions include a narrow coastal belt; pastoral highlands (the source of West Africa's major rivers); the northern savanna; and the southeastern rain forest.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Guinean(s).
Population (July 2009 estimate, CIA World Factbook): 10,057,975, including refugees and foreign residents. Refugee population (2009 UNHCR est.): 21,488 Liberians, Sierra Leoneans, and Ivoiriens. Population of Conakry: 2 million. Population of largest prefectures--Guéckédou (487,017), Boké (366,915), Kindia (361,117), N'Zérékoré (328,347), Macenta (365,559).
Annual growth rate (2009 estimate, CIA World Factbook): 2.572%.
Ethnic groups: Peuhl 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, other ethnic groups 10%.
Religions: Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, traditional beliefs 7%.
Languages: French (official), national languages.
Education: Years compulsory--8. Enrollment--primary school, 64.32% (male 78.71%, female 69.03%); secondary, 15%; and post secondary, 3%. Literacy (total population over age 15 that can read and write, 2003 est.)--29.5% (male 42.6%, female 18.1%).
Health (2009 est.): Life expectancy--total population 57.09 years. Infant mortality rate (2009)--65.22/1,000.
Work force (2006, 3.7 million): Agriculture--76%; industry and commerce--18%; services--6%.
Constitution: 1990; amended 2001; constitution was suspended on December 23, 2008.
Independence: October 2, 1958. Anniversary of the Second Republic, April 3, 1984.
Branches: Executive--elected president (chief of state); current head of state is a military officer who seized power; prime minister (head of government); cabinet of civilian ministers. Legislative--elected National Assembly (114 seats); dissolved on December 23, 2008. Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: Region, prefecture, subprefecture, rural district.
Political parties: Pro-government--Party for Unity and Progress (PUP). Opposition--Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), Union for Progress and Renewal (UPR), Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), Union for Progress of Guinea (UPG), Union of Republican Forces (UFR).
Suffrage: Universal over age 18.
Central government budget (2008, estimate): $942 million.
GDP (CIA est.): $4.54 billion.
Annual real economic growth rate (2008 est., CIA World Factbook): 2.9%.
Per capita GNI (2009 est., World Bank): $410.
Avg. inflation rate (2008 est., CIA World Factbook): 30%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, salt, hydropower, uranium, fisheries.
Industry (36.1% of GDP, 2007 CIA est.): Types--mining, light manufacturing, agricultural processing.
Agriculture (23.7% of GDP, 2007 CIA est.): Products--rice, cassava (tapioca), coffee, bananas, sweet potatoes, palm products, pineapples, cattle, sheep, goats, timber.
Trade: Exports (2007): bauxite, alumina, diamonds, gold, coffee, pineapples, bananas, palm products. Major markets--European Union, U.S., China, Eastern Europe, South Korea, Cote d’Ivoire. Trade balance (2009 CIA est.): -$210 million.
Official exchange rate (July 2009): Approx. 5,000 Guinean francs=U.S. $1.
Fiscal year: January 1-December 31.
Guinea is located on the Atlantic Coast of West Africa and is bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The country is divided into four geographic regions: a narrow coastal belt (Lower Guinea); the pastoral Fouta Djallon highlands (Middle Guinea); the northern savannah (Upper Guinea); and a southeastern rainforest region (Forest Guinea). The Niger, Gambia, and Senegal Rivers are among the 22 West African rivers that have their origins in Guinea.
The coastal region of Guinea and most of the inland have a tropical climate, with a rainy season lasting from April to November, relatively high and uniform temperatures, and high humidity. Conakry's year-round average high is 29oC (85oF), and the low is 23oC (74oF); its average annual rainfall is 430 centimeters (169 inches). Sahelian Upper Guinea has a shorter rainy season and greater daily temperature variations.
Guinea has four main ethnic groups:
Peuhl (Foula or Foulani), who inhabit the mountainous Fouta Djallon;
Malinke (or Mandingo), in the savannah and forest regions;
Soussous in the coastal areas; and
Several small groups (Gerzé, Toma, etc.) in the forest region.
