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Diplomacy in Action

Guinea (12/01)


For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Republic of Guinea

Area: 245,860 sq. km. (95,000 sq. mi.), about the size of Oregon.
Cities: Capital--Conakry. Other cities--Gu�ck�dou, Bok�, Kindia, N'Z�r�kor�, Macenta, Mamou, Kankan, Faranah, Siguiri, Dalaba, Labe, Pita, Kamsar.
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.
Climate: Tropical.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Guinean(s).
Population (1996 census): 7.2 million, including refugees and foreign residents. Refugee population (June 2001 est.): 180,000-200,000 Liberians and Sierra Leoneans.
Cities: Conakry (pop. 1.5 million). Population of largest prefectures--Gu�ck�dou (348,053), Bok� (294,314), Kindia (288,007), N'Z�r�kor� (282,903), Macenta (281,053).
Annual growth rate (1996 census): 2.8%.
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, 53.5% (male 67%, female 40%); secondary, 15%; and post secondary, 3%. Literacy (Total population over age 15 that can read and write, 1996 est.)--36% (male 50%, female 22%).
Health (1999 World Bank): Life expectancy--total population 54 years.
Infant mortality rate (1999 World Bank)--98/1,000.
Work force (1995 Minister of Plan--3.4 million): Agriculture 76%; industry and commerce 18%;
services 6%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: October 2, 1958. Anniversary of the Second Republic, April 3, 1984. Government based on ordinances, decrees, and decisions issued by a president and his ministers or through legislation produced by the National Assembly and approved by the President.
Branches: Executive--Elected President (chief of state); 25 appointed civilian ministers. Legislative--Elected National Assembly (114 seats). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: Region, prefecture, subprefecture, rural district.
Political parties: Legalized on 1 April 1992. Seven parties, of the more than 40 with legal status, won seats in the June 1995 legislative elections. Pro-government--Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) and DJAMA. Opposition--Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), Union for a New Republic (UNR), Party for Renewal and Progress (PRP), Union for Progress of Guinea (UPG), Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), Union of Republican Forces (UFR).
Suffrage: Universal over age 18.
Central government budget (1998): $328 million.

Flag: Guinea flag

GDP (2000 est.): $5.3 billion.
Annual economic growth rate (2000): 1.8%.
Per capita GDP (2000 est.): $480.
Avg. inflation rate (2000): 6.8%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, water power, uranium, fisheries.
Industry (28.4% of GDP): Types--mining, light manufacturing, construction.
Trade (28.2% of GDP): Exports--$793 million: bauxite, alumina, diamonds, gold, coffee, pineapples, bananas, palm products, coffee.
Agriculture (20.4% of GDP): Products--rice, cassava, fonio, millet, corn, coffee, cocoa, bananas, palm products, pineapples, livestock, forestry. Arable land--30%. Cultivated land--4%.
Major markets--European Union, U.S., Commonwealth of Independent States, China, Eastern Europe, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco.
Official exchange rate (November 2001): Approximately 1968 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, C�te 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 rain-forest 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 29 degrees C (85 degrees F), and the low is 23 degrees C (74 degrees F); 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 (Gerz�, Toma, etc.) in the forest region.

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 Tour�, 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 the 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 S�kou Tour�, 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 S�kou Tour� as president.

Under Tour�, 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, Tour� 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, Tour�'s regime targeted real and imagined opponents, imprisoning many thousands in Soviet-style prison gulags, where hundreds perished. The regime's repression drove more than a million Guineans into exile, and Tour�'s paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further devastating its economy.

S�kou Tour� and the PDG remained in power until his death on April 3, 1984, when a military junta headed by then-Lt. Col. Lansana Conte seized power.

The president governs Guinea, assisted by his appointed council of 25 civilian ministers. Government administration is carried out at five 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.

Principal Government Officials
President--Gen. Lansana Cont�
Prime Minister--Lamine Sidim�
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Hadja M'Mahawa Bangoura
Minister of Finance--Cheick Ahmadou Camara
Minister of Transport--Ceilou Dalein Diallo
Minister of Mining--Ibrahima Soumah
Minister of Defense--currently under the President
Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization---Moussa Solano
State Secretary of Cooperation--Mory Kaba
Ambassador to the United States--Mohamed Aly Thiam
Ambassador to the United Nations--Francois Fall

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).

The Military Committee of National Recovery (CMRN), took control of Guinea in April 1984, just one week after the death of independent Guinea's first president, S�kou Tour�. 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 PUP party 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.

