Organization: Freedom House
Type of publication: Report
Date of the publication: 2022
*Les Wathinotes sont des extraits de publications choisies par WATHI et conformes aux documents originaux. Les rapports utilisés pour l’élaboration des Wathinotes sont sélectionnés par WATHI compte tenu de leur pertinence par rapport au contexte du pays. Toutes les Wathinotes renvoient aux publications originales et intégrales qui ne sont pas hébergées par le site de WATHI, et sont destinées à promouvoir la lecture de ces documents, fruit du travail de recherche d’universitaires et d’experts.
Guinea experienced a transition to civilian rule in 2010, following a 2008 military coup and decades of authoritarian governance. The subsequent years were marked by ethnic division, corruption, a crackdown on dissent, and the abuse of civilians by security forces. Military officers launched another coup in September 2021, suspending the constitution and detaining the president. The junta vowed to preside over a return to civilian rule but did not immediately set a date for elections.
- Electoral Process
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
The president was elected by popular vote for up to two six-year terms under the 2020 constitution. That constitution included language that was interpreted as a reset of the term count for then president Alpha Condé, who had already served two five-year terms under the previous constitution. Condé won a third term in the October 2020 election; the immediate postelection period was marred by a violent crackdown on opposition protests in Conakry along with disruptions to telecommunications service.
In September 2021, military commanders led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya overthrew the government. Condé was initially held incommunicado by the junta, though he was sent to house arrest in November and remained there at year’s end. Later in September, the junta introduced a transitional charter, which established the CNRD—headed by Doumbouya—as a transitional governing body. CNRD members are prohibited from contesting future elections. Doumbouya was sworn in as interim president on October 1, serving a term with no specified end date. Later that month, Mohamed Béavogui, a civilian, was appointed as prime minister.
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
The National Assembly had 114 seats; 76 members were elected via nationwide proportional representation, while another 38 were elected in individual districts. Members served five-year terms. Condé’s Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) won 79 seats in the March 2020 elections, which opposition groups largely boycotted. The parliament was dissolved following the September 2021 military coup.
The transitional charter specified the establishment of the 81-member CNT, which was responsible for drafting a new constitution. CNT members were to be appointed from political parties, the security forces, the trade union movement, the business sector, and civil society. Members of the Condé administration were barred from participating in the CNT, while CNT members were prohibited from contesting future elections. The CNT’s membership was not finalized by year’s end.
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?
The Guinean electoral framework has allowed credible elections to proceed in the past, though the composition of electoral bodies has caused disagreement.
The 2020 constitution, which was approved in a referendum held concurrently with that year’s parliamentary elections, instituted six-year terms for the president, up from five years under the previous charter. Its new language on term limits was interpreted as a reset for Condé’s tenure, and a clause allowing independent candidates to run for president was removed from the final text. The referendum itself was marred by attacks on polling stations in opposition areas.
The constitution and the Independent National Electoral Commission were both suspended by the military junta that seized power in September 2021. The transitional charter did not specify when new elections would be held. In the wake of the coup, Guinea’s ambassador to the United Nations stated that the junta would revise the voter roll ahead of elections. A December decree from the interim president transferred responsibility for managing elections and referendums to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization.
- Political Pluralism and Participation
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
Some 181 political parties were officially recognized as of December 2021, with most having clear ethnic or regional bases of support. While the elected National Assembly was dissolved following the September 2021 coup, political groups including the RPG and the opposition National Alliance for Democratic Change were allocated seats on the CNT.
Prior to the coup, members of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of civil society groups, political parties, and labor unions, faced intimidation and arrest.
More than 350 FNDC supporters were arrested during the electoral period of late 2020, though civilian authorities released 40 supporters in April 2021, and the junta released another 79 in September. The junta allowed four FNDC members who had fled Guinea to return in September. The FNDC also received an allocation of CNT seats.
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
A pattern of peaceful democratic transfers of power was not established between the 2010 transition to civilian rule and the September 2021 coup. Before becoming president in 2010, Condé was an opposition leader under longtime president Lansana Conté. However, rather than defeating an incumbent leader, Condé won the first election after a period of military rule that followed Conté’s death in 2008.
Security forces have frequently attacked rallies and protests organized by the opposition, making it more difficult for opposition parties to mobilize their supporters.
