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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 245,860 sq km (95,00 sq miles)
Population: 9.2 million (2008 UN estimate)
Capital City: Conakry (population: 1.4 million, 2005 UN estimate)
People and languages: The main ethnic groups in Guinea are the Peulh, the Malinke and the Susu (Soussou). The south-eastern forest region is inhabited by the Kissi, Loma and Kpelle peoples. French is the official language. Eight languages as are taught in Guinea' s schools: Basari, Pular, Kissi, Koniagi, Kpelle, Loma, Malinke and Susu (or Soussou).
Religion(s): Muslim, Christian and traditional beliefs.
Currency: Guinean Franc. (GNF)
Major political parties: The main political parties are: Parti de l'Unite et du Progres (PUP) (in power); Union pour le Progrès de la Guinée (UPG); Union pour le Progrès et le Renouveau (UPR); Union des Forces Republicaines (UFR) and the Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG), which is not represented in parliament.
President: Alpha Conde
Prime Minister: Mohammed Said Fofana
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Development Bank (AFDB), Mano River Union (MRU).

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ECONOMY

GDP (per capita): $1100 (2008)
Annual growth: 1.8% (2008 est)
Exchange rate: £1 =8800 GNF (March 2008)
Major trading partners: Exports: South Korea, European Union, Russia, Ukraine, United States, Cameroon. Imports: European Union, Cote d'Ivoire, China.
Inflation: 30% (2008 est)
Guinea's economy remains in severe crisis following the violent, military led, crackdown of 28 September 2009 on unarmed civilians although recent plans for re-investment in the mineral sector could bring some relief. Poor relations with the major donors have been a serious problem. Inflation remains a serious problem, partly due to high fuel prices.

Guinea remains attractive to international mining companies due to its extensive mineral resources, including 30% of the world's known bauxite reserves (the raw material of aluminium), of which it is the world's largest exporter. It also has large high grade iron ore deposits. Mining provides nearly 80% of Guinea's foreign exchange earnings. Several Canadian, Russian, Chinese and multinational companies are currently involved in bauxite mining. The Canadian company, Global Alumina, has signed an agreement with the government to build a US$2bn aluminium refinery. The Russian company RusAl has negotiated the purchase of the country's one existing refinery. In April 2006, the British Company Rio Tinto and the Guinean government signed a concession for the mining of an area of significant iron ore reserves in the East of the country.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (http://www.imf.org/external/index.htm)

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HISTORY

Guinea became a French colony in the late 19th century. It became independent in October 1958, 2 years earlier than the other French African colonies, because it rejected de Gaulle's offer of membership of the French Community (a short-lived structure which gave France's colonies limited autonomy within the French empire). Guinea was the only country of the French African Empire to reject de Gaulle's proposal, and the country's historic "Non" led to it being abandoned by the French who immediately cut all ties. This reinforced a proud sense of independent nationhood in Guinea which still resonates today.

Sekou Touré, who became the first President, ruled as an autocrat and suppressed opposition, often on the pretext of defending the country against destabilisation by foreign powers. Cut off by France, Touré isolated Guinea from Western influence and allied himself with the Soviet bloc. Hundreds of thousands of Guineans went into exile.

Touré died in 1984, and was succeeded by General Lasana Conté following a bloodless coup. Conté's moves to initiate a more open style of government were welcomed by the population. However an attempted coup in July 1985 bought the regime's authoritarian instincts to the fore - thousands were arrested and dozens executed. Conté soon reverted to the oppressive methods of the Sekou Touré years. Following President Conté’s death on 22 December 2008, a bloodless coup occurred with Capt Moussa Dadis Camara taking power. On 28 September 2009, 156 peaceful protestors were killed by Guinean security forces. There were also reports of mass rapes and other human rights atrocities. The United Nations Secretary General commissioned an inquiry into the events and their report clearly identified Dadis Camara and other leading figures in the Guinean regime as responsible for the murders. On 3 December 2009, Dadis Camara was shot in the head by his aide de camp, Toumba Diakite, during an argument about responsibility for the massacre on 28 September. He was taken to Morocco for medical treatment then subsequently moved to Burkina Faso where he currently resides.

