BTI 2012 | Guinea Country Report

Key Indicators
Population (mn.) 10.0 HDI 0.344 GDP p.c. ($) 1091
Pop. growth 1 (% p.a.) 2.2 HDI rank of 187 178 Gini Index 39.4
Life expectancy (years) 53 UN Education Index 0.246 Poverty 3 (%) 69.6
Urban population (%) 35.4 Gender inequality 2 - Aid per capitiva ($) 21.3
Sources: The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2011 | UNDP, Human Development Report 2011. Footnotes: (1) Average annual growth rate. (2) Gender Inequality Index (GII). (3) Percentage of population living on less than $2 a day.

Executive Summary

At the end of 2010, Guinea underwent one of the most significant transformations of its history. Presidential elections ushered in opportunities for a new era of openness and accountability to replace years of autocratic and often violent rule. The path to that point was dramatic: Guinea’s 50th anniversary of independence passed in late 2008 with its second president, Lansana Conté, still clinging to power. When he died in office a few months later, a middle-ranks coup d’état brought firebrand Moussa Dadis Camara to power. His “Dadis Show,” broadcast nightly on television, showed him ranting sometimes for hours in an enraged, often incoherent state. He conducted interrogations of various figures from the preceding government who were believed to have been involved with the international drugs trade, stealing the proceeds of Guinea’s mineral wealth, and pilfering the central bank until it was empty. As allegations grew that Dadis Camara’s government was continuing the same practices and it became clear that he did not intend to respect his promise to prepare elections and then leave, many Guineans began to call for him to step down. At the end of a September 2009 march calling for him to renounce the presidency, some of Dadis Camara’s most loyal units locked the marchers in a football stadium and opened fire on them, taking many women aside to gang rape them in public.

In the aftermath of this massacre, Dadis Camara’s own bodyguard, who had been designated to take the blame for the event, shot Dadis Camara in the head, who was then taken to Morocco for medical care. This set into motion a series of events that brought the junta’s number two figure, Sekouba Konaté, to power. Konaté agreed to organize elections and from January to November 2010, the Guinean government and its international partners did little else than focus on these elections. After second round campaigning that was marred by interethnic clashes, Alpha Condé was declared the winner in an election judged by international observers to have been credible. Condé was sworn in on 21 December 2010 and named his government over the course of the following weeks. Although the government is just beginning its work as the reporting period ends (January 2011), and it is difficult to judge its management performance, there are high hopes that Condé will begin reorganizing Guinea’s decrepit civil service, and that he will reinstate civilian control of the military, institute security sector reform, and that elections for the National Assembly and the municipal and communal posts will take place in 2011. Another central concern is putting in place contracts for Guinea’s many mining concessions that will bring the benefits of these resources to the Guinean people.

History and Characteristics of Transformation

In pre-colonial times much of Guinea’s territory was organized in the form of some sort of Islamic theocratic states, especially in the Fouta Djalon mountains and in Upper Guinea. In the coastal and forest regions, village chiefs ruled separated communities. France took an imperialistic interest in Guinea at the end of the 19th century. In Upper Guinea, which borders on the old kingdom of Mali, agricultural produce such as peanuts, cotton and other plants were produced that secured a connection to Senegal, Western Sudan (today: Mali) and the Sahel regions. The French could only establish their colonial state after violent wars against the resistance, which was headed by leaders of the interior like Almamy Samori Touré and Yaya Diallo.

Guinea first began to attract more attention when bauxite and other minerals were discovered there in the 1930s and once again after 1945 with the advent of France’s foreign aid to its African colonies (FIDES) for development. Investments were made primarily in infrastructure that facilitated mining. This development nurtured the formation of a working class that became the foundation for Guinea’s national movement, which was not the case in neighboring countries like Côte d’Ivoire or Mali. After World War II, a socialist trade union movement created an explosive amalgam of disaffected groups demanding self-government. On 28 September 1958, Guinea voted against General de Gaulle’s constitutional plans for a Communauté Française in all of French West Africa. France broke off all relations with Guinea, which declared independence on 2 October 1958 under President Sékou Touré.

