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Area: 245,860 sq. km. (95,000 sq. mi.), about the size of Oregon.
Cities: Capital--Conakry. Other cities--Kankan, Kamsar, Boke, Kindia, N'Zerekore, Macenta, Mamou, Faranah, Siguiri, Dalaba, Labe, Gueckedou, 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 est., CIA World Factbook): 10,057,975, including refugees and foreign residents. Refugee population (2009 est., UN High Commissioner for Refugees): 21,488 Liberians, Sierra Leoneans, and Ivoiriens. Population of Conakry: 2 million. Population of largest prefectures--Gueckedou (487,017), Boke (366,915), Kindia (361,117), N'Zerekore (328,347), Macenta (365,559).
Annual population growth rate (2009 est., 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; new constitution written and enacted in March 2010.
Independence: October 2, 1958. Anniversary of the Second Republic, April 3, 1984.
Branches: Executive--elected president (chief of state); civilian prime minister (head of government); cabinet of civilian ministers. Legislative--elected National Assembly (114 seats); dissolved on December 23, 2008. A National Transition Council (CNT) is currently serving as legislative body until legislative elections are held. Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: Region, prefecture, subprefecture, rural district.
Political parties: The three largest parties are Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), and the Union of Republican Forces (UFR). There are currently 121 other active political parties.
Suffrage: Universal over age 18.
Central government budget (2008 est.): $942 million. In 2009 and 2010, the Government of Guinea did not release a government budget plan.
GDP (2011 est., International Monetary Fund (IMF)): $4.54 billion.
Annual real economic growth rate (2010 est., World Bank): 2%.
Per capita GNI (2010 est., World Bank): $400.
Avg. inflation rate (2011 est., IMF): 20%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, salt, hydropower, uranium, fisheries.
Industry (45.7% of GDP; 2010 est., IMF): Types--mining, light manufacturing, agricultural processing.
Agriculture (25.8% of GDP; 2010 est., IMF): Products--rice, cassava (tapioca), coffee, bananas, sweet potatoes, palm products, pineapples, cattle, sheep, goats, timber.
Trade: Exports (2010): bauxite, alumina, diamonds, gold, coffee, pineapples, bananas, palm products. Major markets--European Union, U.S., China, Eastern Europe, South Korea, Cote d’Ivoire.
Current account balance (2010 est., CIA World Factbook): -$370 million.
Official exchange rate (October 2011): Approx. 6,866 Guinean francs=U.S. $1. (Note: as of October 2011 there was a 9% difference between official and black market rates.)
Fiscal year: January 1-December 31.
Guinea is located on the Atlantic Coast of West Africa and is bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Cote 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 other ethnic groups (Gerze, 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 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 Toure, 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 Sekou Toure, 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 Sekou Toure as President.
Under Toure, 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, Toure 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, Toure'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 Toure's paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further devastating its economy.
Sekou Toure 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 Conte, seized power just 1 week after the death of Sekou Toure. 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. Conte'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'etat. 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 December 1998, Conte 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, Conte 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.
Despite his failing health, in December 2003, President Conte easily won a third presidential term against a single, relatively unknown candidate after the opposition parties boycotted the elections. Conte insisted in a late 2006 interview that regardless of his health he would remain in office until his term ended in 2010.