Other West Africans make up the largest non-Guinean population. Non-Africans total about 10,000 (mostly Lebanese, French, and other Europeans). Seven national languages are used extensively; major written languages are French, Peuhl, and Arabic.
The area occupied by Guinea today was included in several large West African political groupings, including the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, at various times from the 10th to the 15th century, when the region came into contact with European commerce. Guinea's colonial period began with French military penetration into the area in the mid-19th century. French domination was assured by the defeat in 1898 of the armies of Almamy Samory Touré, warlord and leader of Malinke descent, which gave France control of what today is Guinea and adjacent areas.
France negotiated Guinea's present boundaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the British for Sierra Leone, the Portuguese for their Guinea colony (now Guinea-Bissau), and Liberia. Under the French, the country formed the Territory of Guinea within French West Africa, administered by a governor general resident in Dakar. Lieutenant governors administered the individual colonies, including Guinea.
Led by Ahmed Sékou Touré, head of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), which won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections, the people of Guinea in a September 1958 plebiscite overwhelmingly rejected membership in the proposed French Community. The French withdrew quickly, and on October 2, 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sékou Touré as President.
Under Touré, Guinea became a one-party dictatorship, with a closed, socialized economy and no tolerance for human rights, free expression, or political opposition, which was ruthlessly suppressed. Originally credited for his advocacy of cross-ethnic nationalism, Touré gradually came to rely on his own Malinke ethnic group to fill positions in the party and government. Alleging plots and conspiracies against him at home and abroad, Touré's regime targeted real and imagined opponents, imprisoning many thousands in Soviet-style prison gulags, where many perished. The regime's repression drove more than a million Guineans into exile, and Touré's paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further devastating its economy.
Sékou Touré and the PDG remained in power until his death on April 3, 1984. A military junta--the Military Committee of National Recovery (CMRN)--headed by then-Lt. Col. Lansana Conté, seized power just one week after the death of Sékou Touré. The CMRN immediately abolished the constitution, the sole political party (PDG) and its mass youth and women's organizations, and announced the establishment of the Second Republic. In lieu of a constitution, the government was initially based on ordinances, decrees, and decisions issued by the president and various ministers.
Political parties were proscribed. The new government also released all prisoners and declared the protection of human rights as one of its primary objectives. It reorganized the judicial system and decentralized the administration. The CMRN also announced its intention to liberalize the economy, promote private enterprise, and encourage foreign investment in order to develop the country's rich natural resources.
The CMRN formed a transitional parliament, the "Transitional Council for National Recovery" (CTRN), which created a new constitution (La Loi Fundamental) and Supreme Court in 1990. The country's first multi-party presidential election took place in 1993. These elections were marred by irregularities and lack of transparency on the part of the government. Legislative and municipal elections were held in 1995. Conté's ruling Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) won 76 of 114 seats in the National Assembly, amid opposition claims of irregularities and government tampering. The new National Assembly held its first session in October 1995.
Several thousand malcontent troops mutinied in Conakry in February 1996, destroying the presidential offices and killing several dozen civilians. Mid-level officers attempted, unsuccessfully, to turn the rebellion into a coup d'état. The Government of Guinea made hundreds of arrests in connection to the mutiny, and put 98 soldiers and civilians on trial in 1998. A number of them were executed.
In mid-1996, in response to the coup attempt and a faltering economy, President Conté appointed a new government as part of a flurry of reform activity. He selected Sidya Touré, former chief of staff for the Prime Minster of the Côte d'Ivoire, as Prime Minister, and appointed other technically minded ministers. Touré was charged with coordinating all government action, taking charge of leadership and management, as well as economic planning and finance functions. In early 1997, Conté shifted many of the financial responsibilities to a newly named Minister of Budget and Finance.
In December 1998, Conté was reelected to another 5-year term in a flawed election that was, nevertheless, an improvement over 1993. Following his reelection and the improvement of economic conditions through 1999, Conté reversed direction, making wholesale and regressive changes to his cabinet. He replaced many technocrats and members of the Guinean diaspora that had previously held important positions with "homegrown" ministers, particularly from his own Soussou ethnic group. These changes led to increased cronyism, corruption, and a retrenchment on economic and political reforms.