Fed by ideals, illusions and ideologies, a new era of transformation began as the Cold War raged that pursued a nationalist vision of development. Guinea’s first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré, who became one of the important leaders of the non-aligned movement, wanted – or at least claimed – to eliminate the deficiencies of the colonial period, particularly in infrastructure and basic needs; he also wanted to end dependence on France and proposed to form an African community with Ghana and Mali. However, this plan failed to take into account the insufficient socioeconomic conditions: large ethnic, economic and regional discrepancies and an almost irreversible dependence on existing world trade structures. But Guinea, as the first francophone country in Africa to declare independence (after Britain’s Gold Coast became Ghana in 1957), received support from the socialist countries, and also from the United States and West Germany. Soon Sékou Touré’s regime (first republic until 1982, second republic with a new constitution in 1982) became a dictatorship, infamous for its torture camps where numerous alleged opposition members were detained and often died. Sekou Touré’s Guinea also became notorious worldwide for its long series of invented and real coup attempts. After Sékou Touré’s death in 1984, the military seized power under Colonel Lansana Conté.

After the end of the Cold War, a new multiparty constitution (1991 – third republic) was introduced that contained a formal orientation towards democracy and market economy. Economic policies focused on the government-owned mining sector and other state or parastatal enterprises. In the 1990s, a more liberal society developed and the economy flourished. But President Conté never intended to create a genuine democracy – that is, to allow for a change of power. Manipulated elections, oppression and intimidation poisoned the political climate, if less so than under Sékou Touré. Though Conté sometimes named a prime minister as nominal head of government, the position has no constitutional status, and all of his prime ministers found themselves relatively powerless. The generosity of international donors towards the regime did not translate into improved economic development. After boycotted parliamentary and presidential elections in 2002 and 2003, respectively, Guinea’s economy began to deteriorate severely, a situation clearly aggravated by President Conté’s illness. From the beginning of the 1990s, Guinea was also seriously affected by civil wars in neighboring countries Sierra Leone (1991 – 2002), Liberia (1989 – 2003) and in Côte d’Ivoire (since 2002). At times, there were nearly one million refugees in the country of eight million. Three general strikes in 2006 and 2007 culminated in mass demonstrations in Conakry and other cities in January-February 2007. These demonstrations were ruthlessly suppressed by the security forces but they did force the government to negotiate with civil society actors and trade union leaders, resulting in a consensus government that was supposed to shift effective powers to Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate. Kouyate was sacked a year later, and the Conté government limped along until his death in December 2008.

Transformation Status

I. Political Transformation

1 | Stateness

Monopoly on the use of force

The newly elected government inherits a security apparatus that has successfully defended the national territory against incursions. With limitations regarding public security in the form of crime, the state’s monopoly on the use of force is in place throughout the country. However, the army is also the institution that has provided Guinea’s rulers for the last 26 years, and many officers will not be happy about having their political and economic perks diminished. For this reason, civilian control of the military is limited. The army has also recently absorbed many of the militia members recruited and trained during the period of the 2009 Dadis Camara regime. These elements could be even harder to control than the rest of the security forces.

State identity

Most Guineans accept their nation-state as legitimate, especially now that there is an elected head of state, and the security forces have ceased preying on civilians. However, the highly contentious elections left many ethnic Fulbe feeling that their group has been subtly rejected as first-class citizens by the rest of the Guinean population. While this may not be true, the reality of the sentiment and its relatively broad acceptance amongst ethnic Fulbe may be the source of future problems.

No interference of religious dogmas

The state remains officially secular, and there is no persecution of religious minorities. However, over the course of the last decade, both the Conté and the Dadis Camara governments brought religious figures closer to the forefront of state activities. This included the formation of a Ministry of Religious Affairs, but this ministry has not so far been reproduced in the new government.

Basic administration

Spurred in particular by the organization of presidential elections in 2010, Guinea began to rebuild a territorial administration that had crumbled over the past decade. The new government’s biggest challenge will be to replace this administration made up of military officers with one consisting of civilians, while still attempting to maintain a high degree of rigor, communication and answerability by each civil servant to his or her superiors.

2 | Political Participation

Free and fair elections

Guinea’s 2010 presidential elections were generally credible and fair as judged by international observers, though instances of electoral violence occurred before the elections and after the second round on 7 November 2010; there were also allegations of fraudulent practices. Before the Supreme Court validated the results, Cellou Dalein Diallo, the second round opponent of winner Diallo, also declared victory and only accepted the results after the court’s verdict. The electoral situation had actually improved considerably between 2005 and 2008, but was then set back again by the 2008 coup d’état. However, at the time of this writing, legislative elections have not been held yet. The return to democracy should be strengthened and completed by legislative and municipal elections slated to take place in 2011– 2012.