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 protesters in June 2006. The 2007 strike also turned violent after President Conte 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 Conte 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 Conte's February 9 appointment of a longtime associate, Eugene 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 Conte 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 Conte's effort to extend the "state of siege," it became clear that the popular protests had widespread support, even among leaders of Conte's own ruling party. Soon after, an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation led by former Nigerian President Babangida announced that President Conte had agreed to name a new "consensus" prime minister in consultations with the unions and civil society. Lansana Kouyate 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, Kouyate 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 Conte replaced Kouyate with Ahmed Tidiane Souare, a former minister of mines from a previous cabinet. The Souare administration quickly began to reinstate presidential loyalists. President Conte's death on December 22, 2008 sparked an immediate coup d’etat 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 coalition, Les Forces Vives, organized a protest on September 28, 2009, which attracted tens of thousands of protesters to the national stadium in Conakry. The Guinean military responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing at least 157 protesters, 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. Konate appointed former speaker for Les Forces Vives, Jean Marie Dore, as Prime Minister. In February, Dore formed a government that included 11 ministers from political parties, 11 from civil society, and 11 from the junta government. In addition, a National Transition Council (CNT) consisting of 150 members from civil society, labor unions, political parties, the private sector, security forces, and other important organizations, was formed to act as the legislative body until legislative elections could be held. The CNT rewrote and enacted the constitution in March. It also enacted new electoral and media codes.
On June 27, Guinea had its first round of presidential elections, with 24 candidates running for the office of President. As per the Ouagadougou Accords, no member of the military or the transition government ran in the elections. International and national observer groups declared the elections credible and fair, though they cited major technical problems that needed to be addressed before the second round could credibly take place. Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) party received 43% of the vote; Alpha Conde of the Rally for the Guinean People (RPG) party received 18%; and Sidya Toure of the Union of Republican Forces (UFR) party received 13%. Diallo and Conde went on to compete in the second round of elections that, after several delays, took place on November 7. In the weeks leading up to and immediately after the elections, ethnic violence broke out between the Peuhl and Malinke support bases of the two candidates, resulting in several hundred internally displaced people and at least a dozen deaths. The transition government imposed a state of emergency and imposed a curfew, which successfully stopped the violence.
On December 2, the Guinean Supreme Court determined Alpha Conde the winner of the elections with 53% of the vote, which was declared free and credible by international observer missions. On December 3, Cellou Diallo publicly accepted the results of the election and called for his supporters to support the newly elected president. President Conde was peacefully inaugurated on December 21, 2010. On December 24, Mohamed Said Fofana, an economist, was appointed as Guinea’s Prime Minister.
After inauguration, the government lifted security checkpoints throughout the country. Following a July 19, 2011 attack on the president’s personal residence, the government temporarily reinstated the checkpoints, citing security concerns. By the end of July the checkpoints were reduced to operating during the hours of 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Although legislative elections were mandated to take place 6 months after the completion of presidential elections, as of November 2011 legislative elections had not yet been held. The Independent National Commission for Elections announced that elections would take place on December 29, 2011, but election experts and outside observers stated that the commission’s timeline was unrealistic and elections would not take place in 2011.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Until the December 23, 2008 coup d’etat, Guinea was a constitutional republic in which effective power was concentrated in a strong presidency. A new constitution was passed and enacted by the National Transition Council (CNT) in March 2010. A civilian president governs Guinea with the assistance of a civilian prime minister. Alpha Conde's government, elected in late 2010, promised to hold legislative elections that were previously scheduled for 2007. Until a legislature is installed, the CNT acts as Guinea’s 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 population is politically and ethnically divided, but the political atmosphere is currently calm.
Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic--Alpha Conde
Prime Minister (Head of Government)--Mohamed Said Fofana
Secretary General of the Presidency--Francois Lonseny Fall
Minister of Economy and Finance--Kerfalla Yansane
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Edouard Gnakoye Lama
Minster of Security--Mamadouba Toto Camara
Minister of Defense--Alpha Conde
Minister of Justice--Christian Sow
Ambassador to the United States--Blaise Cherif
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).
Richly endowed with minerals, Guinea possesses over 25 billion metric tons (MT) of bauxite--and perhaps up to one-half of the world's readily exploitable reserves. Guinea's mineral wealth also includes more than 4 billion tons of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and undetermined quantities of uranium. Guinea has considerable potential for growth in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Soil, water, and climatic conditions provide opportunities for large-scale irrigated farming and agro industry.