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?
The military’s role in politics waned under Condé, but it returned to political dominance with the September 2021 coup. Doumbouya, the officer who led that coup, became the interim president.
Ethnic loyalty played an outsized role in the political choices of voters and party leaders under Condé. Rather than organizing around policy platforms or political ideologies and trying to attract new supporters, each party tacitly pledged allegiance to its respective ethnic group, contributing to the threat of mutual hostility and violence.
Powerful external actors voiced their support for the Condé administration during its 2019–20 campaign to win the approval of a new constitution. For example, the Russian ambassador to Guinea endorsed Condé’s constitutional project in a 2019 state television appearance. There is widespread speculation that foreign-owned mining interests in Guinea, including Russian and Chinese operations, backed Condé because they viewed him as best positioned to protect their interests.
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
Women and members of minority groups have full political rights under the law, but ethnic divisions and gender bias limit their participation in practice. Under a law passed in 2019, women must constitute 50 percent of electoral lists. Parties did not adhere to older legal obligations requiring women to account for 30 percent of proportional representation lists for parliamentary elections. Female representation in the National Assembly stood at only 16.7 percent prior to the 2021 coup. The transitional charter included a 30 percent gender quota for the CNT.
- Functioning of Government
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
The legitimacy of executive and legislative officials serving under the civilian government was affected by the country’s flawed electoral process. Their effectiveness was also impeded by corruption and impunity. The country has effectively been ruled by the military since the September 2021 coup, though the prime minister appointed by the junta is a civilian.
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?
The National Anti-Corruption Agency, which reported directly to the presidency, was underfunded and understaffed. The civil service was also affected by corruption during civilian rule; an audit released in 2016 revealed that thousands of civil service positions were held by absent or deceased workers. Doumbouya announced the creation of a new anticorruption body after becoming interim president in October 2021.
Some lower-level officials have been prosecuted on corruption charges in recent years, but major cases involving senior politicians and the lucrative mining industry have mainly been pursued in foreign courts.
Does the government operate with openness and transparency?
Government operations are generally opaque. A 2010 access to information law was never implemented, and the National Assembly voted in favor of a new version in 2020. In October 2021, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the junta to fully implement legislation on access to information.
- Freedom of Expression and Belief
Are there free and independent media?
While the 2020 constitution guaranteed media freedom, the civilian government often failed to uphold this standard in practice. Under the 2016 criminal code, those convicted of defamation or insulting public figures faced up to five years’ imprisonment, contributing to self-censorship among journalists. A 2016 cybersecurity law criminalized similar offenses online, as well as the dissemination of information that is false, protected on national security grounds, or “likely to disturb law and order or public security or jeopardize human dignity.” Several dozen newspapers publish regularly in Guinea, though most have small circulations. More than 60 private radio stations and some private television stations compete with Radio Télévision Guinéenne (GRT), the public broadcaster. Due to a high illiteracy rate, most of the population accesses information through radio.
Members of the press faced interference from both civilian and military authorities in 2021. In March, GRT reporter Amadou Diouldé Diallo was charged with insulting the president after he accused Condé of working to “exterminate” the Fulani ethnic group on a radio program. Diallo was fined and released in May. Several television stations were prohibited from covering Prime Minister Béavogui’s October installation. Special forces personnel raided the offices of Djoma Media, which is owned by a Condé associate, the day after Béavogui took office.
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?
Religious rights are generally respected in practice. Some non-Muslim government workers have reported occasional discrimination. People who convert from Islam to Christianity sometimes encounter pressure from their community.
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?
Academic freedom has historically been subject to political restrictions under authoritarian regimes. The problem was less severe under the 2010–21 civilian government, though self-censorship reduced the vibrancy of academic discourse.
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?
Ethnic tensions and laws restricting freedom of expression may deter open debate in some circumstances. Discussion on the 2020 constitution was discouraged as the civilian government moved to harass and detain activists who addressed the subject. Social media users also faced telecommunications service disruptions ahead of the March 2020 constitutional referendum and the October 2020 presidential election.
- Associational and Organizational Rights
Is there freedom of assembly?
