The 2021 Transition Charter states that the country is a secular state and that any act undermining its secular nature or an individual’s religious freedom is to be considered a “high crime” punishable by fines and imprisonment. The penal code provides for freedom of worship “under the conditions and in the forms provided for by law.” The penal code states that any individual who through assault or threats prevents one or more persons from practicing their religion is punishable by one to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to one million Guinean francs ($58-$117). The penal code also states that preventing, delaying, or interrupting religious practices in a place of worship by public disturbance is punishable by two to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to one million Guinean francs ($58-$117). In addition, the penal code states that any person who in any way desecrates a place of worship or objects of worship within the place of worship may be punished by six months to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to one million Guinean francs ($58-$117). Anyone who insults a religious leader in the function of his or her duties may be punished by six months to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 to one million Guinean francs ($58-$117). If the individual also threatens, assaults, or injures the religious leader, the punishment is increased to two to five years’ imprisonment, with the same fine.
In addition, the Transition Charter stipulates two religious community members serve as representatives on the 81-member CNT, the country’s current legislative body, installed in February. An assistant to the Grand Imam of Conakry (who also serves as the second vice president of the CNT), and the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau were the two members named respectively by the Islamic and Christian councils of the country.
The Transition Charter did not change the laws and processes applicable to the registration of religious groups or the overall authorities of the SRA. 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 ($29). 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 imported 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 (madrassahs), 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 country’s 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 SRA appoints national directors to lead the Offices of Christian Affairs, Islamic Affairs, Pilgrimages, Places of Worship, Economic Affairs, the Endowment, and Inspector General, which all fall under the SRA. 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 the SRA and representatives from the Islamic faith and the Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant churches.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On September 15, the SRA stated that Imam Elhadj Yaya Camara was prohibited from “preaching or speaking in the name of Islam in public” after he committed what the SRA termed “gross misconduct.” The SRA acted a few days after Camara posted a video on Facebook in which he criticized President of the Transition Mamadi Doumbouya and denounced the high cost of living. He also stated that many Guineans no longer supported Doumbouya. In 2019, the country’s previous government removed Yaya Camara from his duties as imam of the mosque of Kignifi village, a Conakry suburb, after Yaya Camara opposed a third term for then-President Alpha Conde, whom Doumbouya toppled in 2021. Yaya Camara immediately appealed the September decision to the Supreme Court, which denied his appeal on December 1. His lawyer said that his client was never summoned to testify before the religious authorities who had prohibited him from preaching.
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 to prevent radical or political messages in sermons. Although the SRA did not monitor sermons at every mosque and church, its inspectors continued to be present in every region and were responsible for ensuring that mosque and church sermons were consistent with SRA directives. The SRA continued to discipline clerics it judged to be noncompliant through warnings, temporary suspensions, and permanent dismissals. Although deviations from approved guidance were often reported in various sermons at mosques and other Islamic events, the SRA said it continued to have difficulty imposing disciplinary sanctions due to a lack of funding and resources.
According to the SRA, Imam Elhadj Moussa Doumbouya, whom the SRA barred from preaching in 2021 for violating a COVID-19 ban on evening prayers during Ramadan, was permitted to resume preaching in March. He replaced another imam at a mosque in the Senkefara, Upper Guinea.
A Wahhabi mosque located in Misside Hinde, which local religious authorities in Labe in Middle Guinea had closed in September 2021, reopened for Friday prayers in February following a conflict-resolution mission carried out by the SRA Secretary General the same month. The mosque had been closed for noncompliance with government guidance regarding places of worship, following a complaint from a more moderate Tijaniyah Sufi group in the area. The SRA Secretary General also utilized the mission to meet Tijani and Sunni groups, whose continuing disagreements, according to the SRA, indicated a lack of respect for each other’s interpretations of Islamic religious practices and teaching methods in mosques and in Quranic learning centers, and differing adherence to SRA regulations.
Some religious groups stated they preferred not to have a formal relationship with the SRA. For example, although formally registered with the SRA, the Baha’is did not take part in activities initiated by the SRA in order to maximize internal control over their own religious practices.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been registered in the country since 1993 as a religious association. In September, the organization applied to renew their registration, but the procedure was not completed by year’s end due to administrative processing delays, according to the group’s local president.
The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca resumed in July after a two-year suspension caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SRA authorized travel for 4,527 pilgrims.
Islamic schools continued to be 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 highland area, taught the compulsory government curriculum, along with additional Quranic studies. Private Christian schools in Conakry and other large cities continued to accept students of all religious groups. These schools taught the compulsory curriculum without government support and held voluntary Christian prayers before school.
Many Muslim students not enrolled in private Islamic schools continued to receive religious education at madrassahs, some of which were associated with mosques and others supported by local communities. Unlike Islamic schools, the madrassahs did not teach the compulsory primary school curriculum. The government did not recognize the madrassahs nor require them to register, allowing them to operate freely. They focused on Quranic studies, and instruction was in Arabic rather than the French used in most other schools. Funds from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf states supported some madrassahs. Most students in madrassahs also attended part-time public or private schools that taught the compulsory curriculum.
The government continued to allocate free broadcast time on state-owned national television for Islamic and Christian programming, including Islamic religious instruction, Friday prayers, and church services. The government permitted religious broadcasting on privately owned commercial radio and encouraged equal time for Christian and Muslim groups.