Possibilities for investment and commercial activities exist in all these areas, but Guinea's poorly developed infrastructure and rampant corruption continue to present obstacles to large-scale investment projects. Despite the opening in 2005 of a new road connecting Guinea and Mali, most major roadways connecting the country's trade centers remain in poor repair, slowing the delivery of goods to local markets. Electricity and water shortages are frequent and sustained, and many businesses are forced to use expensive power generators and fuel to stay open. Growth in 2010 was 2%, and the informal sector continues to be a major contributor to the economy. Exchange rate stability is an ongoing concern.
President Conde's government, elected in late 2010, promised to make reforms including combating government corruption, rebuilding Guinea’s degraded transportation infrastructure, and improving access to electricity and potable water. The Conde administration also plans to revise Guinea’s investment code in 2011 or 2012.
Joint venture bauxite mining and alumina operations in northwest Guinea historically provided about 80% of Guinea's foreign exchange. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea (CBG) is the main player in the bauxite industry. CBG is a joint venture, in which 49% of the shares are owned by the Guinean Government and 51% by an international consortium led by Alcoa and Rio Tinto-Alcan. CBG exports about 14 million MT of high-grade bauxite every year. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia (CBK), a joint venture between the Government of Guinea and Russki Alumina (Rusal), produces some 3.1 million MT annually, nearly all of which is exported to Russia and Eastern Europe. Dian Dian, a Guinean/Ukrainian joint bauxite venture, has a projected production rate of 1 million MT per year, but is not expected to begin operations for several years. The Alumina Compagnie de Guinee (ACG), a subsidiary of Rusal which took over the former Friguia Consortium, produced about 2 million MT of bauxite in 2010, which is used as raw material for its alumina refinery. The refinery supplies about 640,000 MT of alumina for export to world markets. Both the Alcoa-Rio Tinto-Alcan consortium and the Guinea Alumina Corporation (GAC)--whose stakeholders include BHP-Billiton, the Global Alumina Corporation, the Dubai Alumina Corporation, and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company--have signed conventions with the Government of Guinea to build large alumina refineries with a combined capacity of about 4 million MT per year.
Diamonds and gold also are mined, though Guinea’s potential in these two industries has been historically underdeveloped. By far, most diamonds are mined artisanally. The largest gold mining operation in Guinea is a joint venture between the government and Ashanti Gold Fields of Ghana. Societe Miniere de Dinguiraye (SMD) also has a large gold mining facility in Lero near the Malian border as does SEMAFO, a Canadian-based gold mining company.
In 2004, the GAC joint venture began feasibility studies on a 650 sq. km bauxite mining site. In 2008, the company started the “early works” phase of the project, which includes infrastructure construction on the mining site, the refinery facility, and a transportation network. Alcoa and Rio Tinto-Alcan are also in the early construction phase of a smaller refinery in the area. Taken together, they represent the largest private investment in sub-Saharan Africa since the Chad-Cameroun oil pipeline, and could see a 40% increase in Guinea’s bauxite production upon completion. The $5 billion GAC project continued to move slowly in 2011 due to falling commodity prices, shareholder disagreements, and uncertainty about the regulatory environment. Though production from the site was originally scheduled to commence in mid-2012, it is not likely to reach the production stage until 2015.
Rio Tinto signed an agreement with the Government of Guinea in 2003 to develop a 110 sq. km iron mine in Simandou. In December 2008, the government announced that it would be revoking part of Rio Tinto’s Simandou contract. The site remained in dispute until April 2011, when Rio Tinto signed an agreement with the government to develop its two remaining blocks of Simandou in exchange for a $700 million payment to the government. As of October 2011 the company had invested nearly $3 billion in feasibility studies and early development of the mining site and associated infrastructure.
The Guinean Government adopted policies in the 1990s to return commercial activity to the private sector, promote investment, reduce the role of the state in the economy, and improve the administrative and judicial framework after decades of socialism under President Sekou Toure. Despite the initial success of these programs to promote economic growth, changes in policy over the following decade up to President Conte’s 2008 death made little headway in addressing the structural problems afflicting Guinea’s private sector, although there was some growth.