Effective power to govern

The newly elected government inherits a dual legacy. On the one hand, Guinea’s strong socialist state (1958 – 1984) held an almost unlimited effective power to govern. On the other hand, the two military governments that succeeded the socialist state between 1984 and 2010 were closely tied to the military and to some hand-picked business partners. While the new government will presumably try to emphasize the first legacy, still-entrenched military and economic interests are likely to exercise veto powers in some areas for years to come.

Association / assembly rights

The rights of assembly grew significantly over the last decade, whether despite or because of often vicious repression by the security forces in the past. The new constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association. Generally, associations and political parties can form relatively freely. Activities were severely limited during the Conté and Dadis Camara administrations. By contrast, the new government has shown no signs of limiting this right thus far. However, Guinean law imposes restrictions on freedom of assembly and prohibits any meeting (or political party) that has an ethnic or racial character on the grounds that this may threaten “national unity.” As reported by the U.S. State Department, the transition government banned public meetings on six occasions in 2010, claiming it wanted to avoid further electoral violence. However, all political parties agreed to this measure and the population generally respected these bans.

Freedom of expression

As with assembly, free expression in newspapers, radio broadcasts and in public has blossomed over the last five years. Private radio stations, only legalized in 2006 and enormously powerful in a society where the majority do not read or write, have sometimes shown themselves prone to inflammatory and irresponsible reporting. This, and criticism of the military junta, have led to some stations being temporarily closed. Print journalists have already agreed upon ethical guidelines that help diminish interference by the state. This kind of journalistic self-governance, combined with the arrival of the elected civilian government, should lead to an even higher degree of press freedom in the coming years. In the Index of Global Press Freedom 2010, Guinea ranked 157th and was considered to be “not free,” which at least partially reflects the situation before the transition to democracy.

3 | Rule of Law

Separation of powers

Since independence in 1958, Guinea’s executive branch has exercised overbearing influence on the other branches of government. This pre-eminence has been written into Guinea’s constitutions, and successive presidents have actively intervened in the workings of the judiciary and the legislature. This problem was accentuated by the opposition parties’ boycott of the 2000 legislative elections. Although the military junta dissolved the National Assembly in 2009, and the National Transitional Council that replaced it is seen as representative of the various social, political and ethnic constituencies of the country, it was put in place by presidential fiat, and has yet to be replaced by an elected body. The judiciary has fought with limited success to retain a measure of independence, but most Guineans view the statutory justice system as systematically favoring those with more money or more powerful political connections.

Independent judiciary

The judiciary in Guinea comes under significant pressures from the executive in cases involving political figures. One of the persistent claims of the Dadis Camara junta that took power in December 2008 was that they would reverse this trend, and indeed many people perceived to have been involved in criminal activities under the Conté government were arrested early on under Dadis Camara’s rule. However, most of the accused were subjected to televised interrogations conducted by President Dadis Camara (known in Guinea as the “Dadis Show”) instead of being brought to justice within a court system. In most cases, the accused, after being publicly humiliated, then apologizing, and in some cases promising to repay stolen money, were then released. Guineans badly want an independent and neutral judiciary, the lack of which has allowed not only soldiers to kill and rape civilians with impunity but also permitted Latin American drug cartels to operate freely in the country. However, it is still too early to know what steps Alpha Condé’s government will take in this direction.

Prosecution of office abuse

One of the greatest complaints Guineans voiced about the Conté government was that those who held public office broke the law with impunity, being (rarely) subject to prosecution and only if they fell out of favor with the president. The political theater of the “Dadis Show,” which publicly identified and humiliated those who abused their positions, temporarily served to prosecute the accused. The new government has promised to clamp down on malfeasance by civil servants and political appointees. There is massive public support for such efforts, although most Guineans remain skeptical of tangible gains.

Civil rights

It is expected that the new government will do considerable more to protect civil rights than the military governments preceding it, which not only killed unarmed civilians on multiple occasions, but were also perceived to have specifically targeted the Fulbe ethnic group for political and general repression. One sign of the new government’s commitment to protecting civil rights is its announcement that it will pursue the prosecution of those responsible for massacres of political protesters under the Dadis Camara junta. As of early 2011, however, civil rights, though improved upon, are still severely limited.

4 | Stability of Democratic Institutions

Performance of democratic institutions

Democratic institutions exist in Guinea, and are legally prescribed by the constitution. The election of President Condé will, it is hoped, usher in a new era in which these institutions are applied. Another factor pushing in the same direction is the fact that Guineans have grown far more outspoken in demanding the effective democratic protections to which they are entitled by law. While not democratically elected, the de facto legislative body (the National Transitional Council) is independent of the executive and can exercise some functions as a counterweight. This is less true of the judiciary.

