Background Note: Guinea, December 2001

Contributed By RealAdventures

U.S. Department of State

Background Note: Guinea, December 2001


Republic of Guinea

Area: 245,860 sq. km. (95,000 sq. mi.), about the size of Oregon.
Cities: Capital--Conakry. Other cities--Guéckédou, Boké, Kindia, N'Zérékoré,
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--Guéckédou (348,053), Boké (294,314), Kindia (288,007),
N'Zérékoré (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
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: Red, yellow, and green vertical stripes.

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,
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, Côte 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
(Gerzé, 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
Touré, 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 Sékou Touré, 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
Sékou Touré as president.

Under Touré, 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, Touré 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,
Touré'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
Touré's paranoia ruined relations with foreign nations, including
neighboring African states, increasing Guinea's isolation and further
devastating its economy.

Sékou Touré 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 Conté
Prime Minister--Lamine Sidimé
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, Sékou Touré. 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

In mid-1996, in response to the coup attempt and a faltering economy,
President Conté appointed a new government as part of a flurry of reform
activity. He selected Sidya Touré, former chief of staff for the Prime
Minster of the Cote d'Ivoire, as Prime Minister, and appointed other
technically minded ministers. Touré was charged with coordinating all
government action, taking charge of leadership and management, as well as
economic planning and finance functions. In early 1997, Conté 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, Conté 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, Conté
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 Conté, 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 Conté 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 Conté. On October 17, it was announced that the long postponed
legislative elections would be held December 27, 2001.

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 Guinée
(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 Conté 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 Côte 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

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

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).

[end of document]

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