The government revised the private investment code in 1998 to stimulate economic activity in the spirit of free enterprise. The code did not discriminate between foreigners and nationals and provided for repatriation of profits. While the code restricted development of Guinea's hydraulic resources to projects in which Guineans have majority shareholdings and management control, it did contain a clause permitting negotiations of more favorable conditions for investors in specific agreements. Foreign investments outside Conakry were entitled to more favorable benefits. A national investment commission was formed to review all investment proposals. The United States and Guinea signed an investment guarantee agreement offering political risk insurance to American investors through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In addition, Guinea inaugurated an arbitration court system to allow for the quick resolution of commercial disputes.
Until June 2001, private operators managed the production, distribution, and fee-collection operations of water and electricity under performance-based contracts with the Government of Guinea. However, with both utilities plagued by inefficiency and corruption, foreign private investors in these operations departed the country in frustration.
In 2002, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended Guinea's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) because the government failed to meet key performance criteria. In reviews of the PRGF, the World Bank noted that Guinea had met its spending goals in targeted social priority sectors. However, spending in other areas, primarily defense, contributed to a significant fiscal deficit. The loss of IMF funds forced the government to finance its debts through Central Bank advances. The pursuit of unsound economic policies resulted in hard-to-correct imbalances.
Under Prime Minister Diallo, the government began a rigorous reform agenda in December 2004 designed to return Guinea to a PRGF with the IMF. Although exchange rates temporarily improved, these reforms did not slow down inflation, which hit 27% in 2004, 30% in 2005 and, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, 34.7% in 2006 and 23.4% in 2007. In 2007, the IMF launched a new PRGF for Guinea to support a 3-year IMF program with the objective of reducing poverty and securing debt relief for the country under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. As of late 2008, Guinea was on track to achieve debt reduction under the HIPC initiative. However, after the December 23, 2008 coup d’etat, the status of the HIPC program was unclear. In 2009, both the World Bank and the IMF stopped their programming to Guinea.
Investment and economic growth slowed considerably in 2009 due to falling commodity prices, the global economic crisis, and CNDD economic mismanagement. After seizing power, CNDD President Moussa Dadis Camara declared that all commercial contracts negotiated under the former regime would be subject to immediate audit and review. Camara waged several contract campaigns in his first 6 months in power against large international mining companies including Rio Tinto, Rusal, and AngloGold Ashanti. From September 2009, the insecurity created by government hostility toward investment was compounded by violent political crackdowns and fracturing within the military. Many companies already operating in Guinea slowed exploration efforts considerably for fear that falling prices and government intervention could precipitate massive investment losses. New investments also decreased significantly in 2009.
In the wake of Guinea’s first democratic elections, international interest in Guinea is on the rise. Following the release of Guinea’s new mining code in September 2011, mining companies are beginning to restart their projects, and investors are arriving with interest in Guinea’s overall economic potential and opportunities in the minerals sector. The World Bank and IMF restarted operations in Guinea in June 2011. The World Bank committed $140 million to development projects in 2011 and 2012, and the IMF initiated a Staff Managed Program designed as a bridge to the establishment of an Extended Credit Facility (ECF), a requirement for HIPC completion. As of October 2011, experts said Guinea might be able to begin the ECF by January 2012 and could qualify for debt relief under HIPC by July 2012. Although progress on economic reform and reengaging with international partners has been slow, as of November 2011 President Conde seemed to be following through with his promise to make Guinea’s economic development his top priority.
Guinea's armed forces are divided into four branches--army, navy, air force, and gendarmerie--whose chiefs report to the Chief of Defense Staff. The army is the largest of the four services. The navy has about 2,300 personnel and operates several small patrol craft and barges. Air force personnel total about 2,000; its equipment includes several Russian-supplied fighter planes and transport planes. Around 9,000 gendarmes are responsible for internal security.
