Five things to know about Guinea ahead of elections

Monday, October 19th, 2020 00:00 |
Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

Conakry, Sunday

Guinea is among the world’s poorest countries, despite significant mineral resources, and has a turbulent political history.

Guinea won independence from France in 1958, becoming Africa’s first Marxist state under President Ahmed Sekou Toure, who ruled for a quarter of a century.

Rights groups say his regime is responsible for the death or disappearance of 50,000 people, and the exile of hundreds of thousands of others.

Days after his death in 1984, Lansana Conte, a soldier, seized control and remained in charge until his own death 24 years later.

Multi-party rule was introduced in 1990 but elections were widely believed to be rigged.

Conte died in 2008 after an illness. Then another military coup brought Captain Moussa Dadis Camara to power and plunged the country into chaos.

In 2009, security forces opened fire and mowed down demonstrators gathered at the capital’s main stadium to protest against Camara’s regime.

The United Nations said 157 people were killed and 109 women were raped in the deadly crackdown, while hundreds were wounded.

Camara survived a shot to the head a few months later and was removed from office, paving the way for a democratic transition. 

First free election

Guinea held its first democratic elections in November 2010 and long-time political opponent Alpha Conde was voted president. He was voted in again in 2015, the constitution providing for two terms.

After periods of turbulence marked by violence at opposition demonstrations, protests broke out again in October 2019 against a Conde third term, leaving dozens of people dead in a security force crackdown.

Conde confirmed his plan to run for a third term in September. He argues that the new constitution adopted in March resets the presidential term counter to zero, but the opposition has denounced a “constitutional coup”.

Mineral wealth

More than 80 percent of the Muslim country is made up of ethnic groups, mainly the Fulani and Malinke.

The country is one of the world’s biggest producers of bauxite, the ore used to produce aluminium. It is also rich in iron, gold, diamonds and oil.

Conde has enacted reforms to diversify the economy, including the mining sector which attracts foreign investment but is hobbled by poor infrastructure. Agriculture remains the main source of jobs.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), gross domestic product grew by 6 percent in 2018 and 6.2 percent in 2019, thanks to increased foreign direct investment in the mining sector and some improvement in power generation.

But because of the coronavirus epidemic, the AfDB in April said it expected a slowdown in 2020 growth to 1.4 percent in the best-case scenario.  - AFP

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