A political agreement was signed in Ouagadougou on 15 January 2010 which provided an opportunity for a return to democratic principles and, on 26 January 2010, Interim President, General Sekouba Konate appointed a civilian Prime Minister, Jean-Marie Dore, and a government of national unity from the civilian side to lead a transitional government to Presidential elections in 2010. The Republic of Guinea held its first democratic Presidential elections in 2010 and President Alpha Conde took office in December 2010. Alpha Conde succeeded interim President General Konate and he has undertaken commitments to reform the management of the country away from the corrupt ways of the past in order to benefit all Guineans. The priorities are water, electricity, jobs and reform of the security sector. He is committed to a major programme of reform in this poor country, badly run since independence from France in 1958. The outlook is broadly positive for the first time in many years

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Guinea is a member of the Mano River Union (MRU), formed in 1973 to establish a customs and economic union between the 3 member states – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Subsequently, members signed a mutual non-aggression pact and pledged to establish a permanent mechanism for conflict prevention.

However Relations with Liberia were particularly difficult in the period when Charles Taylor was President of Liberia (1997-2003). Relations have improved following the removal of Taylor in August 2003 and the widely hailed democratic election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in November 2005, which augurs well for regional stability. The MRU was relaunched at a meeting in Conakry in May 2004. Relations with Sierra Leone have long been good, even though there is an ongoing minor border dispute over the ownership of the village of Yenga, situated near the border between the 2 countries, and an associated dispute over the exact boundary, which lies on the course of the Makona river. The President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, visited Guinea in his first official foreign trip, to meet President Conte and Prime Minister Kouyate.

There have been various international initiatives aimed at restoring peace to the Mano River Union, including the International Contact Group on Liberia, expanded to cover Guinea and renamed the International Contact Group on the Mano River Basin in June 2004.

Guinea absorbed many thousands of refugees from conflicts in Liberia Côte d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone - around 700,000 over the last 15 years. This put Guinea under severe strain. More recently the situation has eased considerably due to the resolution of conflicts in neighbouring countries. The vast majority of refugees have returned to Liberia and those from Sierra Leone no longer enjoy refugee status.

African Union (http://www.africa-union.org/)
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) (http://www.sec.ecowas.int/)

Guinea's Relations with the UK

Relations between Guinea and the UK are good.

In 2000 the UK opened a permanent mission in Conakry, which became a full Embassy in September 2003. In July 2002 Guinea opened a Consulate in London, which was upgraded to an Embassy in late 2004.

The UK has supported work by the Conakry- based Guinean Human Rights Organisation to raise awareness of human rights in Guinea. The UK has sponsored several English language teaching projects for government officials and at the University of Conakry.

Recent Visits

Outward

Baroness Amos, Minister for Africa, visited President Lansana Conté, in Conakry in late February 2003 and on a following visit in early March 2003 met the then Prime Minister, Lamine Sidimé, and the then Foreign Minister, Mr Francois Lounceny Fall. The International Development Secretary, Clare Short, visited Conakry in May 2001.

Inward

In May and June 2006 a Guinean ministerial delegation, headed by Minister for Mines Dr Ahmed Tidjane Souaré, visited the UK to sign a mining contract with Rio Tinto (see Economy above). A delegation of Ministers and business leaders, led by the Finance Minister, visited London for a Guinean trade symposium in September 2003. Mr Somparé, the President of the National Assembly, visited the UK Parliament and the Welsh Assembly in April 2003. Mr Fall, then Foreign Secretary, met Baroness Amos in London in July 2002. Mr Conde, the Foreign Minister visited London in September 2004.

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GEOGRAPHY

Guinea is situated on the West Coast of Africa. It borders Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The country can broadly be divided into 4 zones: a narrow coastal belt, north-western hill region, central savannah which is source of the river Niger and the south-eastern rain forest.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and investment with the UK

UK exports of goods and services to Guinea in 2009 were £109m. They consisted mainly of industrial machinery and petroleum products. Imports of goods and services from Guinea to the UK in 2009 were £4m.

UK Trade & Investment (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk)

Development

The vast majority of Guineans live in poverty. Guinea's socio-economic indicators are poor. The UNDP Human Development Index for 2009 (based on 2007 figures) ranks Guinea 170 out of 182 countries. Life expectancy is 57.3 years while adult literacy is 29.5 Even in towns the provision of water and electricity is haphazard at best. Problems in rural areas were compounded by an invasion of locusts in the north-west of the country late in 2004 which damaged local crop production. Reports continue to indicate food shortages and significant malnourishment.

The UK contributes to UN agencies and to EU humanitarian and development budgets. Since 2003, DFID has contributed over £4.2 million in humanitarian aid to Guinea through UN, Red Cross and NGO agencies to support health, nutrition and the protection of civilian programmes. In addition, in 2009/10, DFID has provided £1.8 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist conflict-affected people across the West Africa region.

