In spite of its huge reserves of gold, bauxite, iron ore and widespread forests, Guinea is one of the least developed countries in the world. International Alert started its engagement in Guinea in 2006. At that time, Lansana Conté, president of Guinea since 1984, was still in power. Political tension had simmered for years as a government that tightly controlled electoral processes constantly challenged multi-party democracy. Division of power along ethnic lines between the Soussou, Peuhl and Malinke, lack of access to basic services, civil unrest and strikes, tensions among leaders and soldiers in the army, frustration among Guinean youth who complained about the ‘gerontocratic system’, politicisation of dialogue around social and economic issues and general collapse of state authority were some of the factors leading to fears of violent conflict erupting in the event of shifts in political power. The situation following the December 2008 suspension of the constitution and assumption of power by officers from within the military showed there was cause for worry. After months of tensions and uncertainty due to delays in holding the second round of elections in 2010, Alpha Condé won the poll and ended the military rule under Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. There were accusations that the 2010 election had been rigged and this resulted in violent clashes between defeated candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo’s supporters and security forces. On 17th November, a state of emergency was declared which imposed a curfew and granted the security forces additional powers. With parliamentary elections due to be held in December, the opposition is condemning the way in which elections are being organised and the fears of potential violent conflict erupting remain.
There is history of crisis leading to violence in the country. Economic and political stagnation have a real capacity to result in civil unrest. Without more effective involvement of civil society in political debate – and women’s voices central in this discussion – the fragile peace may break down. The leadership and peacebuilding skills of women and young people in particular, long marginalised by a culture that favours older men, need to be developed further so that the Guinea of the future is one in which all of its citizens feel they have a voice. Guinea has historically managed to avoid overtly violent conflicts, especially when compared to neighbouring countries. Nevertheless, there is much for the new government to accomplish, with the population holding high hopes for the future of the country.
Alert works to support and accompany emerging democratic processes in Guinea. We work to heighten the awareness and engagement of Guinean society as a whole in democratic processes, engaging with the government, civil society and citizenry. We contribute to increased confidence, dialogue and accord among business, political, religious and civil society leaders on previously divisive issues. We also work towards improved understanding of rural and urban communities on citizenship, elections, gender relations and governance. Due to our work, the international community is better informed, more effective, and more willing and able to use its influence in support of incremental positive change.
Guinea was controlled by current or former military officials from 1984 to the presidential elections of 2010. Given the lack of good governance practices for the past few decades, it is key that the transition to democratic and civilian government takes place with the input of all segments of society. The time is ripe for the voices of the people to be heard in their country’s changing political scene. The wishes, needs and realities of the people of the country must be reflected in policy and law.