In mid-1996, in response to the coup attempt and a faltering economy, President Cont� appointed a new government as part of a flurry of reform activity. He selected Sidya Tour�, former chief of staff for the Prime Minster of the Cote d'Ivoire, as Prime Minister, and appointed other technically minded ministers. Tour� was charged with coordinating all government action, taking charge of leadership and management, as well as economic planning and finance functions. In early 1997, Cont� shifted many of the financial responsibilities to a newly named Minister of Budget and Finance. These changes put Guinea on a track that included solid economic growth and improved infrastructure and services for its population.

In December 1998, Cont� was re-elected 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, Cont� 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 have led to increased cronyism, corruption, and a retrenchment on economic and political reforms.

Beginning in September of 2000, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel army, backed by Liberian President, Charles Taylor, commenced largescale 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 Gueckedou as well as a number of villages, causing largescale damage and the displacement of tens of thousands of Guineans from their homes. The attacks also forced the 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 and have yet to be held.

After the initial attacks in September 2000, President Cont�, 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 by year's end.

Since June 2001, the main political issue has been the extension of the President's mandate, which is currently limited to two terms and scheduled to expire in 2003. After staying silent and above the fray for the first four months of the debate, President Cont� endorsed the referendum, which set into motion a flurry of activity by the government and the ruling Party for Unity and Progress (PUP). The opposition has officially come out against the referendum, but has yet to coordinate any actions against it other than the occasional press conference and press release. The opposition is, however, severely hampered by their lack of access to the electronic media. The independent print media reports on both sides of the issues, but since Guinea's literacy rate is only 35%, a large majority of the population hears only the official government side of the issue. The referendum has been scheduled for November 11, and the Government of Guinea and PUP activities are in full swing to ensure the desired result of another term for Cont�. On October 17, it was announced that the long postponed legislative elections would be held December 27, 2001.

ECONOMY Proprietors of a fabric store in Guinea that is the result of a USAID PRIDE microfinance loan
Richly endowed with minerals, Guinea possesses an estimated one-third of the world's proven reserves of bauxite, more than 1.8 billion metric tons (MT) 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 largescale irrigated farming and agroindustry. 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 largescale investment projects.

Joint venture bauxite mining and alumina operations in northwest Guinea provide about 90% of Guinea's foreign exchange. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea (CBG), a joint venture in which 49% of the shares are owned by the Guinean Government and 51% by an international consortium (mostly U.S. and Canadian interests), exported about 12.5 million MT in 2000. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia (CBK), a joint venture between the Government of Guinea and Russki Alumina, produces some 2 million MT, 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 yet under production. The Alumina Compagnie de Guin�e (ACG), which took over the former Friguia Consortium, produces about 650,000 MT of alumina annually.

Diamonds and gold also are also mined and exported on a largescale. AREDOR, a joint diamond mining venture between the Guinean Government (50%) and an Australian, British and Swiss consortium, began production in 1984 and mined diamonds, which are 90% gem quality. Production stopped from 1993 until 1996, when First City Mining of Canada purchased the international portion of the consortium. More recent diamond mining ventures include HYMEX and the South African De Beers Corporation. DeBeers has operated in Guinea since 1994. The largest gold mining operation in Guinea is a joint venture between the government and Ashanti Gold Fields (85%) of Ghana. Other concession agreements have been signed for iron ore, but these projects are still awaiting preliminary exploration and financing results.

The Guinean Government has adopted policies 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. Guinea has the potential to develop, if the government carries out its announced policy reforms, and if the private sector responds appropriately. So far, corruption and favoritism, the border conflict, lack of long-term political stability, and lack of a transparent budgeting process have dampened foreign investor interest in major projects in Guinea.

Reforms since 1985 include eliminating restrictions on agriculture and foreign trade, liquidation of some parastatals, the creation of a realistic exchange rate, increased spending on education, and cutting the government bureaucracy. Since the beginning of the reform programs, both the number of public enterprises and the civil service payroll have been cut in half. Under 1996 and 1998 IMF/World Bank agreements, Guinea continued fiscal reforms and privatizations, and shifted governmental expenditures and internal reforms to the education, health, infrastructure, banking, and justice sectors.

In July 1996, President Lansana Cont� appointed a new government, which promised major economic reforms, including financial and judicial reform, rationalization of public expenditures, and improved government revenue collection. A concerted effort by the government to implement this program had begun to bear fruit in advancing Guinea's economy and commercial sector into the intermediate stages of development, expanding international trade, agricultural production, and manufacturing capabilities. Then in 1997 the head of that government was stripped of his responsibilities, which were mainly economic, and finally fired in 1999. The economy has shown little progress since and growth has slowed. Corruption and a lack of set goals in development are the main causes of this downward turn of the economy. The informal sector continues to be a major contributor to the economy.