Commitment to democratic institutions

The new government has put into place a government that is largely technocratic, though there are some holdovers from prior governments. This was presumably the result of negotiations intended to incorporate potential veto actors within the government. The military, which has demonstrated deep contempt toward attempts to impose checks and balances on its power, poses the greatest threat to democratic institutions. The military will potentially lose access to significant rents if truly democratic institutions are put into place.

5 | Political and Social Integration

Party system

The political party system in Guinea is now 20 years old, and the leader of the oldest and best-organized opposition party in the country, the Rally for the Guinean People (RPG), won the recent presidential elections. There are two or three other political parties with national organization and reach, and many others that have formed around a single charismatic figure. Programmatic differences are shallow at best. The recent elections demonstrated that a significant amount of voting took place along ethnic lines, though there were important exceptions to this tendency. Nonetheless, the second round of elections, which featured opposing candidates belonging to the two country’s two largest ethnic groups, significantly exacerbated party and interethnic polarization. President Condé’s new cabinet, which was less ethnically representative than most preceding Guinean governments, has not done as much as it could to diminish this polarization.

Interest groups

The extreme violence and repression of the Guinean governments over the past decade have forged a very coherent network of civil society groups in Guinea. Despite the interest of various outside actors in fostering this growth, it has mostly happened organically and in response to local perceptions of injustice and criminality within government. For this reason, it has been both flexible and tenacious, and played a major role in the push toward reform and elections from 2006 to 2010. Trade unions have been in the forefront of this movement, but women’s collectives, youth organizations, journalists’ groups and professional associations have all played significant roles. The leaders of the main religions have alienated some Guineans by more often siding with the government.

Approval of democracy

There is no survey data available on public opinion regarding democracy in Guinea, but Guinean citizens have shown themselves ready to organize, demonstrate, and to even die for securing the right to choose those who represent them and to send home those who do a poor job. After 52 years of autocratic rule, no term limits, and little separation of powers, this is a mostly unprecedented experiment in Guinea, and may be accompanied both by great enthusiasm and by unrealistic expectations. Like many other West Africans, Guineans retain some skepticism about democracy, and are keenly aware that a credible presidential election is one small step toward the broader set of institutions and practices that constitute democracy.

Social capital

There are many voluntary groups in Guinea, partly because this has become one of the ways to gain access to donor funds, but also because it has been the way that many Guineans have managed under extremely difficult economic and repressive political circumstances. Solidarity among these groups is limited in part due to perceived competition for the same donor funds, and in part because the recent elections fomented social and political polarization.

II. Economic Transformation

6 | Level of Socioeconomic Development

Socioeconomic barriers

Guinea has long been one of the poorest countries in the world in which poverty was equally shared. However, in the last decade, Guinea’s population has become increasingly impoverished and unequal as some Guineans and expatriates have become spectacularly rich, while the poorest Guineans are poorer than ever before. Guinean women’s active political and economic participation was promoted by the government during the socialist period (1958 – 1984), and though subsequent governments actively rolled back some of those policies, Guinean women have remained a visible, vocal and important part of political, social and economic life. It is not clear that the new government will be able to reverse any time soon the growing poverty and inequality, although efforts to contain criminal economic activities might help to diminish inequality. Serious shortcomings are reflected by all available indicators: Guinea ranks 170th in the Human Development Index in 2010. More than 87% of the population live on less than $2 a day; the literacy rate stands at 38% only (26% among women).


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Sources: The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2011 | International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Outlook 2011 | Stockholm International Pease Research Institute (SIPRI), Military Expenditure Database 2011.

7 | Organization of the Market and Competition

Market-based competition

The Guinean state has frequently intervened on behalf of chosen economic partners, especially in the mining, construction and import-export sectors. There has been little popular pressure for free market reforms since Guineans’ experience with free market capitalism has so far yielded few (if any) benefits for the vast majority of Guineans. Instead, free market capitalism is assumed to have enriched a few elites and their international partners in a way many Guineans consider illegitimate. Many Guineans have therefore tended to orient their economic activities toward the informal sector. On the Heritage Foundation’s 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, Guinea ranks 137th, one rank down in comparison to 2010 and well below the world and sub-Saharan average. It is considered “mostly unfree.”