World Food Programme - Guinea (http://www.wfp.org/country_brief/indexcountry.asp?country=324)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (http://www.undp.org/)

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POLITICS

In 1991 public pressure forced the introduction of a new constitution providing for the introduction of multiparty politics. The new constitution also put a limit of 2 terms of 7 years on the Presidential tenure. The 114-member legislature has a 5-year term. However, presidential polls were not held until December 1993 and parliamentary elections not until June 1995. They were won by Conté and his Parti d'Unite et de Progres (PUP). The country's second presidential election was held in December 1998. Conté won 56.1% of the 71.4% turn out, although both figures were contested by the opposition. An opposition leader, Alpha Conde, was arrested shortly after the elections, and charged with plotting against state security. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison, but released in May 2001 following a presidential pardon.

In November 2001 Conté put to referendum a change in the constitution to rescind the 2-term limit on presidential office. According to the official result 98.4% of voters endorsed the change, on the basis of a 87.2% turnout. This allowed Conté to run for a third term in the December 2003 elections, which he won with 95% of the vote, the main opposition leaders having boycotted the poll. Opposition parties also disputed the validity of the 2002 Parliamentary elections. The opposition regularly claim that the security forces prevent them from carrying out normal political activities.

On 10 January 2007 the trade union movement initiated a general strike to protest at the appalling economic conditions in Guinea. The strike was very widely adhered to across the country. A peaceful march in Conakry on 17 January was violently put down, triggering waves of violence. While reliable figures are hard to establish, it is clear that well over 100 people lost their lives in the ensuing troubles. Following mediation by the regional organisation ECOWAS, calm was eventually restored and the respected diplomat Lansana Kouyate was named Prime Minister in late February. In November the President signed a decree bringing into existence an independent electoral commission (CENI). Kouyate was sacked as Prime Minister on 20 May 2008, and replaced by Tidiane Souare. This came in the midst of unrest in the army and a series of strikes in the public sector, which continued into June. Legislative elections are scheduled for the end of 2008, although it is not clear exactly when they will be held. The political opposition remain divided and did not play a prominent role in the crises of 2007, reinforcing the view that the real opposition to the Conte regime lies with the Unions and their civil society allies.

Following President Conté’s death on 22 December 2008, a bloodless coup occurred with Capt Moussa Dadis Camara taking power. The international community called for legislative elections to take place in 2009 but the massacre of 28 September and attempted assassination of Camara in December 2009 meant that an interim President, General Sekouba Konate, and Interim Prime Minister, Jean-Marie Dore were appointed to lead a transitional government to elections in 2010.

The Republic of Guinea held its first democratic Presidential elections in 2010 and President Alpha Conde took office in December 2010. Alpha Conde succeeded interim President General Konate and he has undertaken commitments to reform the management of the country away from the corrupt ways of the past in order to benefit all Guineans. The priorities are water, electricity, jobs and reform of the security sector. He is committed to a major programme of reform in this poor country, badly run since independence from France in 1958. The outlook is broadly positive for the first time in many years.

BBC News Country Profile: Guinea (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1032311.stm)

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Guinea's human rights record is poor, and always has been. During the regime of Sekou Toure, many people were tortured in prison or executed after show trials. Those responsible have yet to face justice. Under President Conte, human rights abuses continue, although the situation is far better than under Sekou Toure's regime. Petty corruption by the security forces and detention without trial are the main concerns. A number of accusations of human rights abuse have been levelled at the country’s security forces concerning their conduct during the troubles of January 2007, including by respected international Human Rights Organisations. No action has been taken by the Guinean Government to establish the facts or pursue justice.

The massacre on 28 September 2009 was a defining moment in the political development of Guinea. 156 peaceful demonstrators were killed by Guinean security forces. There were also reports of mass rapes and other human rights atrocities. The international community has remained untied in condemning the massacre.The United Nations Secretary General established a Commission of Inquiry and their report clearly identifies leading figures in the Guinean regime as responsible for the atrocities. The International Criminal Court sent a Deputy Prosecutor to Guinea to investigate and is examining the situation in Guinea.

Although there is a growing independent print media, journalists have often been arrested after writing stories critical of the regime. Until July 2006, all broadcast media were state owned. A private radio station has now started broadcasting and measures are underway to secure freedom of the media.

Human Rights Annual Report (http://centralcontent.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/human-rights-reports/human-rights-report-2009)

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Last Updated: February 2011

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