The constitution states the state is secular, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for the right of individuals to choose and profess their religious faith. It recognizes the right of religious institutions and groups to establish and manage themselves freely. It bars political parties that identify with a particular religious group. These rights are subject only to “those limits that are indispensable to maintain the public order and democracy.”
By law, the SRA must approve all religious groups. Groups must provide a written constitution and application to the SRA along with their address and a fee of 250,000 Guinean francs ($27). The SRA then sends the documents to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization for final approval and signature. Once approved, the group becomes officially recognized. Every six months, each registered religious group must present a report of its activities to the government. Registering with the government entitles religious groups to an exemption from the value-added tax (VAT) on incoming shipments and makes them eligible for select energy subsidies.
Unregistered religious groups are not entitled to VAT exemptions and other benefits. By law, the government may shut down unregistered groups and expel their leaders. There is limited opportunity for legal appeal of these penalties.
Religious groups may not own radio or television stations.
The compulsory primary school curriculum does not include religious studies. Many parents send their children to Quranic schools either in addition to primary school or as their primary form of education.
The imams and administrative staff of the principal mosque in Conakry and the principal mosques in the main cities of the four regions are government employees. These mosques are directly under the administration of the government. Other mosques and some Christian groups receive government subsidies for pilgrimages.
The secretary general of religious affairs appoints national directors to lead the Offices of Christian Affairs, Islamic Affairs, Pilgrimages, Places of Worship, Economic Affairs and the Endowment, and Inspector General. The SRA is charged with promoting good relations among religious groups and coordinates with other members of the informal Interreligious Council, which is composed of Muslims and members from Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant churches, as well as the SRA.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The SRA continued to issue guidance outlining themes for discussion during Friday sermons at mosques and Sunday sermons in churches. The stated purpose of the weekly guidance was to harmonize religious views in order to prevent radical or political messages in sermons. Although the SRA did not monitor sermons at every mosque and church, its inspectors were present in every region and responsible for ensuring that mosque and church sermons were consistent with SRA directives. Clerics whom the SRA judged to be noncompliant were subject to disciplinary action. Deviations from approved guidance were often reported in various sermons at mosques and other Islamic events, but the SRA said it had difficulty imposing disciplinary sanctions. In October media reported the SRA sanctioned a Conakry imam, El Hadj Yaya Camara of Ratoma, for “serious misconduct.” The SRA removed him from office and forbade him to speak publicly of Islam throughout the territory of the country.
In partnership with the UN Population Fund, the government continued a project that began in late 2018 to prevent radicalization and extreme violence in the country’s at-risk areas, with a focus on Quranic schools and Franco-Arabic schools. The government organized a series of workshops throughout the country with religious leaders, teachers, students at Quranic schools, Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society to discuss regulation of such schools and to sensitize communities to the signs and dangers of radicalization and violent extremism.
In April the court of Kankan sentenced 13 persons to 30 years to life in prison for the January 2018 killing of a Saudi imam in Mandiana, Upper Guinea. All but one of the defendants fled the country and were tried in absentia.
Saudi Arabia’s annual quota of Hajj pilgrims from the country remained at 9,000 persons. The SRA organized the logistics, subsidized and facilitated the travel of 8,300 pilgrims, and fixed the year’s individual pilgrimage fare at 43 million Guinean francs ($4,600), with those who previously made the pilgrimage in the past five years paying 48 million Guinean francs ($5,100) to cover additional fees charged by Saudi Arabia.
The government continued to subsidize the travel of Christians to pilgrimages in the Holy Land, Greece, and Italy.
According to the SRA, several unregistered religious groups operated freely. The small Jehovah’s Witnesses community reportedly proselytized from house to house without interference, although neither it nor the Baha’i community requested official recognition. Some groups stated they preferred not to have a formal relationship with the SRA.
Representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said the religious group had official recognition from the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization under regulations for registering associations and NGOs, which must be renewed annually. The Jehovah’s Witnesses representatives said they sent annual reports of their activities to the SRA as well as to the ministry.
Islamic schools were prevalent throughout the country and remained the traditional forum for religious education. Some Islamic schools were wholly private, while others received local government support. Islamic schools, particularly common in the Fouta Djallon region, taught the compulsory government curriculum along with additional Quranic studies. Private Christian schools in Conakry and other large cities accepted students of all religious groups. They taught the compulsory curriculum but did not receive government support, and they held Christian prayers before school.
The government allocated free broadcast time on state-owned national television for Islamic and Christian programming, including Islamic religious instruction, Friday prayers from the central mosque, and church services. The government permitted religious broadcasting on privately owned commercial radio and encouraged equal time for Christian and Muslim groups.