Beginning in September 2000, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel army, backed by Liberian President Charles Taylor, commenced large-scale attacks into Guinea from Sierra Leone and Liberia. The RUF, known for their brutal tactics in the near decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone, operated with financial and material support from the Liberian Government and its allies. These attacks destroyed the town of Guéckédou as well as a number of villages, causing large-scale damage and the displacement of tens of thousands of Guineans from their homes. The attacks also forced the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to relocate many of the 200,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees residing in Guinea. As a result of the attacks, legislative elections scheduled for 2000 were postponed.
After the initial attacks in September 2000, President Conté, in a radio address, accused Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees living in the country of fomenting war against the government. Soldiers, police, and civilian militia groups rounded up thousands of refugees, some of whom they beat and raped. Approximately 3,000 refugees were detained, although most were released within the year.
In November 2001, a nationwide referendum, which some observers believe was flawed, amended the constitution to permit the president to run for an unlimited number of terms, and to extend the presidential term from 5 to 7 years. The country's second legislative election, originally scheduled for 2000, was held in June 2002. President Conté's Party of Unity and Progress (PUP) and associated parties won 91 of the 114 seats. Most major opposition parties boycotted the legislative elections, objecting to inequities in the existing electoral system.
Despite his failing health, in December 2003, President Conté easily won a third presidential term against a single, relatively unknown candidate after the opposition parties boycotted the elections. Conté insisted in a late 2006 interview that regardless of his health he would remain in office until his term ended in 2010.
In December 2005, Guinea held nationwide elections for local and rural councils. In preparation for the election the government maintained an open dialogue with the opposition parties, 16 of which participated in the elections. Opposition leaders were allowed to campaign freely, and were allowed equal access to government-run media. The ruling PUP won 31 of 38 municipalities and 241 of 303 local councils. Though viewed as flawed, the 2005 elections were much improved over previous elections due to the use of transparent ballot boxes and other reforms.
In 2006 and 2007, Guinea's labor union alliance launched a series of historic, increasingly violent labor strikes. Whereas the unions' demands during the March and June 2006 strikes were primarily economic, the January 2007 strike was more political. Security forces were responsible for the deaths of several protestors in June 2006. The 2007 strike also turned violent after President Conté ignored the unions’ demand that he resign from office. Nationwide, protesters began barricading roads, throwing rocks, burning tires, and skirmishing with police. Violence peaked on January 22 when several thousand ordinary Guineans poured into the streets, primarily in the capital, calling for change. Guinean security forces and the military's "red beret" presidential guard reacted by opening fire on the peaceful crowds.
On January 27, 2007, unions, employers associations, and the government entered a tripartite agreement to suspend the strike. President Conté agreed to name a new "consensus" prime minister, with delegated executive powers. For the first time, the new prime minister of Guinea would carry the title of "head of government" and exercise certain powers previously held by the president of the republic. However, President Conté's February 9 appointment of a longtime associate, Eugène Camara, as Guinea's new prime minister sparked another wave of violence and protests. In an attempt to quell the violence, on February 12 President Conté declared a "state of siege," which conferred broad powers on the military, and implemented a strict curfew. According to media reports, the following days saw military and police forces scour Conakry and towns in the hinterlands where they committed serious human rights abuses.
When Guinea's National Assembly rejected Conté's effort to extend the "state of siege," it became clear that the popular protests had widespread support, even among leaders of Conté's own ruling party. Soon after, an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation led by former Nigerian President Babangida announced that President Conté had agreed to name a new "consensus" prime minister in consultations with the unions and civil society. Lansana Kouyaté arrived in Conakry on February 27, 2007, just hours after being announced as the new Prime Minister and head of the government. Security forces are believed responsible for having killed at least 137 people and injuring more than 1,700 others during the strike-related violence in January and February 2007.
During his premiership, Kouyaté faced constant speculation that the president and his associates opposed his reform efforts. His failure to alleviate social and economic conditions contributed to the steady decline of his popularity. In May 2008, President Conté replaced Kouyaté with Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, a former minister of mines from a previous cabinet. The Souaré administration quickly began to reinstate presidential loyalists. President Conté's death on December 22, 2008 sparked an immediate coup d’état by elements of the military.
Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power on December 23, 2008, declaring himself President of the Republic and suspending the constitution, but promising elections and an eventual restoration of civilian authority. By August 2009, it was increasingly clear that Camara intended to run for president. In response, Guinea’s opposition forces organized a protest on September 28, 2009, which attracted tens of thousands of protestors to the national stadium in Conakry. The Guinean military responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing at least 157 protestors, wounding more than a 1,000 others, and sexually assaulting more than 100 women, triggering widespread condemnation from the international community and increasing isolation for the junta. On December 3, 2009, Camara was wounded by his aide-de-camp in a failed assassination attempt and evacuated to Morocco for medical treatment. National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) Minister of Defense Brigadier General Sekouba Konate stepped in as interim President of the Republic. Camara’s wounds were not fatal, but necessitated a prolonged period of rehabilitation.
Camara was flown to Ouagadougou in January 2010, at the invitation of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the ECOWAS-appointed mediator to the Guinean political crisis. Compaore helped broker a deal between Camara and Konate, known as the January 15 Ouagadougou Accords, in which Camara agreed to remain outside of Guinea for an extended recuperation and to officially appoint General Konate as the interim President of the Republic.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Until the December 23, 2008 coup d’état, Guinea was a constitutional republic in which effective power was concentrated in a strong presidency. Legislative elections, previously scheduled for June 2007, have been repeatedly delayed. The government currently is controlled by a military junta and is operating without a legislative body. Government administration is carried out at several levels; in descending order, they are: eight regions, 33 prefectures, over 100 subprefectures, and many districts (known as communes in Conakry and other large cities, and villages or "quartiers" in the interior). District-level leaders are elected; the president appoints officials to all other levels of the highly centralized administration. The interim president of the military junta currently governs Guinea with the assistance of a civilian prime minister. The military junta is represented by a National Council for Democracy and Development. Although outside of the country, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara remains the president of the CNDD and the self-proclaimed head of state while General Konate has assumed the title of interim President of the Republic. The CNDD suspended the constitution, as well as political and union activity. With the signing of the January 15 Ouagadougou Accords, General Konate signaled his intent to establish a transition government under the leadership of a civilian prime minister and to organize elections within six months. Konate appointed opposition political leader Jean-Marie Dore as Prime Minister in January and Dore officially appointed his cabinet on February 15. Twenty-four ministers of the 34-member cabinet are civilians. The remaining 10 positions are military officers appointed by the CNDD. The constitution remains suspended, but political and union activity is currently allowed. Guinea has more than 100 registered political parties, of which six were represented in the National Assembly before it was suspended in December 2008.
Although key bilateral and multilateral partners condemned the coup, the Guinean population initially welcomed Captain Camara and the CNDD. By August 2009, many opposition leaders and citizens were increasingly concerned by Camara’s public statements, lack of progress on key issues, and his dictatorial tendencies. Although Camara still has some supporters, particularly in the Forest Region, citizens are generally optimistic about Konate’s leadership, the establishment of a civilian transitional government, and the promise of elections.
Elections have been repeatedly delayed since 2007, but are now expected to be held by mid-year 2010.
Principal Government Officials
President of the CNDD--Captain Moussa Dadis Camara
Interim President of the Republic--Brigadier General Sekouba Konate
Prime Minister (Head of Government)--Jean-Marie Dore
Minister of Economy and Finance--Kerfalla Yansane
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Bakary Fofana
Minster of Security--General Mamadouba Camara
Minister of National Education and Scientific Research--Ghandi Tounkara
Minister of Defense--Brigadier General Sekouba Konate
Minister of Justice--Colonel Siba Nolamou
Ambassador to the United States--Mory Karamoko Kaba
Ambassador to the United Nations--Alpha Ibrahima Sow
Guinea maintains an embassy in the United States at 2112 Leroy Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-483-9420) and a mission to the United Nations at 140 E. 39th St., New York, NY 10016 (tel. 212-687-8115/16/17).