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World > Africa > Guinea > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Guinea - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Guinea is a constitutional republic in which effective power is concentrated in a strong presidency. Government administration is carried out at several 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. The president governs Guinea with the assistance of an appointed council of civilian ministers typically led by a prime minister.

The failing health of President Conté has been a cause of continuing concern. In late 2003, Conté fell ill during a trip to Japan and had to receive medical treatment in Morocco. However, in December 2003 Conté easily won a third presidential term against a single, relatively unknown candidate after the opposition parties boycotted the elections. On January 19, 2005, President Conte's motorcade was fired upon by unknown assailants. Two bodyguards were wounded but the President was not harmed. President Conté was medically evacuated twice in 2006 to receive emergency treatment in Geneva, Switzerland. However, in a late 2006 interview Conté stated that despite his health he would remain in office until his term ended in 2010.

Throughout 2005, the government maintained an open dialogue with the opposition parties, 16 of which participated in the December 2005 nation-wide elections for local and rural councils. Opposition leaders were allowed to campaign freely, and were allowed equal access to government-run media. The ruling PUP won 31 of 38 municipalities and 241 of 303 local councils. Though the elections were viewed as flawed, they were still much improved over previous elections due to the use of transparent ballot boxes and other reforms. Legislative elections are currently scheduled for June 2007.

In late February and early March 2006, Guinea's main labor union alliance launched a historic general strike demanding wage increases and union participation in Guinea's economic and social policy. Though the unions only won a modest salary increases, the strike established them as a credible, unified, and powerful force in Guinea. After firing Prime Minister Cellou Dallein Diallo in April 2006, Conté reorganized the government on May 29, 2006 under six 'Ministers of State,' each of whom would oversee several of the ministries. Rather than appointing a new prime minister, the new government was led by Minister for Presidential Affairs Fodé Bangoura.

Due in part to the government's inability to control Guinea's rising inflation, the trade unions launched a second general strike in June 2006. The second general strike was marked by more intense and widespread violence, which resulted in the deaths of several protesters at the hands of security forces. In December 2006, President Conté personally released from prison two of his close associates, Mamadou Sylla and Fodé Soumah, who had been under investigation for embezzling funds from Guinea's Central Bank. Later that month, Conté--just days after dismissing Ibrahima Keira, the Minister of Transportation, who was allegedly connected to the central bank controversy--reversed the decision and reinstated Keira. These actions by President Conté highlighted his autocratic style and disregard for the separation of powers, and prompted the labor unions to halt ongoing dialogue and to recommence the general strike on January 10, 2007.

Whereas the unions' demands during the March and June 2006 strikes were primarily economic, the January 2007 strike began with a political tone. In addition to their economic agenda for improved wages and retirement benefits, the unions demanded that the two prisoners be returned to jail and that Conté rescind his decision to reinstate the Minister of Transportation. The unions gave President Conté their list of written demands and called for his retirement on January 16. The next day, protesters began barricading roads, throwing rocks, burning tires, and skirmishing with police, following President Conté's dismissal of the unions' political demands for change. The violence throughout Guinea peaked on January 22 when several thousand ordinary Guineans poured into the streets calling for change. Guinean security forces and the military's 'red beret' presidential guard reacted by opening fire on the peaceful crowds and killing dozens in Conakry and throughout Guinea.

On January 27, 2007, unions, employers associations, and the government entered a tripartite agreement to suspend the strike. President Conté agreed to name a new 'consensus' prime minister, with delegated executive powers. For the first time, the new prime minister of Guinea would carry the title of 'head of government' and exercise certain powers previously held by the president of the republic. The government also agreed to new price controls for rice and fuel, as well a one-year ban on the exportation of food and fuel. However, President Conté's February 9 appointment of a longtime associate, Eugène Camara, as Guinea's new prime minister sparked another wave of violence and protests. In an attempt to quell the violence, on February 12 President Conté declared a 'state of siege,' which conferred broad powers on the military, and implemented a strict curfew. According to media reports, the following days saw military and police forces scour Conakry and towns in the hinterlands where they committed serious human rights abuses.

On February 23, 2007 for the first time in Guinea's history the National Assembly rejected a Conté initiative and refused to extend the 'state of siege' declaration. That rebuke by the National Assembly clarified that the popular protests had widespread support, even among leaders of the PUP, Conté's own majority party. Concurrently, an ECOWAS delegation led by former Nigerian President Ibrahima Babangida and ECOWAS Secretariat President Ibn Chambas arrived to mediate. Two days later, ECOWAS special envoy and former Nigerian President Babangida announced that President Conté had agreed to name a new consensus prime minister from lists of acceptable candidates submitted by the unions and civil society. Lansana Kouyaté arrived in Conakry on February 27, just hours after being announced as the new Prime Minister and head of the government. After a month of wide-ranging consultations with Guinea's civil society, political parties, and religious communities, the new cabinet of ministers was announced on March 28 following a nationally televised address by Prime Minister Kouyate.

Principal Government Officials
President--Gen. Lansana Conté
Prime Minister (Head of Government)--Lansana Kouyate
Minister of Economy & Finance--Ousmane Doré
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Abdoul Kabèlè Camara
Minister of National Defense--General Arafan Camara
Minster of the Interior and Security--Dr. Mamadou Beau Kéita
Minister of National Education & Scientific Research--Dr Ousmane Souaré
Minister of Justice and Human Rights--Paulette Kourouma
Ambassador to the United States--vacant
Ambassador to the United Nations--Alpha Ibrahima Sow

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).

Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.

Facts at a Glance
Current Time
Ranking Positions

Notes and Commentary
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.

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