Anti-monopoly policy

The formation of monopolies, particularly in the key mining sector, is subject to infrequent monitoring. There is no anti-cartel legislation. Except for the mobile phone sector, there is little competition between different companies. Bribed state contracts, fraud and general suppression exercised by the security forces have led to sharply unequal market conditions, which will be one of the most difficult aspects of the political economy for the new government to dismantle.

Liberalization of foreign trade

At least partially due to donor pressures (particularly the IMF), foreign trade has been liberalized; the state does not formally intervene in foreign trade. The existing contractual arrangements are too lenient. This particularly applies to the treatment of foreign investments and stockholding. There are as of yet no restrictions or controls on payments, transactions, transfers or repatriation of profits.

Banking system

The banking and financial sector underwent both internal and external deregulation in the 1990s. Further measures to strengthen bank supervision are being implemented according to IMF recommendations, but banks in Guinea still do not meet the highest international standards. The banking system has expanded slightly with investments from the south (Nigeria, Morocco and India). According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the banking system has been gaining public confidence in recent years. A serious impediment for the financial sector remains the dependence of the Central Bank of Guinea (BCRG) on the office of the president. Guinea has accomplished two of four convergence criteria of the West African Monetary Institute, which is intended to prepare for a second monetary zone.

II. Market Economy

8 | Currency and Price Stability

Anti-inflation / forex policy

The government has liberalized foreign exchange. In contrast to most other West African countries, Guinea is not a member of the CFA franc zone, which pegs the CFA franc to the euro. Inflation in Guinea is therefore generally relatively high. According to estimates by the Economist Intelligence Unit, inflation fell from 18.4% in 2008 to 9.0% in 2009, but increased to at least 15.0% in 2010 (other estimates place this at a rate above 17%). However, the new government is under tremendous pressure to increase the provision of services while keeping promises to raise soldiers’ salaries. Prices for fuel and foodstuffs are also rising rapidly, thus the temptation to continue printing more Guinean francs will be strong.


Prior attempts to create the conditions for macroeconomic stability have primarily run up against the entrenched economic interests of those controlling the government. Despite this, some advances were made between 2005 and 2008. However, the military junta named a 35 year-old officer with an undergraduate degree in economics as finance minister, and the looting spree that took place during their short reign reportedly nullified all advances made during the previous regime. In 2010 the process of reforms began again with former central banker Kerfalla Yansane serving as Minister of Finance and Economy under both the Konate transitional government and the elected Condé government. Because of the high level of civil unrest and calls by both the population and civil society for the government to ease the suffering caused by high prices, the government has frequently fixed fuel and foodstuff prices.

9 | Private Property

Property rights

Property rights are not adequately protected. Business and industrial property rights and property acquisition are legally defined with regard to the acquisition, use, benefits and sale of property; yet those attempting to exercise those rights face substantial barriers in the oppressive state structures. In rural areas, most land titles are communally defined. According to assessments conducted by the Heritage Foundation, property rights in Guinea are enforced through a corrupt and inefficient legal and administrative system, and the administration of justice is beleaguered by poorly trained magistrates and.

Private enterprise

Guinea was ranked by the World Bank at 179th (out of 183) for ease of doing. Scores were particularly low for ease of opening a business, protecting investors and paying taxes. Scores were somewhat better for enforcing contracts. Guinea has recently instituted an arbitration court to settle contract disputes. Interference in business by the leaders of the junta should be replaced in coming years by more responsible state practices.

10 | Welfare Regime

Social safety nets

The social safety net system has been undercut by the criminalized, dysfunctional governments of the past decade. Its restoration is one of the main expectations of the Guinean public now that an elected government is in place. Social security or other retirement schemes, provision of state-funded healthcare and even public education have fallen into a state of decay that has pushed toward private education and medical care those few Guineans who can afford it. Guinean state expenditures on health are second to last in the world among those countries for which figures exist.

Equal opportunity

The Guinean constitution guarantees equality of opportunity, though there is no specific legislation to support this ideal. However, strong positive discrimination policies under the socialist government ensured that a relatively high percentage of girls received education, that women were actively recruited into the police and customs agencies, and that one half of National Assembly members were women. Although the Condé government has abandoned or even rolled back some of these initiatives, women enjoy a prominent position in Guinea today, as in the case of Rabiatou Serah Diallo, a leading trade unionist and the president of the transitional legislative body. The military junta excluded ethnic Fulbe from full economic and political participation to an extent not seen since the 1970s, and Guineans are now watching carefully to see the extent to which the elected government reverses this trend.