The government revised the private investment code in 1998 to stimulate economic activity in the spirit of a free enterprise. The code does not discriminate between foreigners and nationals and provides for repatriation of profits. While the code restricts development of Guinea's hydraulic resources to projects in which Guineans have majority shareholdings and management control, it does contain a clause permitting negotiations of more favorable conditions for investors in specific agreements. Foreign investments outside Conakry are entitled to more favorable benefits. A national investment commission has been formed to review all investment proposals. The United States and Guinea have signed an investment guarantee agreement that offers political risk insurance to American investors through OPIC. In addition, Guinea has inaugurated an arbitration court system, which allows for the quick resolution of commercial disputes.

Until June of 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, both have continued to battle inefficiency, corruption and nepotism over the past year, and foreign private investors in these operations have recently departed the country in frustration. The Government of Guinea is giving itself one year to clean up the problems with the companies and hopes to then search for new partners to operate these utilities. The Government of Guinea hopes to strengthen the financial health of the energy sector by improving invoicing and collections, containing costs and improving services. New electric power sector regulations will pave the way for greater private investment in the energy sector. The 1995 elimination of the public monopoly on petroleum product importation and commercialization means private distributors are now operating in Guinea.

Guinea's armed forces are divided into four branches--army, navy, air force, and gendarmerie--whose chiefs report to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Col. Kerfalla Camara. The Chairman reports directly to the President, who took responsibility for the Ministry of Defense in early 2000. The 10,000-member army is the largest of the four services. The navy has about 900 personnel and operates several small patrol craft and barges. Air force personnel total about 700; its equipment includes several Russian-supplied fighter planes and transport planes. Several thousand gendarmes are responsible for internal security.

Guinea's relations with other countries, including with her West African neighbors, have improved steadily since 1985. Guinea reestablished relations with France and Germany in 1975, and with neighboring C�te d'Ivoire and Senegal in 1978. Guinea has been active in efforts toward regional integration and cooperation, especially regarding the Organization of African Unity 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.

The civil wars, which engulfed Liberia and then Sierra Leone during the 1990s, have negatively impacted relations between Guinea and these two fellow Mano River Union member countries. Guinea and Liberia have accused each other of supporting opposition dissidents, and in late 2000 and early 2001, Guinean dissidents backed by the Liberian government and RUF rebels from Sierra Leone brutally attacked Guinea. These attacks caused over 1,000 Guinean deaths and displaced more than 100,000 Guineans, and relations between the two countries remain hostile. Recent negotiations, fostered by the Mano River Union Women's Peace Network, have thawed relations to some extent, but accusations by both sides of dissident support still dominate the relationship.

Guinea belongs to the UN and most of its specialized related agencies; Organization of African Unity (OAU); International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); African Development Bank (AFDB); Niger River Basin (NRB); Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); Mano River Union (MRU); Gambia River Basin Organization (OMVG); Nonaligned Movement (NAM). Guinea was recently elected to the UN Security Council for the 2-year term beginning with the 56th General Assembly, which began October 2001.

The United States maintains close relations with Guinea. U.S. policy seeks to encourage Guinea's sustainable economic and social development, and its full integration into regional cooperative institutions, to achieve economic, social, political, and environmental objectives. The U.S. also seeks to promote increased U.S. private investment in Guinea's emerging economy.

The U.S. Mission in Guinea is composed of five agencies--Department of State, USAID, Peace Corps, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Defense. In addition to the providing the full range of diplomatic functions, the embassy obligated in FY 2001 $52,900 for Self-Help projects and $75,000 for Democracy and Human Rights projects. The embassy also manages a military assistance program that provided nearly $1.5 million for military education, language training, and humanitarian assistance programs.

USAID Guinea is now one of only five sustainable development missions in West Africa, with current core program areas in primary education, family health, democracy and governance, and natural resources management.

The Peace Corps has about 100 volunteers throughout the country. Volunteers teach English and mathematics in high schools, assist in village development and health education, and collaborate with USAID on a natural resources management project. Guinea was the first country to inaugurate a full-fledged Crisis Corps program, a new Peace Corps initiative developed to address natural and manmade disasters.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Barrie Walkley
Deputy Chief of Mission--James Elliott
USAID Director--Harry Birnholz
Peace Corps Director--George Greer
Public Affairs Officer--Melvia Hasman

The U.S. Embassy is located at 2d Blvd. and 9th Avenue, Conakry. The mailing address is B.P. 603, Conakry, Guinea (tel: 41-15-20/21/23; fax: 41-15-22).

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