Freedom of assembly was enshrined in the 2020 constitution, but the civilian government restricted demonstrations in practice. Assemblies held without prior notification were often violently dispersed, leading to deaths, injuries, and arrests. Protests were also restricted on public health grounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the civilian government banning large gatherings in July 2021. The military junta also banned demonstrations after seizing power in September, though a public gathering to meet four FNDC members returning from exile was held in Conakry that month. The junta criticized the event.
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?
Civil society is weak, ethnically divided, and subject to periodic interference and intimidation. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers and activists have faced threats, harassment, and imprisonment.
Guinean NGOs have also suffered from poor access to funding, leadership struggles, the restriction of civic space, and security concerns. Civil society representatives were set to receive an allocation of CNT seats under the September 2021 transitional charter.
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?
Although workers are allowed to form trade unions, strike, and bargain collectively, they must provide 10 days’ notice before striking, and strikes are banned in broadly defined essential services. In practice, unions are relatively active. They were expected to receive CNT representation under the September 2021 transitional charter.
- Rule of Law
Is there an independent judiciary?
While the judicial system has demonstrated a limited degree of independence since 2010, it remains subject to political influence and corruption. The judiciary also suffers from a lack of resources and personnel.
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?
Security forces are known to engage in arbitrary arrests, often disregarding legal safeguards. Most of the incarcerated population consists of people in prolonged pretrial detention, though reforms in recent years have reduced their numbers. Due process rights pertaining to trials are frequently denied, and many disputes are settled informally through traditional justice systems.
Civil society is weak, ethnically divided, and subject to periodic interference and intimidation. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers and activists have faced threats, harassment, and imprisonment
Security personnel implicated in abuses during the 2020 electoral periods did not face significant judicial scrutiny, due in part to limited institutional capacity and the unwillingness of witnesses to participate in subsequent proceedings.
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?
The 2016 criminal code eliminated the death penalty and explicitly outlawed torture for the first time. However, human rights advocates noted that the criminal code categorized a number of acts that fall within the international definition of torture as merely “inhuman and cruel,” a category that does not carry any explicit criminal penalties. In practice, security forces have engaged in torture and other forms of physical violence with apparent impunity.
The civilian government’s justice system largely failed to hold perpetrators accountable for atrocities committed during previous periods of military rule. In 2019, then justice minister Mohammed Lamine Fofana said the trial of 13 suspects indicted for the 2009 Conakry stadium massacre, in which more than 150 opposition protesters were killed by security forces, would be held by June 2020. The junta also vowed to try those accused of involvement in the massacre in November 2021. However, the trial had not yet commenced at year’s end. Several defendants have been in custody longer than the legal pretrial limit.
The September 2021 coup itself was marked by violence, and 12 presidential guard members were reportedly killed.
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
Women face pervasive societal discrimination and disadvantages in both the formal and traditional justice systems. Various ethnic groups engage in mutual discrimination with respect to hiring and other matters. Antidiscrimination laws do not protect LGBT+ people. Same-sex sexual activity is a criminal offense that can be punished with up to three years in prison. Although this law is rarely enforced, LGBT+ people have been arrested on lesser charges.
- Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?
Guineans enjoy some freedom of movement for both domestic and international travel, though rampant crime in some neighborhoods can be an impediment. The junta closed Guinea’s borders for one day after taking power in September 2021.
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?
Private business activity is hampered by corruption and political instability, among other factors. A centralized Agency for the Promotion of Private Investments aims to ease the business registration process. Following recent reforms, property registration processes have become faster and less expensive.
Women face gender-based disadvantages in laws and practices governing inheritance and property rights.
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?
Rape and domestic violence are common but underreported due to fears of stigmatization, and there is no specific legislation meant to address domestic abuse. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is common despite a legal ban; in 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that 69 percent of 20- to 24-year-old women were subjected to FGM before their 10th birthday. The 2016 criminal code set the legal age for marriage at 18, but early and forced marriages have remained common.
In 2019, the parliament amended the civil code to make monogamy the general regime of marriage, except when there is “explicit agreement” on polygamy from the first wife. This represented a significant change from a bill passed in late 2018, which Condé had rejected because it simply legalized the widespread practice of polygamy.
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?
The 2016 criminal code specifically criminalized trafficking in persons and debt bondage, but reduced the minimum penalties for such crimes, and enforcement has been weak. In some mining areas, child labor is a major problem. Women and children are sometimes trafficked for sexual exploitation to other parts of West Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.