11 | Economic Performance

Output strength

GDP per capita ($1,058 adjusted for PPP) is among the lowest in the world. Compounding this problem is the fact that income inequality is very high, as is youth unemployment. Guinea’s growth rates are not sufficient to overcome this problem. Due to the international crisis, Guinea’s economy shrunk in 2009 by 3.5% according to EIU estimates and grew by only 3.0% in 2010. Because so much activity has shifted toward either the criminal or informal sectors, tax revenues are low and foreign investment has dropped considerably despite considerable interest in the country’s mineral resources. Moderating these negative trends, inflation fell to a more manageable 9.0% in 2009 (though it increased to at least 15% in 2010 again). Responsible management of mining contracts could inject a great deal of money into the national coffers, and some proposed minerals-for-infrastructure deals with China could benefit Guineans in direct ways, though they might not be apparent in traditional economic indicators.

12 | Sustainability

Environmental policy

Guinea has had environmental legislation in place since 1993, but it has rarely been enforced. There have been industrial accidents at mining facilities and a Chinese timber company has been accused of clear-cutting what remains of the tropical rainforest in the southeast of the country without regard for the environment. Guinea ranks 136th out of 163 countries on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

Education policy / R&D

The Guinean educational system is one of the sectors that has suffered most from the slide into poor governance that has characterized the past decade. It has also suffered from the legacy of an educational system during the Touré era in which ideology exacerbated the weak operation of schools. An area of particular concern for many Guineans today is that the major school exams regulating entrance into secondary and then tertiary education are seen to have been debased by a system of corruption and falsified results. Female students often report being subject to sexual harassment by teachers from secondary schools through university, and poorly paid primary school teachers in rural areas often use students as laborers to help them farm land so as to provide a livable wage. Some private general and, more recently, professional schools have appeared. In 2006, a new campus of the Conakry University opened in Sonfonia with a faculty of social sciences. There are few research and development institutions. According to the 2010 Human Development Report, only 1.7% of GDP is spent on education

Transformation Management


I. Level of Difficulty

Structural constraints

Structural constraints on governance in Guinea include poor infrastructure and extreme poverty. A relatively low percentage of Guineans have completed secondary or tertiary education, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed. Considering their overall low numbers, this does not necessarily represent a constraint at the moment. A newly elected government carries the expectations of the country on its shoulders, and has promised to restore governance to acceptable levels, thus increasing social and economic well-being for most Guineans. The military remains one of the major potential “spoilers” in the process, since genuine economic and political reforms will require weaning the military of the many rents to which it feels entitled.

Civil society traditions

Over the course of the socialist period, there was little opportunity for civil society to establish itself, and for at least a decade following there was little in the way of a vibrant civil society in Guinea, particularly in comparison to neighboring countries. However, the catastrophic management of state affairs from about 2005 provided an impetus for a variety of actors, including trade unionists, NGO employees, members of professional organizations and ordinary citizens to join forces in the name of political change. As a consequence, Guinea is in the process of developing a strong tradition of civil society which should be able to flourish under the new democratic dispensation.

Conflict intensity

Guineans have a strong sense of national identity and unity, which has helped them avoid the descent into civil war that has plagued most of their neighbors. Despite this, the military junta that held power in 2009 – 2010 tended to excluded ethnic Fulbe, and the subsequent 2010 elections further heightened a sense of ethnic polarization, especially between ethnic Fulbe and Malinke. During the campaign period, there were several violent clashes of an intercommunal nature. If the new government fails to deal with these issues in a forthright manner, they are likely to grow and could eventually pose a genuine threat to the country’s stability.

II. Management Performance

14 | Steering Capability


The military junta was chaotic and operated according to the whims of its unpredictable leader, Moussa Dadis Camara. The newly elected president, Alpha Condé, is a former university professor from a very well-reputed French university who has named some technocrats to his new government. Condé has identified the agricultural sector as a key priority and has also acknowledged popular demands for improved access to water, electricity and usable roads. However, it is still too early on in the current government’s tenure to properly to judge its activities in this regard. Nevertheless, the prospects for implementing medium-to-long-term plans look considerably improved.