Guinea reestablished relations with France and Germany in 1975, and with neighboring Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal in 1978. Guinea's foreign relations have improved steadily since 1985. However, its image with the international community was tarnished by the December 23, 2008 coup d’etat and the violence of September 28, 2009. The African Union (AU), along with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a West African regional group, both condemned the coup and suspended Guinea’s membership in their respective organizations. The coup was condemned by the Nigerian, South African, Japanese, Canadian, French, and U.S. Governments, among others. Many bilateral assistance programs were suspended, if not after the coup, then after September 28, 2009. After Guinea’s successful presidential elections, however, almost all of Guinea’s former partners have normalized relations and Guinea has resumed its membership in the AU and ECOWAS.
Guinea has been active in efforts toward regional integration and cooperation, especially regarding the African Union and the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS). Guinea takes its role in a variety of international organizations seriously and participates actively in their deliberations and decisions. Guinea has participated in both diplomatic and military efforts to resolve conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau, and contributed contingents of troops to peacekeeping operations in all three countries as part of ECOMOG, the Military Observer Group of ECOWAS. Guinea has offered asylum to more than 700,000 Liberian, Sierra Leonean, and Bissauan refugees since 1990, despite the economic and environmental costs involved. Perhaps 90% or more of these refugees have since returned to their home countries.
The civil wars that engulfed Liberia and then Sierra Leone during the 1990s negatively affected relations between Guinea and these two fellow Mano River Union member countries. Guinea and Liberia accused each other of supporting opposition dissidents, and in late 2000 and early 2001, Guinean dissidents backed by the Liberian government and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels from Sierra Leone brutally attacked Guinea. These attacks caused over 1,000 Guinean deaths and displaced more than 100,000 Guineans. The attacks led to Guinea's support for the LURD (Liberians United For Reconciliation and Democracy) rebels in their attacks against the Liberian government of Charles Taylor. Taylor's departure for exile in August 2003 and the establishment of a new government in Liberia led to a much improved relationship between the two countries.
Guinea belongs to the UN and most of its specialized related agencies, the African Union, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), African Development Bank (AFDB), Niger River Basin (NRB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Mano River Union (MRU), Gambia River Basin Organization (OMVG), and Nonaligned Movement (NAM).
The U.S. Government condemned the December 23, 2008 coup d’etat and suspended all aid to Guinea, except for humanitarian assistance and programs in support of the democratic process. Before the coup, the United States maintained close relations with Guinea. U.S. policy seeks to encourage Guinea's democratic reforms, its positive contribution to regional stability, and sustainable economic and social development. In the wake of Guinea’s first democratic elections, the United States has reestablished strong diplomatic relations with the Government of Guinea and is restarting many of its programs.
The U.S. Mission in Guinea is composed of four agencies--Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Peace Corps, and Department of Defense. Before suspending aid, the U.S. Mission managed a military assistance program that provided for military education, professionalization, language training programs, and health equipment purchases.
USAID/Guinea has a core program that supports the democratic transition and election processes, good governance at the local level, and improved service delivery by government institutions through key interventions at the national level. USAID also has significant programming intended to improve health outcomes through improved standards of care and community engagement. Regional programming supports preservation of World Heritage forest sites and critical biodiversity hotspots in Guinea.
Peace Corps Guinea’s activities temporarily came to a halt in January 2007 due to national political unrest. The program resumed operations in July 2007, but again had to suspend activities in October 2009. In 2010, volunteers returned to Guinea. Volunteers work in four project areas: secondary education, environment/agro-forestry, public health and HIV/AIDS prevention, and small enterprise development. Guinea has also had a strong Peace Corps Response program in previous years.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Steven Fakan
USAID Director--Nancy Estes
The U.S. Embassy is located in Koloma, Conakry, east of Bambetta Circle. The mailing address is B.P. 603, Conakry, Guinea (tel: 42-08-61/thru 68; fax: 42-08-73).