The transitional government has by and large successfully handled the transition to an elected government, though, as indicated elsewhere, not flawlessly. The newly elected government has enormous good will backing it, but faces powerful resistance by those with longstanding vested interests. However, many members of the military establishment have lost credibility as the levels of crime and violence in the past five years have risen. Also, a large number of the highest echelon of officers from the Conté period died during the period 2006 – 2009. Still, the challenge posed by the military and their business partners is likely to remain significant.

Policy learning

Over the past decade, most learning and flexibility have been focused on strategies for evading the demands for transparency and accountability in economic governance. The new government will have to deal with the legacy of a set of practices which implicitly accepted theft at lower levels of the civil service in return for complicity with the grand theft taking place at the highest levels of government. Given that such actions were severely punished during the socialist period, there are both positive and negative legacies on which the new government can draw, but the process is likely to be challenging for years into the future.

15 | Resource Efficiency

Efficient use of assets

Since prior governments have been more focused on pillaging the national coffers than on providing services to the people, there has been no effective use of assets. Technocrats in the newly elected government may work to instill a new ethos within the administration, but this will take concerted effort over several years, given the historical practice of devolving the level of illicit gains in return for various forms of complicity with the political elite’s grand-scale theft. Building capacity is a long-term project and only minor successes in the use of assets and reform in general may be expected in the near future.

Policy coordination

The Guinean state’s ability to coordinate policy has gradually diminished from what, during the socialist period, was a high level of coherence and centralized control. A low level of policy coordination was particular true for the later years of the Conté administration; the levels and quality of policy coordination during the transitional (military rule) after Conté’s death and the military coup are difficult to assess but certainly did not reach advanced levels given the lack of experience of the people involved. Since the inauguration of the elected government in December 2010, Guineans have expected the elected government to reinstate a system similar to that in place during the socialist post-colonial rule. Political accommodation of powerful and well-connected elites will make it difficult to stringently pursue a well orchestrated reform process.

Anti-corruption policy

The new government includes a Ministry for Audits and Financial and Economic Oversight. If this ministry fulfills its duties, it will satisfy one of the demands of the electorate. A similar body existed within the junta, but its credibility suffered as a result of accusations of fraud by its own staff, and undercut by the bizarre televised kangaroo court proceedings of the “Dadis Show,” wherein the head of the junta publicly interrogated those accused of high-level corruption, often extracted confessions from them, and sentenced the accused on the spot.

16 | Consensus-Building

Consensus on goals

There is widespread consensus on the democratic values of alternation, term limits and balance of powers, even if many Guineans are nervous about elections serving as a catalyst to intercommunal strife and some forms of crime. Although the military might oppose these principles, they have undermined their own power by abusing public trust over the past years. While there is also a great deal of consensus on the need for the state to provide more services to its citizens, there is much less agreement on how this can best be executed. Guineans’ experience with a market economy has largely been that of a shift from uniformly shared poverty under socialism to even deeper poverty for most, and fabulous wealth for a few under the aegis of neoliberal reforms. Labor unions, which have been prime movers in organizing civil society, have frequently called for the government to set price ceilings (thus effectively to underwrite) the cost of fuel and foodstuffs, a position that many ordinary Guineans support, as it would ostensibly make their lives easier.

Anti-democratic actors

There are two types of potential anti-democratic actors in Guinea: the military and ethnic blocs and their leaders. The military as an institution could cause problems, either when the rank-and-file feels that it has been forgotten or when the officers resent losing too many of their old privileges and rents. The other potential spoilers, ethnic blocs and their leaders, namely the ethnic Fulbe (who comprise about one-third of the population) or the ethnic Kpelle (who comprise about 5% of the population and who could gain support from other groups in the southeastern rainforest region of the country) have the potential to press their cases by using (or threatening to use) force. Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara was a member of the Kpelle, who feel he was unfairly made the scapegoat for the junta’s misdeeds.

Cleavage / conflict management

The two main cleavages are that between civilians and the military and that between the two largest ethnic groups, the Malinke (of which President Condé is a member) and the Fulbe (of which his second-round opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo is a member). So far, Condé and his government seem to be maintaining productive relations with the military. The same cannot be said of Diallo’s backers. This appears to be in part due to the fact that Diallo and his supporters refused to take positions in Condé’s cabinet, and in part due to the fact that Condé has offered only a few relatively unimportant ministries to ethnic Fulbe. President Condé’s new cabinet is less ethnically representative than most prior Guinean governments and tilted towards a single (Malinke) ethnic group.

Civil society participation

Civil society in Guinea has become adept at forcing itself into government discussions having to do with the quotidian concerns of the population. Though it is still too early to know for sure how open the Condé government will be to civil society initiatives, they surely know that they have limited choice in the matter, especially with the former trade unionist, Rabiatou Diallo, as the head of the transitional legislative body. It is also likely that international financial institutions will press for greater civil society involvement in economic reform.

Guinea has much to accomplish in terms of reconciling past injustices, which include several cases since 2007 of massacres of civilians and other cases of abuse subject to inflammatory debates. As one of the only actors on the political scene not to have been part of any prior government, President Condé is relatively free to deal with this issue as he pleases. He has stated that the perpetrators of the military’s 2009 massacre of civilians will be punished. However, there is a widespread fear that pushing this agenda too far too fast might derail other objectives related to instilling civilian control of the military and creating a functioning government almost from scratch.

17 | International Cooperation

Effective use of support

The new government recognizes that the job ahead is daunting, and donor funds will be almost essential to satisfying the expectations of the people. The dire need for infrastructure for the supply of electricity and water dovetails with donor interests (both in World Bank and Chinese forms), as does the need to revamp health and education delivery. President Condé’s stated desire to focus on agriculture seems less promising, given that heavily subsidized agricultural goods from Europe, Asia and North America pose a significant challenge to Guinea’s economy. Whether the government can successfully juggle these competing agendas remains to be seen. The government also needs assistance in coming to terms with civil-military relations.


The newly elected government’s credibility is currently quite high, compared as it is to the rapacious practices of the past. Given all of Guinea’s many needs, however, this credibility among donors as well as the Guinean people will probably be short-lived. It seems that the technocrats in government are likely to foster good working relations with donors, though they will eventually come under many and different pressures, which could mean that some of the worst practices of the past are reproduced.

Regional cooperation

Guinea generally is less integrated in regional bodies than many other Francophone countries. This is particularly mirrored by the fact that Guinea does not belong to the CFA franc zone. However, President Condé has longstanding relations with most of the political class of West Africa. Although these relations are not in every case friendly (e.g., Condé has close ties with Alassane Outtara, the internationally recognized but not-yet governing president of Cote d’Ivoire), there is no reason why the Condé government should not maintain good relations with its neighbors. Again, the government is likely to shine in comparison to its predecessor Guinean governments, which have been aggressive and ruthless.

Strategic Outlook

Guinea begins this review period with the best start it has had in decades. President Alpha Condé was elected at the end of a hard-fought campaign that threatened to devolve into violence, but Guineans, with support from regional and international actors, stayed the course. Nonetheless, the country faces three major challenges that will have significant effects on the way forward. First, the level of generalized poverty, unemployment and the dilapidated infrastructure will present development and social challenges for at least a decade to come. Second, the legacy of the executive’s overly strong arm in government (and the constitutional support for it) will exert a strong pull on the newly elected government to exercise the prerogatives of an imperial presidency, and perhaps delay legislative and municipal elections. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Guinean army will remain potential veto actors for many years to come.

In order to deal with the challenge of rebuilding Guinea’s economy and infrastructure, Guinea needs a three-way partnership amongst government, donors and private interests to take action. Use of such mechanisms as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s “Publish What You Pay” scheme and other economic governance strengthening mechanisms could help rebuild a functioning civil service and make funds available for development and infrastructure. Given Guinea’s significant subsoil wealth, emphasis should be placed on negotiating contracts that provide transparent revenues for the government, and government should be held accountable for spending that money responsibly in a way that benefits all Guineans. Development funds should only be disbursed within a context that complements such revenues and that has envisioned the obsolescence of donor funding once specific benchmarks are met. This will help ensure that aid funds contribute to long-term growth and poverty eradication.

The problem of the imperial presidency will have to be taken up by government, the political parties and civil society actors. It would help for international partners to continue some of the civic education activities begun in 2010 in the lead-up to the presidential elections. These activities help emphasize the importance of a representative and fairly elected legislature to act as a counterbalance to the executive branch of government. Finally, there is a role (already being developed) for actors (e.g., the subregional body ECOWAS, the European Union, and the United Nations) to join in vitally important security sector reform activities that can help downsize the military, reroute militia members who have been incorporated into the army, and instill republican values amongst officers and soldiers. The military, currently estimated to number 40,000, needs to return to its previous size of 8,000 to 10,000. This process promises to be expensive, long-term and politically delicate. It is, however, essential if Guinea is to avoid falling into a cycle of elections and coups such as that plaguing its neighbor, Guinea Bissau.

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